Another year has come to its end and it is time to summarize and look forward to the next. 2018 was a year that did not go as I expected, I would not have believed it if anyone told me a year ago what would happen.
It started well with a second place at Attakwas and some more podiums followed at some local races here in South Africa. Then it was like something turned around. Esther and I were set on trying to repeat the 2017 winnings at Tankwa Trek and Cape Epic but soon after the start of stage 2 at Tankwa Trek that dream came to an end, Esther crashed hard and literally got a hole in her leg! It looked really bad and Epic was in danger. Esther recovered well but on "Cape Town cycle tour MTB challange" it was my turn to fall. It was not a hard crash but I felt something stretch in my hamstring and I struggled to finish the race. It turned out to be 2 torn hamstring muscles, they were completely torn off the sit bone and lying 8 cm down my leg. I had surgery 2 days later to reattach the muscles to the bone, and 6 weeks on crutches and with the leg in a brace followed. This meant that Esther and I could not even start the Cape Epic as defending champs, a big disappointment! The bad luck carried on for our little team when Esthers replacement partner, Angelika, crashed on day 2 and dislocated her shoulder and was out of the race. I jumped around on crutches and got to do some commentating at Epic, and also to support Craig who raced. Fortunately, I had my family on a visit who could take care of me, you are quite helpless with crutches and the leg in a brace.
I had fantastic help from my physiotherapist, Pierre Kruger, in Stellenbosch. He helped me to a very quick recovery as soon as I was allowed to stand on my leg and start walking, 6 weeks after surgery. I was soon back on the trainer even though it was 2 minutes the first time and it increased by a few minutes per day. After a while I could start to ride on tar for 20-40 minutes and what a feeling it was when I could go off road, but trust me I was nervous!
When I came back to Sweden in the end of May I was able to ride a bit more and soon I felt ready to try my first race. The “Mörksuggejakten” was my first come back, 4 months after the injury. It went better than I expected and I won the race!! Completely unexpected! After that, it went downhill, I didn't give the leg enough recovery and already the following weekend I did my next race, Fjällturen. I started to feel some pain during the race but kept my fingers crossed that it would be go away since I went on an altitude training camp in Italy immediately after the race. We went to the place of the upcoming World Champs to prepare. The pain did not want go away and it was a tough time and I started to realize that something was not right. I had the Swedish XCM championships the weekend after my training camp and then the “CykelVasan” the weekend after that. CykelVasan is the biggest MTB race in Sweden and very important for me. I decided to do these 2 important races no matter how sore it was and then make a decision after. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous before a race as I was at the Swedish champs and I couldn't believe it when I crossed the finish line first and defended my jersey!!! It was an incredible feeling!!! I had no expectations at all for CykelVasan but the pain I had during that race is something I never want to experience again! I was extremely happy with my podium spot (3rd) in the 4 girl strong group who sprinted for the line!
After CykelVasan I had to realize that I could not do any more races like this and I had to make the very tough decision not to do the World Champs. It was a big disappointment since that had been my goal since the day I fell and I had prepared a lot with the training camp to ride the course etc.
I am incredibly grateful that I was able to go to my friend Pär Hedlund in the southern part of Sweden, it was worth the 7 hour drive to go and see him. He helped me a lot after doing an ultrasound and made me realize that the swelling that was in the bone marrow at the site of the operation was not going to go away as long as I carried on riding. Pär is also a good cycling coach and he was the only person I trusted in that situation, the combination of an orthopaedic sports physiotherapist and a cycling coach was the perfect person for me! He put together a program for me and I knew exactly how many minutes to do at which watts and what cadence and I followed it to the tee. It took about 5 weeks with first no training and then up to 6 hours per week. This was probably my toughest period when I had to take such a big step back.
I went back to South Africa and started to get in to training again. I did W2W together with Mariske Strauss and we had some luck and came 2nd. We rode well together so we have decided to do Cape Epic together next year. During this same time I saw my surgeon again and we did an MRI to see how it was healing. He called me to say I should take 2 months off since the swelling was still there… This roller coaster started to get a little too much for me to handle ...
I was back with my physiotherapist, Pierre and we got my leg back on track and we decided that I would not take such a long break but "only" 2-3 weeks and then it was time to build up properly. I have now been back to full training (as if I had never been injured) for 4 weeks and it feels good, I do feel the leg now and then but there is no danger and I can push as hard as I want. It's been 10 months since my surgery!
I am in eternally grateful to my physiotherapist Pierre here in Stellenbosch and Pär in Sweden, I could not have done this without their help! I was of course very lucky that my guardian angel Dr Jann Killops was the doctor at the race when I fell and that she had good contacts and got me the appointment with the best specialist in the country when it comes to these injuries, Dr Thane Munting, so quickly! I am also so grateful that I have had the world's best sponsor during a year like this, CBC and ÅBRO have supported me 100% through this and it is when something happens that you really need the support the most and that is when you notice who are truly behind you!
I want to thank CBC for the last 5 years as my sponsor. First it was one year as my main sponsor, then two years as a part sponsor when I was riding for a team here in South Africa, and then the last two years as my main sponsor again. It has been an incredible journey and I would not have been able to achieve what I have done without the support I have had, I have been very lucky! Unfortunately this cooperation will end tomorrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you CBC and all the staff there!!!! It has been amazing!
I will continue to ride for ÅBRO at home in Sweden, just as I have done in the last 5 years , and I look forward to it! In South Africa I will ride for my new sponsor Fairtree Capital from the 1st of January, it will be exciting to see where we go together, I already feel very welcome with them and I'm very fortunate to gotten in contact with them.
I want to thank all the other sponsors I have who have supported me this year and a special thanks goes to Ceetec carbon who started sponsoring me just before I fell, I had received my products 4 days before the crash and I only did one race on their products before it was time for surgery. Despite such a "bad" year, they have decided that they want to continue sponsoring me with products in 2019, it feels very special!
Many thanks to Enervit who gives me energy products both in Sweden and in South Africa, to Robin at Spiuk in Sweden for shoes and helmets, to GripGrab for gloves and other items, to Right for bike for Squirt and Sahmurai Sword products, Kalas sportswear that makes my kit both in Sweden and in South Africa, Nike Vision South Africa for my glasses and Continental South Africa for my tires.
A new exciting collaboration is my new bike sponsor Silverback, I can really feel that they believe in me since they started sponsoring me whilst I'm injured. I have been looking for a bike sponsor for 2 years and for the first time I will be riding on bikes that I (or my sponsor) did not have to pay! Thanks Silverback, I look forward to this and am very proud to ride your awesome bikes!
Not to forget the biggest help I have around me is the support from my parents and Craig, I would not be a cyclist without them! Thank you Craig for all the hours of training together and for always sticking to my program instead of doing your own training, all the hours of the best massages possible and all the time spent looking after my bike!! I could not do this alone! Mom and dad, you are my heroes, always there for me and helping me at races at home and train with me, I hope I am half as fit when I am 70 as you are!!
Now I am leaving this year behind in history and am just looking forward to the future, it feels like 2019 will be a good year!! I have a good partner for Tankwa Trek and Cape Epic in Mariske, we live in the same town and can train together, we ride the same great bikes brand who believes in us and I have two amazing sponsors in Fairtree Capital in South Africa and ÅBRO in Sweden! This can only be good!
Happy New Year at you all!! See you on the trails in 2019!!
Attakwas podium at the beginning of the year.
With Esther at Tankwa, turned out to be our last day riding together, we had no clue about that when this picture was taken.
After the finish of the MTB challange when my hamstring was off, one can see it hanging just below the yellow stripe of the bibs.
6 weeks on crutches and the leg in a brace...
This was what I did at Epic instead of riding...
When I could start pedaling but not reach the handle bar.
After winning the Swedish Marathon Champs, a bit chocked to be honest :-)
Very proud to keep the jersey :-)
The sprint at CykelVasan.
Had to take a break and do other things than cycling.
Back in South Africa and on a new bike!
After Mariske and I finished 2nd at W2W, with our support crew Craig and Pierre
New years eve 2018, last ride in the CBC kit.