British cycling star Lizzie Deignan is taking part in a championship today in Norway today – four weeks after her training was disrupted by emergency surgery to remove her appendix.
The 28-year-old had to pull out of an event in Holland to undergo the operation on 30 August.
Lizzie, who won Britain’s first medal – a silver – at London’s 2012 Olympics under her maiden name Armitstead, has shown Olympian-style determination in securing her place in the starting line-up – admitting she needed to take to her bed following training sessions for the Norway event.
In an interview with BBC Sport the reigning Commonwealth road race champion admitted it came as a shock – but she couldn’t stop thinking ahead.
She said, “It’s quite bizarre to be in such form, in such fine form – I was really going quite well – to wake up the next day in a hospital bed and think ‘right, that’s it, it’s over’.
“And I just had this small bit of hope that I could make it here and it wasn’t something that I was ready to give up on.
“Every day I was analysing how I was feeling, which isn’t probably the best thing for your recovery – I should’ve just let it go for a little bit, but I didn’t and I fought on and I’m here.”
After around 13 days of bed rest, she realised she’d lost around two kilogrammes of muscle – something she admits was frustrating given the fact her training regime involved “sacrificing other races” in order to build up her strength.
Subsequent training resulted in Lizzie “being in my bed every hour after each bike ride just thinking ‘oh, that was painful!'”
But her motivation to line up as part of the seven-strong women’s team remained strong.
Lizzie told the BBC it was partly the enthusiasm of the Norwegian fans that made today’s event attractive, plus the fact did a recon of the circuit back in May and reckoned it would be “perfect” for her.
She added “My career is coming slowly to an end – there’s a few more years in me yet – but I know that if I look back in a few years I would definitely regret not giving it a go.”
I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty good going to make the starting line-up of a world class event within weeks of being confined to a hospital bed.
Predictably, Lizzie wasn’t victorious, finishing 41st in the event, after “fading” in the final lap.
In a Guardian article, she reflected, “My team-mates kept me going. If I wasn’t in a team as strong as that I would have been tempted to pull out. But I thought: ‘I can’t let these girls down, I have to be there as long as I can’.”
The surprise winner was Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak, whose “day job” involves working as a domestique for for Deignan in the Boels-Dolmans squad.
Now obviously as an outsider to cycling I thought “domestique” meant something like “domestic” so I had visions of Ms Blaak on her hands and knees scrubbing floors but no, the term apparently means being something like a pace-maker for other, higher-profile cyclists.
How unusual then to find yourself actually winning when you’re there to help other people do it!
One could argue it was little wonder Chantal Blaak burst into tears at the finish.
The Dutch woman’s victory came despite a heavy crash earlier in the event which drew blood on her right shoulder.
Afterwards she told reporters she thought the race was over for her at that point.
Lizzie Deignan paid appropriate tribute: “I am so pleased for Chantal…
“She had such a hard crash we heard that she was out. And yet there she was! I am really chuffed for her. She’s a great girl and she deserves her stripes.”
Both women evidently will not let illness or injury stand in the way of their sport.