Renowned South African mountain-biker Robyn de Groot is on the road to recovery after surgery to address blood-flow problems.
De Groot suffered a major setback towards the end of last season when she was diagnosed with kinking and endofibrosis of her common iliac artery.
The diagnosis, made by surgeons in the Netherlands following the world marathon champs in September, came after De Groot suffered ongoing blood-flow problems in her left leg.
The condition resulted in her experiencing a burning sensation and loss of power in her leg, which she said had affected her performances for almost two years.
She trained somewhat hard leading up to her operation in January and she went into surgery “as fit as possible”.
Surgeons were required to excise the kink, located in her abdomen, before placing a 15cm graft of saphenous vein from her left thigh into the area to widen the diameter of the artery.
De Groot confirmed that the surgery was successful and that no complications had arisen.
“Everything went smoothly despite it having been a complicated surgery,” De Groot told In the Bunch today.
“I feel good and I haven’t had an ounce of pain. This Thursday will be six weeks post-operation and I’m following the protocols the doctors gave me to a T.”
After initially having to keep her blood pressure relatively low and not being able to get her heart rate above 100 beats per minute, De Groot said she has slowly begun to increase her efforts.
“My scars have all healed well and I’m currently undergoing physiotherapy to keep all structures as loose as possible so that no sort of abnormalities [arise].”
The 36-year-old, having considered the various risks and options, said she felt she was not ready to stop mountain-biking, which was her reason for having the surgery done so early in the year.
“I feel there’s more [left] in me to still perform at the highest level and I didn’t want to waste that,” De Groot said.
“Rehab is going to be a major focus [for now]. But I’m not really giving any timelines at the moment. From what I’ve learnt in the past, having a timeline adds a lot of pressure and often rushes you.
“I don’t want to take any risks. My health comes first and when the time is right I’ll be back.”
De Groot’s former sponsors of four years, Ascendis-Health, announced last July that they would be discontinuing their sponsorship in 2019.
In light of her surgery, rehabilitation and time constraints, De Groot said it would be a challenge to sell herself to new prospective sponsors.
“It was difficult to sell myself broken and needing to be repaired,” she said.
“So I’ve decided to put sponsorships on hold and rather focus on what’s important – and that is getting fixed.
“I want to make sure I do this right without doing any damage and I will start looking for sponsors for sure [when I’ve recovered].
“I’ve got all my paperwork ready, but for now I’m still just focusing on my rehab.”
The George local has not raced competitively since winning the 947 MTB Challenge in November, but she has still remained relatively active since her surgery.
She has has been going for easy walks and swims and has also undertaken a gradual progression of short, easy indoor pedals, as well as two light outdoor spins.
“It will take baby steps to slowly get fit and into race shape again, while trying to find sponsors.
“My major goal is to just race like I used to without any limitations in my leg.”
Having viewed the current season from the sidelines, De Groot said she was impressed at how healthy and competitive mountain-biking had become in SA. She was looking forward to getting back into full swing.
“I have no doubt that I will,” she said.