Winter of Discontent

TORQ-fuelled Sally Bigham reflects on a disappointing winter and looks forward to a positive form-filled 2015.

I don’t normally like to look back. Looking forward is much more positive. Under the current circumstances however, it’s good for me to remember where I was several months ago. The decision to have invasive surgery to treat iliac endofibrosis wasn’t really a ‘decision’ in the true sense of the word. I was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Giving up cycling wasn’t a realistic option, so there was no choice but to have bovine patch angioplasty to repair a damaged artery that was limiting blood flow to my left leg. 

There are two ways to view the vascular disease and the surgery: at times I felt unlucky – unlucky that it had happened – but at the same time I was also lucky, lucky to have it correctly diagnosed and quickly repaired by a specialist surgeon. 

It took a little over 3 months to go from surgery to what I would call ‘normal training’. Then it took a further 2 months to get back in shape. My debut – with two fully functioning legs – was the Cape Epic 8 day stage race in March. It was a big challenge to get ready in time, but I was highly motivated, especially because I had the perfect partner: Cross Country and Marathon ace Blaza Klemencic. 

Arriving in South Africa we were immediately greeted with the news that Blaza had to withdraw due to a severe knee injury. With one week to draft in a replacement, we were fortunate to find Austrian Christina Kollmann, however our race was brought to an untimely finish on Stage 4 when Christina suffered from heat stroke and collapsed. Coming from snow to scorching sun took its toll on her. Despite the obvious disappointment, I was able to take away confidence in my form and the success of the surgery. Focus turned to the next goals. 

After spending the winter in Gran Canaria and South Africa, arriving back in England at the beginning of April was, in hindsight, perhaps not such a good idea, especially given the low temperatures and bad weather. In fact I haven’t ridden in anything less than full-on winter clothes since! The following couple of weeks I was affected by illness, but I was able to pull things together and take victory at the World UCI Marathon Series race, Roc Laissac, in France. 

A couple of weekends ago we headed to Scotland to race the National Marathon Championships, an important race in my calendar, not least because it’s the race that decides who wears the British colours for the year, but also because it’s a rare opportunity for us to catch up with friends and familiar faces in the UK. This year simply wasn’t meant to be though. We arrived in Scotland, I got Norovirus, spent the whole time in bed, and then drove home again!

Now we’re sat at London Heathrow waiting to fly to Germany for the European Championships. Yesterday I was able to train and the numbers on the SRM power meter were good. Fingers crossed! Last year I narrowly missed out on the European title with less than 30 seconds separating me from the winner. At that time I’d also just had a virus that lingered and ultimately stopped me from even starting the World Championships in South Africa. 

Ed. This weekend, since writing this piece, Sally placed 6th in the European Champs mentioned above in a sprint finish just 9 seconds down on the winner. Not an ideal result for Sally, but proof once again that the form is there, so we look forward to hearing some really positive news soon.