New Zealand sprinter Julian Dean is struggling to recover from injury in time to land a berth with his Credit Agricole team at the Tour de France. Dean, who will work as a lead-out rider for last year's green jersey winner Thor Hushovd if he makes the Tour, will line up for the Tour of Luxembourg today after being out of competition for six weeks with tendonitis in his knee.
Struggling with injury in the run-up to July is not a new experience for Dean. He missed last year's Tour after breaking his elbow in the Giro d'Italia and in 2004 he broke both arms in a crash at the Four Days of Dunkirk and battled successfully to regain fitness in time for the Tour by spending lots of time on a wind trainer.
Dean skipped Paris-Roubaix in order to rest his knee, and also missed the Tour de Romandie and the Giro d'Italia. Now he is back on the bike. "Today I was able, for the first time [in six weeks], to do more than six hours on the bike. Not hard or with a lot of intensity but the fact that I can get through it, was a good feeling," Dean wrote on his website yesterday.
As for the Tour, "I'm not really sure at the moment if I'm going to be back in time," he wrote. "The first objective is to get through the Tour of Luxembourg and then try and prove to the team that I'm good enough in the Tour of Switzerland. So for now it's one step at a time and the next step is to make the start line at the Tour of Luxembourg with no problems."
Nevertheless, it's been a hard few weeks for Dean, who has been stuck in what he calls, "the infinite injury cycle."
"I think that I've finally broken out of it and am now close to returning to proper training," he wrote. "The injury cycle is a really dangerous trap for athletes. More so for professional athletes who are under pressure to return to competition. After all, management are running a business.
"The injury cycle is synonymous with a broken record; -> rest -> treatment -> start training again -> oops, too much too soon -> injury... then the cycle starts again. The problem is getting the right diagnosis at the time of the injury and an appropriate active treatment programme that breaks the cycle."
Dean said that he had broken the cycle with the aid of a physiotherapist who had devised an appropriate treatment plan, but, "even now I'm not sure that I'm 100% in the clear. I'm still treading carefully."