By Shane Stokes
Navigators Insurance rider Ciarán Power is hoping to finally get on top of a long-running muscular problem when he goes under the knife early in the New Year. Following months of frustrating misdiagnoses, the 29 year old Irishman believes he is close to solving the leg muscle issue which has dogged him ever since he finished a fine 13th in the Olympic road race in Athens. The problem flares up under the intensive efforts of racing, leeching power from his leg and making it difficult to compete.
The double FBD Milk Rás winner has carried the injury for almost a year and a half. In that time consultation with doctors and specialists had led him to believe that it was firstly a leg issue, then a back problem and finally a potential blood flow problem. However now Power believes that the correct source has been identified.
"Over the winter I have been up and down to the Mater hospital [in Dublin] trying to find out what is wrong with me. We had thought it was blood flow problem, but it turns out not to be that. I got some nerve conduction studies done and that showed that my obturator nerve is trapped."
Power was supposed to be seen by an Irish surgeon but, after waiting three weeks, he was told that the specialist had declined to take on the case. "It has been frustrating dealing with Irish doctors…the thing is that the problem is so rare. I went to a respected doctor in the NCTC [National Coaching and Training Centre] - he has been working for 30 years, with 25 of those specialising in sports medicine. He said that in all that time, he had never seen my injury. It is pretty unusual."
"I did a lot of searching around on the internet and have now found a doctor in London. He is back in work in the first week in January and will look at me then. He said he can get me in for surgery that week.
"The operation is a rare one. It has never been done in Ireland and I think that there has only been one done in England. But this particular doctor has worked in Australia alongside two others, dealing with over 150 cases. So he is well up to date with it."
Power has been through a very frustrating time but there have been moments when the problem relented and he was able to show glimpses of his ability. "I came good in the Tour of Britain. I had really good form there and almost won that last stage. I was supposed to do the lead out for the team there; the guy in front of me did his bit and left me on the front with two corners to go. The rider I was supposed to lead out lost the wheel, though, so I jumped early and went absolutely full on into the last corner, saying to myself that if I don't crash, I have a good chance of winning. I got a good gap but was closed down in the last couple of metres, finishing fourth. It was unfortunate, but it was an encouraging way to end the season nonetheless. It had been such a bad year."
Providing the operation is a success, the Irishman is aiming to be back in good form in 2006. In the past he finished fifth and sixth in bunch sprint finishes in the Giro d'Italia [he rode it as a first year pro in 2000] and took 13th in Athens. He's hoping to build on those past results next season.
"I'll be starting later than the other guys on the team, but my goal is to be at 100% for the Tour of Georgia. I didn't go there last year as I obviously wasn't going well with the injury, losing my place on the A squad. It's been a pretty tough experience, but I want to get back up there now and start riding well again."