By Shane Stokes
This Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem will be one of Navigators Insurance rider Ciarán Power's last races before he heads to Munich for an appointment with the famed physio Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt. The Waterford cyclist stepped up to a new level when he placed a fine thirteenth in the Olympic road race in Athens last August, but since then he has been troubled by a lingering thigh strain. He will spend five days in Germany in the hope that Muller-Wohlfahrt can rectify the muscle problem, which causes a loss of power at important moments in races.
"I'm hoping he can sort it out, as this is dragging on for a long time," he said. "When the thigh flares up it means I am pretty much pedalling with one leg. So it has really been holding me back."
Power, who is in his fourth year as part of the Navigators Insurance squad, has been able to continue racing since the strain first appeared last September, but the experience has been a frustrating one for him.
"It is all messed up in my hip. My hip joint or sacroiliac joint was out. I would say it is the result of numerous crashes... I can't pinpoint a specific time, but the Tour of Britain last year is when the problem started. Then, over the winter, I thought it was gone, but as soon as I started racing I realised that it wasn't.
"I worked with an Irish specialist a while back. He straightened it out a little bit; now I am hoping the doctor in Germany can finally get rid of the problem."
Providing it is rectified, Power is confident he can get back up to speed. "My fitness is really good, there are no issues whatsoever with that. It is just down to my leg working properly. As soon as it gets sorted there should be no problem, I should be going well straight away."
Following his treatment, he will have a two week block of training back in Ireland, before meeting up with the rest of the Navigators team for the Four Days of Dunkirk and then the Wachovia races in the US. The specific training he did prior to his strong ride in the Olympics has prompted a new approach, which he hopes will pay off in the future.
"I'm working on doing things a little differently this year as regards my schedule," he says. "My plan is to have more time between races this year. That will help me to prepare for specific events like the world championships, through normal training and specific speed work. I used to do it all the time as an amateur and it worked pretty well for me. I just didn't have the time since as we have been doing so many races.
"I think our last race with the team this season will be either the Tour of Britain or the GP San Francisco, so that means I can build up for those, then have another three weeks to go even further."