Luke Rowe continues to recover from a seriously broken leg he suffered in a recreational accident in August, attending the recent Team Sky camp in Mallorca and riding his bike with the team for the first time since his injury.
Rowe suffered 20 fractures in his lower right leg and foot when he jumped straight-legged into low water while whitewater rafting on his brother's stag-do in August. Surgeons fitted an 800-gramme metal rod in his shin and warned him he may never race again. Before this week Rowe's recovery was limited to using Zwift to keep his fitness up, and along with underwater treadmills, rowing machines and daily physiotherapy, he is slowly making his way back to full health.
"So far it's been fairly plain sailing," Rowe said in a post on the Team Sky website. The 27-year-old Briton made his comments on Sunday, relaxing after three hours on the bike. "Every date or goal I've been given I've managed to beat, so that results in me being back on the bike way ahead of schedule."
Although doctors told Rowe he might never race again, his recovery has exceeded all expectations, and he told Cyclingnews last month that he hopes to return in time to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Australia next April. His return to riding outside with his teammates is a big step in the right direction for both his physical recovery and morale.
"Being out here with all the lads, getting back to it - I love it," he said. "I'm obviously not training as hard as them or doing the same hours they are, but doing a bit of what they're doing and being a part of the whole scene here is sweet. It makes you feel a bit more like a piece of the puzzle, as opposed to a piece of furniture.
"I never thought I'd be back on a bike this soon," Rowe said. "Maybe I feel like a bike rider again, but not a bike racer. I haven't got full strength in my leg yet and I'm pretty unfit to say the least, as expected. My main priority now is training on my bike rather than in the gym."
Rowe said his focus on the gym work, something that was never a priority before his injury, allowed him to strengthen some of his past weaknesses.
"Some guys are in to it, some guys aren't, and I wasn't prior to the accident," he said. "But it helps you work on your weaknesses; my core and back were slightly weak, but now I've had time to flip that on its head. Hopefully that will help me long term - that's a big piece of the puzzle.
"But if I could get back to where I was before I'd be happy - anything else is just a bonus. It's all about getting back to that level, which seems like a blooming long way away at the moment. But things move quickly, and when you get back on the bike and back doing the things you love, it should start to move pretty quick. It's about trying to be consistent day in, day out."
Despite Rowe's seemingly quick recovery from multiple fractures to both his tibia and fibula, neither he nor Team Sky are pushing his return.
"There's no real return date," Rowe said. "We'll just take it day-by-day, week-by-week. As soon as I can be back I'll be back, and whether that's in two, four, six or eight months, when the date's right the date is right.
"You've also got to be careful not to rush these things. I want to come back as soon as possible, but at a half decent level. I don't want to go to races as cannon fodder - it's about finding that balance. There'll be a point when I go out on the bike and I'll think, 'You know what? I think I'm ready.'"