Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) had targeted the Ardennes classics and the mountainous Tour of California Women’s Race – but a crash in the final sprint at Amstel Gold Race forced a change in priorities upon her.
“I crashed hard in the sprint for eighth. I launched my sprint and got switched, so I went from full speed to nothing and hit my back hard. I tried not to make much of it because Flèche Wallonne was two days away and that was my goal. It started to materialise that it was more serious than what I wanted to accept, to be honest,” she told Cyclingnews.
Flèche Wallonne is always a big goal for Moolman-Pasio, and after a second place in 2018 she was eager to line up and race. She finished seventh. Four days later she had to abandon Liège-Bastogne-Liège and finally went for a check-up of her injury.
“Two weeks ago, I had an MRI scan,” she explains. “The doctor said it would be three weeks off the bike because I had compression of the L4 and L5 vertebrae. They were worried the compressed disc could become herniated. I thought my whole season was gone. There was trauma in the area, haematoma, tight muscles, and a bruised sacrum.
“I had some hard talks and got advice from the team doctor and my coach. The sports doctors have a less conservative approach, to take one week off and then see how the back responded. I took that week off, then I started training again. It was important to focus on massage work and stretching to try to help the back.”
To recover from injury while simultaneously adjusting to the time difference from Europe, Moolman-Pasio went to Boulder, Colorado where she eased back into training.
“I got a lot of support in Boulder and took my time. It was a change of scenery, a beautiful place, and it was great to really reset in a totally new environment. I was still having pain up until Friday last week, but then things turned. It’s looking good now. I still have bruising in the sacrum, but I can’t do any further damage. It’s just pain and it will subside.”
Returning from injury to finish third overall at the Tour of California is a remarkable performance. While Moolman-Pasio wouldn’t have been satisfied with this result under regular circumstances, she is upbeat about what it says about her recovery.
“Before the crash, the Tour of California was a priority race. I would have been disappointed with third because I would have been going for the victory. But because of the crash and having to take a week off the bike after Liège, I had to shift my mindset to this race being part of the build-up. I’m happy with third place considering where I’m coming from. It is a good indication of what is to come; the next big target will be the Giro Rosa.”
Hear from former cyclist and human rights activist Kristen Worley on gender verification testing, testosterone, old ideologies and human rights in the latest Cyclingnews Podcast Women's Edition.