Liam Killeen has resigned from Trek World Racing, effective at the end of 2009, to focus on recovering from recurring back problems. The two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist is taking some time off from elite competition to focus on rehabilitation.
Killeen's problems started before the 2009 season. "Back problems tend to go with the territory, but during the end of 2008, I took a couple of hard falls on my left hip. I had physio and continued to train throughout the winter but I wasn't right," said Killeen to Cyclingnews.
"I thought it would just heal over time. I guess part of my problem was that I just had not had (the) experience of injury like this before. In that sense, I have been very lucky."
Initially Killeen suffered a disc inflammation. That's since healed, but he's been left with muscle spasms due to the imbalance of the back muscles. "Now is the time to do specific work off the bike," he said.
The decision to step down from Trek World Racing was not an easy one. Even with the injury, Killeen managed to win the 2009 British Cross Country National Championships.
It was a really tough call," he said. "But I know I'll be returning to riding at high level again. An important consideration has been my responsibility to the Trek team. Everyone in a team shares responsibility for the feeling in the team, riding, training together and achieving team goals, getting results. I felt, that I could not contribute to the team properly. It has been a difficult season - my worst in many ways. The Trek team has good riders with lots of potential and Trek has been good to me."
"Until now, I just did not want to believe that I should take a break from riding and racing. The plan is to re-programme muscles that have become over sensitive and unable to respond efficiently to demand. I am lucky to have good support from British cycling, and I'm working with an osteo and a personal trainer."
Racing at an elite level has been compromising the healing process. "There's no getting away from the fact that racing and training was aggravating the injury because I wasn't allowing enough healing time. Consequently, my body was making automatic, compensatory changes that are no good for long term efficient function."
Exactly how long Killeen will be away from World Cup racing is not known. "I hope I won't be away from World class competition for a whole 12 months. We will see," he said. "I want to be able to compete again at World class level as soon as possible."
It's not lost on Killeen that many professional athletes return post-injury to racing in a condition that is physically and mentally stronger than ever. "[I] am sure that I will be competitive and able to build towards the Olympics in 2012, certainly an important goal."
Trek World Racing Team Owner Martin Whiteley has worked with Killeen since 2000. "Naturally we are very disappointed for Liam. He didn't have the year he wanted, and it was clear to all of us that his frustration was not going to subside until he was able to address the injury."
"This is the wisest decision he could have made and I know that my company, and out title sponsor Trek, are fully supportive of Liam's decision. We wish him all the best."
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