A year ago, a disappointed Maja Wloszczowska (Giant XC Racing) was trying to get over the disappointment of breaking her leg three weeks before the Olympic Games and missing out on her chance to race in London and at the mountain bike Worlds. This year, she's basking in the glow of having won a silver medal at the cross country mountain bike world championships recently in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
"It was a tough time for me," said Wloszczowska to Cyclingnews. "I had broken two bones and tore all my ligaments in my ankle. After six weeks in a cast, my foot was not moving at all. I have one Titanium piece of hardware in one bone and none in the other."
Wloszczowska had figured she could get back to training after six weeks post-injury, but her foot wasn't moving.
"I was doing five hours a day at the limit of pain to move it," she said. "It's still not moving fully, but luckily for me, I ride with my right foot in front. I couldn't move it the more that would be required to ride with my left foot in front."
Wloszczowska couldn't do her usual winter cross training on skis or many exercises in the gym. "At least I could ride a bike, but I didn't get on a mountain bike until training camp in Cyprus this spring." In the meantime, she switched over to a new team, the Giant Pro XC Team. She said her new squad didn't put any pressure on her to come back too quickly.
"It was a long journey to come back," she said. The comeback began with a second place at the Albstadt and Nove Mesto World Cups in the spring as well as at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in August. Her string of second places continued at mountain bike Worlds. Each time, she was beat by a different rider.
"It's been an amazing season for me because I thought I might not be able to come back to cycling given how serious my injury was. I didn't expect to fight for the top result again. I had strong motivation to come back, and this year has been unbelievably good for me."
Wloszczowska was world champion in 2010. She has previously won the silver medal at Worlds four times and the bronze medal twice.
Second place has sure beat not racing at all, but Wloszczowska is continuing to look forward. "We have one more World Cup round in Norway," she said. The World Cup will wrap up in mid-September.
One area Wloszczowska is still working on with her comeback is descending and technical skills. "This year I was not so good technically, I think it was because of my injury last year. It took me a long time to be fast on the downhills again. Maybe I could win the race last year on the downhills, but not this year."