The expression, ‘Luck of the Irish’ dates back to the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century. A number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish or Irish American birth and wherever they seemed to dig in California they struck gold. Sometimes used with a tone of derision (and a hint of jealousy), the term seems to follow the fortunate men from the Emerald Isle.
|Image: Angus Sung
However one such Irishman probably wishes his rotten luck would change.
Felix English had a breakthrough year in 2013 and was on the cusp of solidifying it in 2014 until he broke his wrist in the summer. It put him out of the major races and saw him only return to training in the autumn.
He headed out to Australia for the 2015 JLT Condor training camp and put the 2014 season behind him, but on one fateful morning in the outback, bad luck struck again. During routine sprint practise he fell and broke his wrist.
Luckily, team manager John Herety has never been one to rely on lady luck. He works to the philosophy “one should try to be in complete control of the controllable factors. Plan, plan, plan.”
Crashes are common in bike racing, so it was John who sought the assistance of the teams Healthcare Partner, The Healthcare Management Trust
, (HMT). The team has been working with HMT for several years and the support they can bring is invaluable, dramatically reducing the return to competition time for our riders.
“Instead of spending time on the internet seeking out advice we have direct access to medical professionals and facilities who understands the sport. Time is critical in these situations.”
John fired off an email to HMT who provide the services of Team Medical Advisor Dr Roger Palfreeman. The email alerted HMT to Felix’s injury.
Next was to get Felix back to Britain. This is where Mr Herety’s second phase of planning came in handy. He ensures all the plane tickets he books are ‘open’ to make sure he can send back riders whenever he needs to, rather than needing to buy another flight or wait until the departure date.
An X-ray was taken in Bendigo, emailed across to Britain and then Felix was on the next flight out of Australia. He arrived back on a cold February morning in Manchester. HMT’s Tony Barrett arranged for specialist hand surgeon Mr Joe Garcia to see Felix in Sheffield on Tuesday morning.
When Mr Garcia saw the injury he was shocked at the severity, three critically broken bones, and a rider facing a career ending accident. He scheduled Felix in for surgery on Wednesday.
“At the request of Mr Garcia I sourced a specialist rehabilitation physiotherapist who had experience of treating professional/elite athletes and who had a practice near to Felix’s home. Without surgery we would be looking at six months for bones to heel. I briefed the physiotherapist and put them in touch with Mr Garcia.” Explained Tony Barrett from HMT.
Down under, Mr Herety held his breath “No one wants to lose an athlete or see someone’s career cut short. If this had been treated in the usual way; without the support and private care of HMT. Felix wouldn’t have had a chance, but in six days he’d had an x-ray, flown 10,000 miles, had surgery and was already moving onto the recovery phase. It isn’t luck that happened.”
The next phase of physiotherapy included getting Felix back up to health but with a recently opened wrist. Pressure in the area had to be kept to a minimum. A bike on rollers was never going to cut it, but a Watt Bike would.
was first developed back in 2008 when British Cycling requested an indoor training bike that could record extensive data for pros and amateurs alike. Crucially, they wanted the machine to feel like a real bike. That may sound a bit odd (surely all bikes feel like a bike?), but at the time if you wanted to train indoors you either had to attach your road bike to a turbo trainer, which is boringly impractical as it would could pressure on Felix’s wrist, or cycle a ‘spinning bike’, which causes your body stress by forcing it to push against an inert weight.
Watt Bike offered several performance features to ensure Felix was using his limited training time to its maximum potential. Amongst the Watt Bike’s features, when you’re pedalling at over 50rpm, a generator recharges the computer console’s battery.
The Watt Bike stayed in John Herety’s garage to ensure Felix could change environments and meet with his manager and coach on a regular basis. As the swelling improved the bike was adjusted to put Felix back into his racing bike position. “Whilst the injury is physical its effects can be psychological and an injury as severe as that is easy to give up on.” Explained John
Felix has been training on the watt bike from February through to April. It is not by chance he finished third in the prologue at this weekend’s Tour of Ulster.