Silke Smulders (20) is currently on an altitude training camp with the team in Livigno, where she is preparing her return to racing after undergoing knee surgery in March. Due to knee problems, the Dutch rider has not yet been able to race this season, which is her first year at the Lotto Soudal Ladies team. Smulders prefers the more hilly terrain, which she already proved by finishing 8th at the European Championships in Plouay last year and a top twenty spot in the Belgian climbing race of ‘Trophée des Grimpeuses’.
After suffering from overuse at the left knee for some time, examinations revealed that Silke had a tear in the fascia. A surgery – which Silke underwent in the week of 15 March – seemed to be the best solution to solve the problem in the long run. However, Silke had a long rehabilitation period in front of her. Now, she can start looking forward to her first race of the season.
Silke Smulders: “I am doing well. At the moment, my knee isn’t bothering me anymore. After the surgery, I took it quite easy and I built up really slowly. Three weeks after the surgery, I started with fifteen minutes on the bike. Then, I started riding outside very quickly. When I was allowed to do two times half an hour on the bike, I trained outside and I took a coffee break in between. It felt so nice to be outside, because I was immobile for a while and I had already spent enough time inside.”
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“Of course, the injury was a major setback. I had imagined my first season at Lotto Soudal to be completely different. But right away, I knew that I had a long rehabilitation ahead of me and mentally, I prepared myself for that. And I was confident that it would work out. Of course, the first few weeks were quite frustrating as I couldn’t do anything.”
Silke gradually built up the training duration and intensity, combined with strength training and visits to the physiotherapist. Since last week, she also started with interval training and at the team training camp in Livigno, she can complete a full training schedule.
Silke Smulders: “I am training here in Livigno without any restrictions. We all have our own training schedule, but we try to limit riding alone as much as possible. For example, on Friday I had a four-hour training session planned, just like Abby Mae Parkinson and Jesse Vandenbulcke. I had to do some intervals, but then I just waited for the others or I rode back a bit. It’s so much more fun like that. Since I haven’t raced with the team yet, this is also the first time I can spend so much time with my teammates. It’s definitely nice to get to know them better.”
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“It’s the first time I’ve trained at this altitude so I am curious what this will do to my body. At the moment, it is going well and I might be able to return racing at Dwars door de Westhoek, the 6th of June. Because I also need the races to improve my shape. However, the team doesn’t put any pressure on me and we continue to monitor how I am doing. I have already done some tough training sessions here and my knee isn’t reacting so that definitely is a good sign.”