Three months on from hip surgery, New Zealand track cyclist Alison Shanks has been taking her first tentative pedal strokes back on the boards.
The two-time world individual pursuit champion admits the road ahead of her won't be easy as she tries to rediscover her fitness and form, but it will hopefully be easier than the pain-filled one behind her.
"It was an injury I'd been carrying for four to five years. Basically the shape of my hip wasn't really conducive to being in the aero position so the more I trained in it the worse I got, and it caused a tear in my hip socket, and then a lot of neural pain as well," Shanks said this week.
"I had the sciatic nerve cleared - I guess they go in and take out the blood vessels that had adhered to it. Nerves always take a while to settle down, but post-surgery it's been nice to get out of bed and not be like a stiff granny. In terms of that surgery has been really positive."
Hip operations are never good news for a cyclist, but in Shanks' case there was no other option.
"Without the surgery I'd had enough of training with the pain. It becomes such a mental game, and pretty tiring to be constantly trying to push through that kind of pain. The surgery was inevitable to continue my career and now that I'm on the other side of it I'm looking forward to getting back to full fitness," she said.
"With any surgery there's always that little bit of unknown about how the body is going to respond. I seem to have gotten through the first three months pretty well. It's still taking time to get down into that aero position. [Monday] was the first time I've trained hard in that position and it feels OK. I guess it's just taking things as they come, you never really know until you get out there again."
Recovering from significant surgery isn't the only challenge facing Shanks and the rest of the BikeNZ women's endurance squad.
They will miss the opening round of the World Cup in Manchester at the start of November, but will be in competition for the first time when Invercargill hosts the Oceania championships later next month.
This year sees the team pursuit distance and squad increased to match the men's event, with four riders competing over 4000m, rather than three riders over 3000m.
New Zealand finished fifth over the shorter distance at the London Olympics last year.
"It's a big thing. The 3km, three-man pursuit went through such an evolution over such a short period of time. I think we are going to see the same thing with the 4km. Because it's such a new event people are still trying to find out how to ride it, the training you need to do and basically how to race it."
To be competitive over the new distance, New Zealand will need five or six world-class pursuit riders.
Like most countries, BikeNZ is scrambling to make up the difference, but at this point the programme does not even have a dedicated coach following Dayle Cheatley's promotion to the head coaching role.
A replacement for Cheatley is being investigated at the moment, after initial efforts did not unearth a suitable candidate.
For now, Shanks is just happy to be back riding a fixed gear.
"There is a feeling of 'this is why I ride my bike - to get back on the boards, not to do the erg sessions or the miles out in the hills, it's because you want to ride the boards'. You get such an awesome feeling of going fast. It's an awesome feeling - that smooth, fast feeling, you can't get it anywhere else on a bike."
- © Fairfax NZ News