Top New Zealand cyclist Greg Henderson hopes offseason knee surgery will help him deliver for Lotto-Belisol at next year's Tour de France.
Henderson is recovering in Melbourne after surgery for prepatellar bursitis in his right knee, a chronic injury that he took into September's world road championships in Italy, the last time he raced.
"It actually happened at a good time, in the offseason, and we tried a process of elimination with physios, thinking we could find out what was wrong and it would be a deficiency in a muscle or something like that. You can imagine the exercises I've been doing, I became quite efficient at them and they still didn't help."
Because it was not a common form of the injury, it had taken some time to get an accurate diagnosis, and Henderson will have a delayed start to the season.
"In two weeks I hope to be able to turn my legs over and then after six weeks I can get back into full training," he said.
"I've been really lucky, touch wood, that this has been my first injury. It's not just a physical condition, it's a mental condition, it's tough," he joked.
Henderson will probably miss the first month of the road season, including the Tour Downunder beginning on January 19.
He will look to rejoin at the peloton for Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March and then the Classics in April.
"I don't think I'll rush back for the Tour Downunder. It's obviously been a pretty good stomping ground for myself and Team Lotto, but it's just one of those things. I don't want it to flare up again two months before the Tour de France, it would be worthless," he said.
"It's not a bad thing, I'll probably turn up to the Tour de France a little fresher ... all going well, as well as my recovery goes perfect, as long as my training goes perfect, I don't have any more hiccups, I don't see it affecting my season at all, except for the Tour Downunder."
Henderson has signed a two-year extension with Lotto-Belisol after joining the Belgian team last year after two years with Team Sky.
Last season he established himself as an integral cog of the machine that delivers the team's big German sprinter Andre Greipel to the final sprint.
"That's pretty much what I'm employed for now; that's my job," he said.
Despite entering the professional ranks a decade ago, Henderson has no retirement plans.
He has started to get involved in coaching, including mentoring Southland's Tom Scully, who will ride a second season in the United Kingdom next year, and Australian rider Jack Bobridge.
"I'm just taking on five or six guys so I can give them that one-on-one feedback that I think can [help them] make the step up to the pro tour or the world tour or just the top of the level they are at.
"They are guys who are good bike riders but just need a bit of direction, even if it's just a phone call when they've had a bad week, and I know, because I've had bad weeks in Europe before."
- © Fairfax NZ News