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Imagine for a moment this scenario: You are a successful cyclocross and mountain bike racer, and after many years of hard work—racing at the elite level and also working a fulltime job—you get an opportunity to ride for a very special team. Then, just a couple of months before the start of the season, just as the team kit starts arriving at your house, you realize that an injury will force you to skip the season.
It does not sound like a fun scenario and yet that is exactly the way it played out for Tricia Fleischer. Originally hailing from Chicago, but now calling Seattle home, Tricia has become a staple of the local race scene. Some of the highlights of the last few years include finishing second at the 2016 ’cross nationals in Asheville, North Carolina, and never finishing off the podium throughout the Pacific Northwest race season. “Except when I was racing with the men,” Tricia adds.
And then came 2017. “I had this ongoing shoulder pain,” Tricia says, trying to scoot away her cat while putting on her cycling shoes. “I ignored it because it wasn’t constant. Then I spent one evening wearing a bag on my shoulder and it was not happy. I went mountain biking the next day, doing all these crazy trails. but then as I came to a stop I just did not manage to unclip and fell over at like 2 miles per hour. And that was it,” she grimaces. “I couldn’t lift my arm up by the time I got to the car.”
Later, an MRI confirmed it: a supraspinatus tear—a torn rotator cuff. But that did not mean the end to a racing career. There were more races (and podiums), but now with the added challenge of physical therapy added to working full time. Then came the summer of 2018 and the aforementioned new race team. The Trek Cyclocross Collective is a grassroots, elite-level ’cross team that focuses on racers in their local communities. Besides racing, members of the collective act as ambassadors for the sport of cyclocross. Translation: Trek sponsors really fast and nice people. Tricia’s career-long relationship with Trek led her to this point. And everything was lining up—except for the shoulder.
While physical therapy and hard work had made Tricia stronger than ever, the nagging pain led to a follow-up MRI that revealed unexpected news: the tear had progressed and there was no way to avoid surgery. In fact, it had to happen as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage. She had to break the news to Trek that she was going to get surgery to get the issue fixed once and for all. The good news was that if all went well she would be pain-free. The bad news was that she would not be able to ride a bike outdoors for four months, and not back on the dirt for at least six.
The story could end right there, but the fact is the path to recovery has not been easy. There was more pain, weeks spent with mild adhesive capsulitis (a.k.a. frozen shoulder) and, perhaps worst of all, having to watch the ’cross season unfold from the sidelines. But Tricia does not like to dwell on the negatives. It’s too easy to get bogged down by watching everybody else post about their races on social media. Instead, it’s time to focus on recovery. One small step (and victory) at a time. That includes being able to gain back most of the pre-surgery mobility and focusing on being able to ride outside in the spring. And making a return to racing in the fall.
Until then there are many, many hours to spend riding indoors.
Tricia is riding a Cycleops M2 Smart Trainer. Follow her Progress on Instgram