Seven and a half months after Juan Ayuso made cycling history as the youngest-ever rider to take a podium finish in the Vuelta a España, the Spaniard makes a long-awaited return to racing at the Tour de Romandie.
Ayuso, 20, has had a very tough start to 2023, with a suspected neuralgia affecting a tendon in his lower leg making for a considerable delay on his season debut.
The Spaniard told MARCA (opens in new tab) on Tuesday that the injury is improving but is not yet definitively cured. However, the UAE Team Emirates rider will use the Tour de Romandie, where last year he finished fourth overall and won the best young rider classification, as a crucial test of his condition.
“I’m well, or I’m in the process of getting well,” he said, “the pain continues, but the doctors have told me there’s no harm in seeing how I go and that I can push things a little harder than before. Let’s see how each day goes by. We want to take things calmly.”
Ayuso said that the worst part of the recovery process had been “the uncertainty” and that a definitive diagnosis of the injury has yet to be made, although a nerve injury is the most likely option.
He also gave heartfelt thanks to team doctor Iñigo San Millan and Spanish medics Mikel Sánchez and Victor Moreno for their help in the recovery process.
“Every test we did, they all came out well, and that’s tough on your head,” he added. “The tests tell you everything is fine, but I couldn’t go out on the bike because of the pain. Fortunately, that’s all behind me. Let’s see how Romandie goes and if I can forget about it completely.”
Ayuso said that following the injury so closely over the last few months, had “perhaps made it a bigger problem that it really was. You’re spending the whole day wondering if it hurts. It’s been like an obsession.”
“I needed to switch off because these last few months have been very tough and I had to forget what has happened.”
Being in a race, he said, was exactly what he needed to do on a mental level so he could really get a firm grasp on his physical condition. After that, they would analyse in detail what the next step would be.
However, he recognised that as yet the exact nature of what is causing him so much pain is yet to be pinned down, although the fact that the more he trained, the less it hurt, suggested it was a neuralgic injury, affecting the sural nerve, and possibly the Achilles tendon.
After an accident during training when he was…
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