Jolanda Neff: "I'm doing better and better every day"
Jolanda Neff is back on her bike just a month after suffering serious injuries in off-season training in the United States.
In late December, the 2017 MTB cross-country world champion crashed at high speed in the Pisgah Forest, North Carolina into "a pile of tree trunks with spiky branches".
She sustained a ruptured spleen, fractured ribs, and a partially collapsed lung.
The 27-year-old Swiss said she needed to rest for three months to help her recovery and that she won't race until at least March.
And in an emotional video posted on Instagram, Neff gave an update on her condition and described how "amazing" it was to be able to cycle again, even if it was just for a gentle ride.
"It made me so happy. I'm doing better and better every day. Every day is a little step," she said.
"I couldn't help it any longer, I just had to go outside and ride my bike. I just was desperate to get some movement and some fresh air and wind in the hair in sunshine, so it was really, really good."
After thanking her fans for their "incredible support", Neff said that while her condition was improving, she's not "over the mountain yet".
"I can still feel (pain in) my ribs and I need to be very careful about my spleen because it hasn't healed completely yet," the three-time overall World Cup winner said.
"It is still very dangerous, it could rupture again, because it needs a long time to heal, I cannot do anything dangerous, I need to stay safe, this is the most important (thing)."
Neff on the comeback trail
The four-time European cross-country champion is one of the favourites for Olympic gold this year and won the Tokyo 2020 test event in October.
But her preparations have been hit hard by this accident.
Neff went through a medical procedure called embolisation to stem the internal bleeding and avoid the need for her spleen to be removed.
She told the Trek Factory Racing website,"My spleen is still in my body but it is dead. It will remain in my body, but it is dead.
"The spleen is important for your immune system, but you can live without a functioning spleen. I have to be super careful now not to burst the plug in my artery. That would start internal bleeding and require emergency surgery.”
The 2017 world champion spent the last few weeks in the States with her boyfriend, American downhill racer Luca Shaw, and said she would discuss her recovery plans with Swiss Olympic team doctor Patrik Noack.
Neff will now miss next month's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Duebendorf, Switzerland, but will hope to be fit ahead of the UCI MTB World Cup cross-country season opener in Nové Mesto, Czech Republic in late May.
The women's cross-country Olympic race will take place on the Izu course on 28 July.