Evie Richards poses for a portrait, Malvern, England on October 5, 2021
© Patrik Lundin / Red Bull Content Pool
MTB

Evie’s Rainbow Year: Leogang

The reigning World Champion made the difficult decision to skip the Austrian World Cup to resolve an issue with her back. She reveals how she is progressing and her plans for the rest of the season.
Written by Charlie Allenby
5 min readPublished on
The first three World Cups of the 2022 UCI XCO MTB season have been a struggle for reigning World Champion Evie Richards.
Since February, she has been suffering from an injury that “feels like someone's just put two knives into my lower back”, while a stomach bug picked up in Brazil prevented her from racing the opening Olympic-distance race in Petropolis and disrupted her training for a few weeks after.
With an injury, you don't have time to mentally reset – you're trying to get it better
During her recap of the third World Cup in Nové Mesto, she was close to tears because of the pain she was in post-race and hinted that she might skip the next World Cup in Leogang to get to the bottom of the issue that has plagued her season so far.
Get Evie's take on her performances as she vlogs every race in Evie's Rainbow Year.
When the rider list was announced for the Austrian leg of this season’s series, it was no surprise that the World Champion’s name wasn't there. Although a tough decision, it was clear she was prioritising her health and longevity over anything else.
Check out Evie's thoughts on skipping the fourth round of the 2022 UCI XCO MTB World Cup season in Leogang, Austria...
The call to miss the World Cup wasn’t taken instantly though. After returning home from Nové Mesto, she tried to keep riding – albeit not her normal training – but after two weeks it was clear the injury was getting worse.
Evie Richards performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on May 15, 2022

Evie would finish the race in Nové Mesto in tears because of the pain

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

“I just did a couple of weeks steady riding on my bike, which was frustrating because I wasn't resting and with an injury, you don't have time to mentally reset – you're trying to get it better,” says Evie.
Clear that things weren’t progressing, the decision was taken that rather than ploughing on, she needed to focus on getting her back sorted – even if it meant missing a World Cup.
I'll just keep on until someone says stop. Even my parents said ‘you're not racing until this is sorted’
“Obviously it's not great for the World Champion not to be at the race but the team just said ‘get yourself better' and I think that's what I needed,” she explains. “I'll just keep on until someone says stop. Even my parents said ‘you're not racing until this is sorted’.”
She returned to British Cycling in Manchester, which had helped her when she dislocated her knee in 2017, and spent a week with various physiotherapists to get an assessment of her issues.
Evie Richards performs during a shoot in Malvern, United Kingdom on August 14, 2019

Evie has been in the gym strengthening her back

© Patrik Lundin / Red Bull Content Pool

“We covered all the bases and started from scratch. I thought they were going to give me loads of treatment, but initially, my back just needed time to settle down. It had got so angry from racing and treatment and being poked and prodded so much that it was just inflamed and needed a break.
“I had to be patient and that's when we were able to start rehabbing to make their muscles stronger to build it back up again.”
Her rehab schedule includes muscle activations before she gets on the bike and has prioritised strengthening her lower back in the gym.
Evie also underwent several bike fit assessments and it was clear her body had been overcompensating for her injury, disrupting her cycling form in the process.
“My body has almost tried to develop a different position to make it less painful and be able to keep power output, but I've adopted a really bad position now as the seasons went on,” she explains. “I’m recorrecting how I'm riding – it's not re-learning how to ride but trying to be aware of holding a better position.”
I haven't had pain now since Nové Mesto and that's a really good thing because I've had pain since February
Now, she has started adding high-intensity efforts back into her riding and her recovery seems to be on track.
“There's a lot more movement in my back but it still feels a lot stiffer and it's not right yet. I haven't had pain now since Nové Mesto and that's a really good thing because I've had pain since February.
“I’m definitely making small steps but I think racing-wise I'm not cured. It's really hard because the injury only occurs when I'm racing, but I don't want to push it because I don't want it to get really bad again. [The physios] said even when I race in three weeks [in Lenzerheide], it's probably going to still be painful.”
The whole episode has been tough for Evie physically, but it has also been difficult for her to deal with it mentally.
If I haven't had a month of clear perfect riding, in my head it’s like 'I haven't done anything'
“I've been through this a lot with my psychologist because I always panic if I miss a day [of training] – I'm like it ‘oh my gosh, it's the end of the world’. My coach keeps reminding me ‘you haven't lost everything’. But if I haven't had a month of clear perfect riding, in my head it’s like 'I haven't done anything'.”
It has made her reassess what’s important as well, and has shifted her ambitions for the season.
“I just really want to get back to a race and feel good. In my head, I'd obviously love to defend the [rainbow] jersey but I think I have to be realistic and concentrate on all my training sessions and do them as well as possible.
Evie Richards celebrates at UCI XCO World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on September 5, 2021

Lenzerheide has happy memories and was the scene of her first World Cup win

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

“I trained so hard over winter and I just want to show that towards the end of the season. It feels like it's all been a bit wasted, so I just hope I can put together a performance sometime this year that shows how much hard work actually went into my preseason.
“I've also changed my schedule and I'll be racing the Commonwealth Games and missing the two World Cups in America and Canada. I was full focus on the World Cups but I’ve realised the importance of prioritising the reasons why I got into racing, which were the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, and making sure I'm still doing those.
“My grandparents have got tickets and my parents have got flags made and when I said I wasn’t doing it they were honestly in tears! So yeah, I had the change of plan and I'm dead excited to be in front of a home crowd for that.”

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Evie Richards

One of Britain's most promising cross-country and cyclo-cross stars, Evie Richards is now a World Champion thanks to her win at 2021's UCI MTB XCO World Championships.

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