Rose Grant’s stellar 2016 season came to a screeching halt in August, when she crashed and tore her ACL, sustaining an injury that would require surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Yet, just seven months later, the Stan’s-Pivot pro mountain bike racer was back standing on the podium, seemingly as fast as ever.
NoTubes: What was your recovery process like?
Rose Grant: I didn’t ride my bike at all for two full months from when I was injured at the beginning of August until the beginning of October. I had surgery on September 6 - I chose to have a graft taken from my patellar tendon, which weakened my quad muscle and its ability to fire. A deep vein thrombosis [blood clot] formed behind my knee - it took time to diagnose that, and I was on medication for it for six weeks, but it didn’t affect me otherwise.
I was on crutches for three weeks, but during my first week post-op, I began physical therapy under the care of Dr. Tye LeDuc. Not only was he my physical therapist, but he helped keep me mentally grounded when I would get impatient or frustrated. It was always a work in progress with me trying to break the mold of a normal recovery.I got on a trainer after four weeks and slowly increased both time and resistance. I had to re-teach my body how to function and my muscles how to fire. Simple exercises like quad contractions took an incredible amount of focus. I began doing some riding outside in November, but then winter moved in, so I began structured training on a trainer per my coach Jason Tullous.
Finally, my limp was close to unnoticeable, and the muscles in my injured leg were regaining definition. By January, I got approval for a week-long training camp with [Stan’s-Pivot teammate] Chloe [Woodruff], where I put in a big endurance block, got to train outside and gained confidence. I got home and ramped up my PT and training and set my sights on the Cactus Cup.
NT: How did you keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward, especially through a Montana winter? What motivated you?
RG: I am a very driven person. My faith in God helped me stay grounded through the turbulence. I never questioned the direction of my calling, and I trusted that there is purpose for good to be had from the fire. When physical strength is completely stripped away, the ability to strengthen mentally and spiritually is intensified. It carried me with a new strength and hunger that I had never before experienced.
Rehab was a huge time commitment. I never had extra time on my hands, and that helped me keep focused and moving forward.
One of my mottos is to have no regrets. Professional athletes are often isolated, but being injured was a very lonely process, partly because there are few people who have the ability to understand, meet and support me in that space. But, the hardships only added fuel to the fire. NT: You won all three events at the Cactus Cup in early March plus the overall. Did you have any idea heading into your first weekend of racing this spring at the Cactus Cup that you were going to do so well? What were you thinking heading into that race?
RG: I was feeling confident, but didn’t have anything to measure myself against because I had been riding alone. However, I’d been working on mental training and putting that into practice. Going into Cactus Cup, I knew I would race to win, and I felt confident that I could do it, but I knew anything could happen. I can’t say I was surprised, but I was a little bit.
NT: Based on your experience, what advice do you have for others working to come back from a major injury?
RG: Patience is huge. Set goals and maintain your focus. Be grateful. Cry whenever you feel you need to - it’s just part of it. Everyone is different, but for me, I didn’t have any setbacks. Everything with my recovery went smoothly, so I feel very fortunate. Coming back has been a ton of work, but so is cycling in general, especially with balancing having a little girl and a family. I never questioned whether or not I was going to be racing this year. I just worked harder to be ready. The injury was a great opportunity to fully reset my body - it was like I was re-teaching it how to function and I could fix what was lacking before the injury. I wouldn’t change anything - I’m grateful for this experience and the body awareness it’s brought for me. It has made me different.
NT: You also raced to second in the cross country and first in the short track at the Fontana round of the US Pro XCT. How does it feel to come back and race so well?
RG: It’s been proof that the work I did paid off. You don’t always get to see a reward like that. The results confirmed that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and to have the support of my family through this has been amazing. My doing well was also a reward for my husband - he was so proud. But most of all, it’s a reminder for me to keep plugging away.
NT: Let’s talk about your setup for this year. Which Stan’s NoTubes sealant are you using?
RG: I always use the Race Sealant for both racing and training. The larger crystals in the Race Sealant make it amazing how well it works.NT: What do you feel is the advantage to using the Race Sealant?
RG: I don’t want to jinx myself, but I rarely flat. Using Race Sealant allows me to ride more aggressively because it reduces the possibility of a flat tire. I feel like it improves my riding.I don’t have to worry about getting a flat. It also lets me run different tires - I have more options because I can run lighter tires and still not flat. Furthermore, I’ve been using the Race Sealant in tubeless tires on my road bike since last year. Twice while training, I cut my tire and saw sealant leaking out, but it sealed quickly and never went flat. I didn’t have to put in a tube or change my tire. Even as someone who’s been riding Stan’s sealant on a mountain bike for years, it was impressive.
NT: What’s your favorite wheel/tire setup for cross country and marathon racing?
RG: For both disciplines, I’m on 29er carbon Stan’s NoTubes Valors. I’m pretty loyal to the Maxxis Ikon 2.2s. Once I become comfortable, all around setup, I tend to stick with it. NT: How often do you check on your sealant?
RG: About once per month when I’m training and before all races.
NT: Do you have any advice for riders and racers running Stan’s NoTubes sealant?
RG: The refreshes are important - many people forget to do that. Just make sure you do it properly - don’t forget to shake the sealant thoroughly before you add it. It’s so simple, but it works so well!
NT: Looking ahead, what are your goals for the 2017 season?
RG: My comeback is a work in progress - the physical remodeling that has to happen takes about a year and a half. That said, I’m focusing on the Epic Rides events as well as marathon and cross country nationals. I want to defend my marathon national championship title the first weekend in May. The race will be in Arkadelphia, Arkansas - a new destination for me. I’ve also never raced at Snowshoe, where cross country nationals will be in July.
Editor's Note: Just days after this interview was conducted, Grant crashed and sustained another injury - a dislocated shoulder. Her prognosis is good, and we wish her a speedy second recovery!
All photos courtesy of Kenny Wehn.