In the final rock garden before the finish on Saturday's Pro Stage, Andréane Lanthier Nadeau dislocated her ankle. She held on to win the stage by 7 seconds, but it was anyone's guess as to whether she would be able to race a full day on Sunday. I caught up with Andréane as she was making her way back home from La Thuile to Squamish the day after the race to learn more about her eventful weekend and find out what it was like to come oh-so-close to her first Enduro World Series win after so many podiums throughout the years.
Let's start off with Saturday. You won the Pro Stage by seven seconds, but then you hurt your ankle in the final rock garden. In the video that you shared, it looks like you barely put your foot down. What actually happened?ALN:
The Pro stage is more DH, super intense. All the girls were really focused and there was a huge sprint coming into it. Everyone takes off and just pedals really hard and it got me really hyped and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to freaking go." I entered the woods really fast and felt good on the bike. I had a really, really good run, and I hit all the lines I wanted to hit.
I thought I was mature enough to have a dialled line through the rock garden and not get overwhelmed and try to ride it too fast, but I actually made mistakes in it twice. In the previous race on Thursday [NB: EWS Round 3]
I made a mistake going through it as well.
During the Pro Stage, I just took a rock too far to the left, trying to avoid a rock just before it, and I didn't know what my bike was going to do so I prepared myself. Then, I just put my foot in the crack and my foot completely slipped inside. I have pretty loose joints so it came right back into place. I've done that once before. I sat down on my saddle at the exit of the rock garden and I just realized it was back in place and I was like, "I think I can ride the last three corners." So I just rode the last three corners to the finish line. Honestly, I didn't feel much because there was so much adrenaline. I just heard the pop of the joint coming out and back in. I knew that there was definitely something that happened but I didn't know how bad it would be.
From there I saw that you went to the hospital to go get scans. Definitely not ideal race preparation for Sunday. What did your Saturday evening look like?ALN:
Yeah, also that morning the whole team had to drive to France to get PCR Covid tests since we were flying home on Monday. It was an hour and a bit drive each way and then we practiced the Pro Stage, raced the Pro Stage, and then went home. Tara [NB: Tara Lazarski, the team manager and physio, read our interview with her here]
and I decided I should get x-rays, just to make sure we weren't going to be pushing through a fracture, so I got an ambulance ride to the hospital. There's a mountain ambulance and a city ambulance and they swapped me from one ambulance to the other at a gas station. There was six Italian people that were all speaking to me at once and I couldn't understand. It was so hectic.
I got to the hospital around 7pm and then Trotter [NB: Adam Trotter, the team mechanic]
followed the ambulance so that he could drive me back. Tara had made pasta and Trotter waited and didn't eat the pasta for four hours even though he was hungry. I got the scans back and it was not broken. The doctor was a very old school Italian doctor and was like, "Don't walk on it for eight to ten days." From an X-ray you can't assess the ligament damage though so it was dated advice. After waiting for four hours at the hospital, Trotter drove me an hour home. I was still completely hyped on adrenaline. Just like, revving really high. I think it allowed me to go through the whole process of the evening.
I shoved down some pasta at 10:30 and then we got home a bit past 11 and I ate some more pasta and used the ice machine that compresses and gets really cold on my ankle. It's called NICE
. I was doing that for 15 minutes every hour from the moment I got home. I ate one last time at midnight before I went to bed. The deal was if I sleep through the pain, sleep through it, but if you wake up, use the machine. I woke up because it was a bit painful, used the machine and then got up at 6:30.
How did you feel in the morning? How was the pain in your ankle when you woke up?ALN:
The pain was okay. Honestly without Tara I would never have been able to do it. The test of whether I would race was being able to do a squat, and a single-leg squat. I was maybe 80% able to do that, but Tara knows my body pretty well by now, and we assessed the rewards versus the risk. I was obviously in a position where I was leading the race, and I could just try and go stage by stage. We did the icing again when I woke up and she taped up my ankle with full-on ankle brace tape. I tried on my shoes and tried unclipping and I could do it, so I figured I would try Stage 1 [NB: ALN calls the Sunday stages 1-4 as they happened throughout the day, but in the results you'll see day two stages called 2 through 5.]
. I felt pretty high on adrenaline still and my energy was really high. I knew I could harden up and try Stage 1 at least.
Stage 1 was a super easy stage but it made me realize how painful the braking would be since it's my back foot. You know, with the braking bumps and the ankle flexing a lot. I was in quite a bit of pain for Stage 1. I had decided to not race with my phone, but I was there for the camera at the finish, and I broke down. It was just like, "I don't know if I can do it." I asked Melanie Pugin for a phone. I was like, "I'll just check the results." My target was that if I lost 30 seconds, I wouldn't continue with the race because it would be too much pain for the gain that I would have. Then I saw that I was seven seconds off.
So you didn't bring your own phone so you wouldn't be tempted to check it, but then you actually checked how you were doing on Melanie Pugin's phone and then that made you decide that you would continue racing even though it was pretty painful?ALN:
Yeah. I knew the next big challenge was going to be the hike-and-bike to the start of Stage 2. I knew that if I was going to make it for the transition time, I would have to ride a bit faster than I would normally up the bit that I could pedal, so that I had time to try to tripod on my way up the hike-and-bike. Honestly, with the tape and the support, and smashing it on Stage 1, my ankle felt kind of steady, not like it was going to pop out again. It wasn't getting worse and I had plenty of time to transfer. Because of the Pro Stage, I had been re-seeded as last to go so all the media was around and there were helicopters showing that stage. It was a bit intense.
It was open grass to start and the boys were hiking up, so I heard both my teammates cheering and I was definitely in a special zone all day. I think it's a matter of perspective, like a lot of stuff, but literally the hardest thing I had to do that day was hike up to the start. Once that was done, I was like, "Okay. I could do anything." So, I sprinted quite hard into the first climb of that stage and then settled into the fast, wide-open grass. I felt good in the corners. I think I was managing my braking better, so I wouldn't hit the braking bumps really hard. I was braking a bit early and letting it go in the turns, and I think it really paid off. The finish of that stage, it was ramped, and I literally didn't look up. In the center they had mowed the grass, but it was really high going up the sides. I just saw that in the periphery of my vision and I just kept sprinting until the finish and I ended up getting that stage by seven seconds as well.
You were heading into the last stage in a really solid position to win. Did you know that at the time? Before the last stage?ALN:
We could stop at the pits after Stage 2 of that day, so I stopped and actually iced my foot with the compression boot machine. Everyone was trying to be poker faced, but I knew I had ridden well, so I was like, "Okay, let's check the results," and then Tara told me I'd won by seven seconds, so at that point I was still leading the race.
I knew that Stage 3 was not going to be a place where I would make up a lot of time because it was quite DH and I actually had a full blown over-the-bar. Like, a really good one, completely just went off the front in a switchback. But I was really quick on my feet and got back on and I knew that I didn't lose too much time. That's why I'm a bit back there, I lost six seconds on that stage. Then I checked the result again, because I wanted to know how much I had lost. I wanted to see where I was. Then I saw I was leading again, and I was losing it, and went up to Stage 4. Four was really technical and that area just feels strong. Harriet is so strong and Melanie is strong in that too so I knew that even if I had seven second lead, I really had to push to secure the win.
I ended up washing a corner that I just purposely decided not to brake into because I was like, "Oh yeah, I'll be fine. I'm not going to brake," and I hit the ground so hard. It's been a long time since I've had a crash that was that quick. I took a full-body slam. Both my knees, both my thighs, both my elbows. My entire chest. It was just a bit of a slammer, and then it was so lonely, because it was near the top of the stage and no one was there because everyone was at the finish. I stood up, I saw my bike land, like 10 meters off the track and I was like, "Okay, that was a huge crash." And, to nobody, I think I said out loud, "Well, I'm not winning."
Then I walked over to my bike. My bike was pretty mangled. The front brake hose was ripped off, so I had zero front brake. And then my dropper cable was also all tangled, so my dropper kept going up if I wasn't seated on it. My bars rolled... So I just tried to ride down as best I could, but it's so gnarly without a front brake. I had to walk the steep section on my ankle that hurt really bad. It was a pretty big heartbreak to just throw it all away.
What were your thoughts as you were walking down that last stage?ALN:
I knew everyone was so worried. That's all I could think about. I knew Tara was down there waiting. There wasn't really any marshal to radio that I was okay. One of them I tried to speak to, but he was speaking Italian, and then by the time I started seeing photographers, I was 30 seconds from being seen so I just didn't bother about communicating at that point. I did lose five minutes on the stage, so Tara said that it was five really excruciating minutes, and everyone went dead silent after the first minute passed. We have minute gaps, so when they saw I wasn't coming after that, they knew something happened, but it was just a really time-costly mechanical, to not have brakes.
It looks like the finish line, the other women in the race were really supportive, and I'm sure they were probably worried about you as well. What was that moment like for you, to actually get to the finish line?ALN:
From the finish line, you had a view up to this key crossing before the rock garden and when I rode there I heard everyone cheer, so at least they knew I was okay and riding. Then when I arrived at the stage, all the girls came over for a hug and that was really cool. With Enduro you don't race head-to-head, you race on your own, but you share all the hardship of trying to get to the race, or if one of the girls has a mechanical or whatever. Everyone knew I was battling the ankle, and everyone was hyped for me about getting the Pro Stage win. So, it was super special for me. In life, I think you reap what you sow, so to get back all that positive energy and after me getting that close to finally securing a win was super-emotional.
What are your steps between now and the next round to recover and hopefully finally get that winALN:
There's going to be a huge stop, reset and relax because I feel like I've been run over. I'm going to go get safety x-rays. I have a little bit of a bruised hand, but I believe that should be okay. Lots of treatments. I'm going to see all the healers that use use here in Squamish when I need some help. And yeah, just keep doing what I'm doing, I guess. I'm leaving this with a lot of her confidence in myself and in my process and my team, everyone around me, my coach, all my friends that are better than me at bikes that I get to go ride with in Squamish. More of the same, I think.