Friday, July 26, 2013

EspoirsCentral Exclusive: Marc Garby's Long Road Back, Part 1

Every year it seems like the U23 scene produces a rider that seemingly comes out of nowhere and starts to get some big results. Well when I say "out of nowhere" what I really mean is that a rider usually has a couple of years developing on the circuit before finding his own in the races. When Marc Garby dropped Louis Vervaeke on the first stage of the Giro Ciclistico Valle d'Aosta and headed for a solo victory after spending the majority of the day in the breakaway, it was different that "out of nowhere". It was different because it truly was out of nowhere. His palmares were nearly non-existent and if one looked at his racing results, it would look like he just started racing this year. Who was this guy? How could this enigma put it to some of the best U23 climbers in Europe and fight to hold onto the yellow jersey for the next few stages? Well, let's meet Marc Garby.

Like many young riders, Marc Garby dreamed of becoming a professional cyclist but unlike many who dream, Garby possessed a good amount of talent and drive to possibly make the dream a reality. Garby started on the racing in 2002 and like many young Danes, he spent a few years on the track, which netted him one silver medal in the team pursuit.

As he developed in his later junior years, Garby got stronger but his body type was not exactly suited to the flat lands of Denmark. Self-admittedly a "super small and skinny rider", Garby was adapt at getting into breakaways and finding the right groups during races. By the end of his junior years, he had racked up a good number of top-10 and top-5 placings along with a few wins on the Danish circuit. The talent was there and the results weren't bad but a lack of international racing put him behind a few of the top riders such as Sebastian Lander. Unperturbed, Garby set a goal for himself after graduating in 2009: to become a professional cyclist by 2014.

His first U23 season started with a few bumps. Seeing as he was suited for climbs, Garby set out for Italy to try and find a team for the 2010 team but after using his limited resources, he could not find a team and returned to Denmark. Riding for a local club in Ringsted, he did the best with what he could and ended with one win along with a few top 5 placings on parcours that weren't very suited to him. For his hard work, Garby was pre-selected for the U23 National squad in 2011 but his problems were only beginning.
"In March 2011 I had 4 weeks off the bike due to a knee injury. I fought hard to get back in shape and did okay against the Danish continental teams. I started getting problems with my left leg sleeping and cramping when pushing myself hard. When I reached August 2011, I could barely push 80% of my maximal effort before getting these symptoms. It was impossible to race."
From August until December, Garby saw six doctors around Denmark to try and diagnose his problems. After the first few doctor visits and doing some research of his own online, Garby came to his conclusion that he had iliac artery endofibrosis, which is essentially a kink in the major artery that carries blood to the legs. This will sound familiar to fans as riders such as Mike Friedman, Travis Meyer, Hayden Roulston, Tony Gallopin and others have undergone surgery to repair the kink via a vein patch. This is a procedure that many can recover from quickly but many remember South African cyclist Ryan Cox, who tragically died after having this procedure because of an infection of the vein patch, a quite rare but very real consequence. 

With Garby, the 4th doctor helped him come to a conclusion that he needed the iliac artery procedure and was referred to the University Hospital in Skejby, just outside Aarhus. While the doctors told him the hospital would be able to help Garby out, he described the hospital as "extremely rude and incompetent". The doctors are the hospital disagreed with the iliac artery diagnosis and wanted to do an entirely different surgery, which threw up some red flags. After consulting with an expert on the procedure in the Netherlands, Garby cancelled the new surgery but even after a vein scan, the Skejby doctors still said no to the iliac artery diagnosis.

Heading into 2012, Garby met with the expert, Dr. Schep, from the Eindhoven, The Netherlands and the the iliac artery endofibrosis was confirmed. While the surgery had its risks, Garby was more than willing to put himself under the knife to reach his dreams of being a pro. While it was now diagnosed,  their was still a problem. The only hospitals that were seasoned with the surgery were outside of Denmark and if he wanted insurance to cover the surgery, he needed to tell Skejby about his visit with Schep so they could sign off on his transfer to a foreign hospital. They were being persistent and then told him that they could do the surgery themselves, even though they never even attempted it. Uhhh, thanks but no, thanks. 

After back and forth with Skejby, his regional government and others, Garby was out of luck and now having to cover the bill himself but when he had the surgery done in June of 2012, it was exactly what he needed. Within 2 months, he was back to his pre-injury levels but his hunger was not satiated and Garby was monk-like in his pursuit to get to the pro level. Always a skinny rider, he was down to just 57 kilograms by autumn and once again he ventured to Italy to try and find a team for 2013. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where Marc goes into his 2013 season, his breakthrough Giro della Valle d'Aosta and his plans for the rest of the season and beyond.

**There has been minimal editing to quotes for the sake of clarity.

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