January 20, 2005
MX1 KTM rider Kenneth Gundersen is hoping to swing his leg over the 450SX four-stroke factory machine sometime in the next six weeks after a slow recovery from the serious knee injury and cartilage problem he incurred mid-way through the 2004 FIM Motocross World Championship.
The 23 year old has endured several operations and a six month absence from the sport but is presently training in Italy and is just a short spell away from a two-wheeled return.
"My physical condition is getting better and better," he remarked this week. "It has been a very hard time for me. I had to wait two months for the cartilage to grow, have an operation and then another three and a half months on crutches before I could start any kind of serious rehabilitation. Now I feel like the sun is shining!"
"I am really happy that KTM have been so supportive. It was a bad situation for me but also a poor return for them. I am assessing the situation a week at a time but I think I can be back on the bike in a month. The doctors have recommended this time period as minimum," he continued.
Gundersen's problems with the joint on his right leg began after a late race crash at Teutschenthal in Germany. He could only attempt two further Grand Prix before limping away from the season prior to the Swedish round. The knee was a mess of torn cartilage and necessitated protracted treatment as well as a complete hiatus from all physical activity.
"They took out, developed and then replaced the broken pieces of my cartilage. I have full confidence in the Swedish specialist who performed the surgery and he has helped other athletes all over the world," added the fitness-obsessed Norwegian. "At the moment I'm not too sure about the first GP, it might be too soon. I have to be really careful that I don't destroy all the hard work I have put in. I will go down to the factory in a week or two and we will talk about the pre-season."
"Kenneth visited the doctor before the end of the year and he was very surprised at the progress of his recovery," commented Team Manager Toby Gustafson. "He has full movement in the knee and can train without any problems; he even took part in a cross-country ski event in Norway the other week. He has to be careful about when he can start riding the bike. We don't want him to come back too early and face another lay-off. Cartilage needs time to stiffen. You can build up the muscles around the joint but there is a natural process that can't be ignored. I doubt whether he will be riding before the start of March and we have no confirmed plans for his racing schedule yet. We will of course aim to have Kenneth ready for the first GP in April but we'll have to see how things work out."
New MX1 recruit and 2004 MX2 World Champion Ben Townley returned to Europe after holidays in his native New Zealand and several days riding in the United States this week and is regaining full fitness from the shoulder injury he sustained in December. The 20 year old will travel to Italy in a few days for more training. His first race appearance of '05 will be at the Valance pre-season International in France on February 20th.
The third member of the MX1 crew, Steve Ramon, who finished 4th in his premier-class World Championship debut last year, is currently preparing in southern Spain until the end of January. Ramon will once again fully commit to the Belgian Championships this season and has pleased team bosses with his levels of fitness during a recent test held at the University of Brussels. Ramon will line-up at the traditional 'curtain-opening' International at Mantova (Italy) on February 13th.
Source: KTM-Sportmotorcycle AG