Surgery, a Racing Sabbatical , and Staying in Cycling.
It is said that things happen for a reason.
I’m not convinced the reason I crashed my bike was to uncover a new career path, I am fairly sure it was because I got my foot stuck in a bush, but nevertheless, here I am now, a writer and photographer in the sport that landed me, quite literally, at a dead end. I’m not ready to race again yet, but I am still very much in cycling.
Ten months ago I was gearing up for the 2013 mountain bike season, coming off the back of my first full winter of cyclocross and really excited to get back on fat tyres. However, a gruesome end to an ordinarily innocuous topple rudely curtailed any ambition of movement, let alone mountain biking.
Having come round from nearly three hours under general anaesthetic to have 10 cm of bush stump removed from my leg, I was greeted by my Dad and Sister – who were out in Cyprus training with me when I crashed – and along with their concern was the well-wishes of every cyclist I had met in Cyprus over the previous few days. The Giant Pro XC Team riders and management, riders from Ghost Factory Racing who I had seen out training just before my accident and the bike shop owner. This is not a sport where the down are out. It is a community, from the professionals to the first-timers, where a mutual respect and shared love of cycling levels everyone. I was not able to cycle for a long time, but I was certainly still a cyclist.
This community, the fantastic friends I have made through years of riding and racing, are a big part of what is so great about cycling. Race weekends are about catching up and having a giggle, as well as racing. That, and the fact I have an extremely talented and incredibly special sister to support, meant that as soon as I was on two feet – albeit on crutches – I was going to races.
The success of my blog articles about my crash resulted in me not just supporting at the races, but producing and publishing reports for the organisers. I have always had an artistic streak and photography is very much part of that, and my degree in history is testament to my embracing attitude toward the written word. The combination of these things, alongside my passion for cycling, led me to realise that if I put my mind to it, I could make a career from doing the things I love. I could become a cycling journalist.
Being a professional cyclist has never been a realistic aspiration, but there are so many other ways to be involved in the sport at the elite level. World Cups, for example, are a circus! So many racers, support staff, vehicles, hotel rooms. Such organisation, logistics, communication, preparation. And so much of it you don’t see. Almost all of what I know about this is not because I have spent a season as a journalist, but because I have been there myself as a racer, and a manager to my sister. I am still finding my feet as a journalist, but I have the support of riders, mechanics, managers, websites, organisers… This is not just because of the work I produce, but because mountain biking is a big extended family and we support our own.
I have missed an entire mountain bike and almost a complete cyclocross season too, and there have been numerous moments when I have desperately wished that it was me on course racing. However, the focus of following and photographing the races has quashed the frustration. I will return to racing, and I want to be competitive again, but this year, rather ironically, has opened up so many more opportunities in the sport than I would have experienced if I had been racing. The inability to race hasn’t pushed me out of the sport, it has drawn me in. I will always race bikes (the thought of not doing it brings tears to my eyes), and now I have the beginnings of a career too.
I maintain that a new (and totally awesome!) direction in life wasn’t the reason I fell off, but being off-course has opened doors to amazing new pathways. My passion and the people have kept my chin up and my head strong.
I have been to fantastic places, met amazing people, made incredible friends and received wonderful support.
Thank you, and Happy 2014 to my super cycling family!