It’s been a weird six months; weird, but surprisingly great. I’m experiencing the world of ‘real’ work for the first time, and I’m grateful to be a part of lots of exciting projects and doing things I really enjoy.
As someone who loves a plan, and subsequently loves things going to plan, throwing mine out of the window was stepping into the unknown. I wasn’t particularly happy with the lack of direction and existential crisis quickly set in.
However, it didn’t last long because a new life fell into place quicker than I could have hoped for. From having no idea what I was going to do with myself, or even what I wanted to do, a Twitter DM and a meeting in London completely revolutionised what could’ve been a wholly sad change of plan. I’ve had the opportunity to gain experience in several different areas of the media, and I’ve discovered a passion for it.
Turns out I really like cycling (I know, who knew?) and in particular I’ve loved working in the media on the women’s side of things. Adding context and depth to what women’s racing is like has been great, because (shocker) we’re not just riding round like headless chickens with no idea what we’re doing!
Last month I had the opportunity to work at La Course for Eurosport and I was nervous. Not about the new job, but about going to a race and facing what I was missing; being in amongst it but one step removed. I didn’t know how much it would hurt. Turns out not at all. It was just motivating. I watched that race, my first since I took the break, and I was inspired. It wasn’t too long ago that these were my colleagues, but now I was just watching incredible athletes put on an amazing show. From that moment on I knew I wanted to be back in the cast someday.
When I stepped off the bike for the first time I genuinely didn’t know if I’d ever step back on, let alone race. I didn’t really mind either. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who’ve asked how hard it’s been to not be racing anymore, but I honestly didn’t let myself think about it at first. It was easier that way. By the time I made the decision to step off the bike I was just happy I was still in a position to make one. By this point it was either no decision, and a continued downward spiral, or cut my losses and hit the restart button on my whole life plan. Why torture myself with dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ when there are no do-overs. All we have is this moment.
But here’s a ‘what if’ I can do something about: what if I try cyclocross?
As those of you who follow me on social media or read my last blog will know, I did get back on the bike a couple of months ago. I had no idea where I wanted this to lead, and to begin with I just cycled for my rediscovered love of it.
I had some space to explore new places and experience just being a bike rider. During this time I’ve barely touched a road bike, and spend most of my riding hours on gravel and dirt tracks. I needed the change of scenery and to try something new, and the joy I’m getting out of it has refreshed my relationship with the bike.
I quickly started wanting more though, and needing more of a challenge; a goal to my riding. I miss that feeling of riding and training with purpose. I miss racing as well, and I’m not afraid to explore that anymore.
At the end of May I told my Dad that my only real regret was that I didn’t try cyclocross when I was younger. Maybe it’s something I would’ve loved, and who knows I might have been good at it.
He just replied ‘well what’s stopping you now?’ Fear of failure I guess; the idea of trying something new once you’re no longer a kid and potentially making a fool of yourself. But then I realised I don’t have this fear anymore, just the feeling that, at 24, my time has passed. As much as I called it a ‘break’ it really felt like I was calling an end to my pro cycling career; but what if that actually makes this the perfect time to do this?
Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves; I’m not anticipating suddenly bursting on to the cyclocross scene and blowing everyone away or even being at the sharp end. I’m not that arrogant and I’m definitely not that delusional. It’s been close to six months since I hung up my cycling shoes and I’ve only ridden for fun since then. Even if my lack of fitness doesn’t hold me back, the fact that I’ve never ridden a single cyclocross race probably will.
So here’s the plan. I’m going to spend the next couple of months putting in the hours on the bike and trying to get some of that elusive form back. I also need a crash course, perhaps literally, in the skills side of things. The first few races will be all about learning and getting to know how it all works, but I’ll be blogging along the journey and we can share in the trials and tribulations.
It’s not about winning or success at this point in my cycling career, it’s about racing for the love of it and seeing where it takes me.
I’ll talk about more specific plans and goals in a future blog (when I have more of an idea of how good, bad or indifferent I really am), but when I said I wanted to get back on the bike and see if an unfit ex-pro roadie could make a go of cyclocross Genesis Bikes and Epic Cycles were on board for the challenge. So a huge thanks to them for backing me for this project. I’ll definitely be needing their awesome bikes and race support this winter.
Whether I surpass expectations or fail spectacularly, this is about showing it’s never late to try something new and jump into the unknown.
Before I wrap this one up I’m going to take a moment to continue the open and honest policy, and not let this be a ‘my life is perfect now and all I had to do was write a blog’ type of announcement. I want to make it clear that it’s not just been a daily dose of sunshine and rainbows over the past few months. There have been moments when I’ve resented the way things turned out, moments when I’ve stretched myself too thin and been overwhelmed by too many commitments and too little time.
But overall I think I’ve made the right choices, and hard work and good people taking a chance on me have led to a situation far beyond anything I ever imagined. To be honest I thought that writing that initial blog and stepping away from professional cycling might have been career suicide, but lately I’ve thought of it more as career resuscitation.
Life is not about how many times you fall down. It’s about how many times you get back up.
Let’s have some fun.