At the beginning of the year I announced that I would be back on the bike in 2019 and that I would be riding for Orbea Racing Team. I also said that I would bring you along for the journey and document the trials and tribulations of being back in the saddle. That starts now.
Up until this point I’ve been pretty quiet on what I’ve actually been doing and what the goals are, and the reasons for this are twofold.
Firstly, I honestly haven’t been doing anything especially noteworthy or exciting so far this winter. It’s been months of hard work and preparation just to get to a place where I was physically able to begin the real assault on this project.
After six months of barely exercising at all and ‘suboptimal’ eating habits I was a pretty out of shape version of myself when I decided to get back on the bike. That’s proved a fairly difficult place to pull myself out of. People always say talent never dies, but fitness definitely does, and mine was buried fairly deep.
Secondly, it’s also been a transition and adaptation to becoming a rider again from a psychological perspective. Mentally I needed to take a bit of time and feel ready to shine a light on what I was doing. I let myself feel some of those emotions we’re always taught to deny, and over time turned them into inspiration. More on that another time.
I’ll be writing a follow up blog to give an insight into how things have gone so far, and keeping a regular account of the journey beyond that, but for now it’s time to let you all know what I’m ultimately aiming to do this season and how this project came about. Molly 2.0 defined.
Towards the end of last Summer I decided that I wanted to get back on the bike, driven by the realisation that I missed racing. I started to explore the possibility of becoming a rider again sooner rather than later, and setting a goal for 2019 that would provide motivation and purpose. I started off by just enjoying being on my bike, then had a very brief foray into cyclocross in the late autumn, before I knew I needed to hit the road again. It was time for some more serious pedalling to resume.
I wasn’t sure at first what form this would take, but the idea was put to me that I could make time-trialling my main focus. It would give me clear goals, structure, more control and flexibility than being part of a traditional road team structure, and the potential to operate relatively autonomously. It was also something that, despite never targeting or specifically preparing for, I had always done well in. Just maybe, with more directed training, I could be quite good at it, and this was as good a time as any to test out that theory.
I was quick to not call it a comeback. I wasn’t at that stage yet. This was going to be a year of balancing work with racing and training, and I knew I would need more time than usual before I was in a place to get back in the bunch. Slow and steady wins the race. Something I’ve never been very good at sticking to in practise.
I had also discovered a passion for media work during my time off the bike, and in a weird twist I fell more in love with cycling at the same time over that period. With the distance between myself and the peloton came clarity. I was able to have an unbiased view for the first time since I began riding a bike. I was open to being inspired by the riders I once only saw as competitors, and was equally open to being angered and frustrated by the lack of equality in cycling. This was something I wasn’t ready to put to one side just yet.
The time I needed to get my body back in shape provided the opportunity to be both a rider and to say yes to other things I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. It’s been a balancing act I haven’t had to perform before; to try and train ‘full time’ and work as well, but it’s bringing balance and joy to my life and that’s what counts.
It would also have been ridiculous to think I could go from zero to a hundred and try to jump straight back into the UCI scene at the start of the year. I didn’t even explore that possibility, but I don’t think it really was an option in any case. Even if it had been possible, and might have felt like the quickest way back, it wouldn’t have been right. Chasing things too fast was always an issue for me, so it was time to practise some patience.
However, it was also time to race the clock. I decided to embark on a project to see if I could get from unfit ex-pro to the podium at the TT Nationals this year. It was somewhere I’d been before, but I’d fallen a long way since then, so it was now the perfect intersection between something that seemed impossibly far away and yet also close enough that I might be able to pull it off. There’s something exciting about chasing a goal that feels just out of reach.
For the first time in my career I was willing to set a target that I would announce and make public. Whether I succeed or fail I am going to give it everything, and bring everyone along for the journey. If better riders beat me on the day then that’s racing, but this is about keeping it real and giving it my best shot.
With an eye on the long term goal of getting back in the pro ranks I’ll also be racing a road calendar this year. I’ll be doing the National Series, and hoping to grab some podiums there as well, and then onto the National Road Champs. In another exciting development I’ll also shortly be announcing some unexpectedly high calibre races I’ll be pinning a number on for.
I would like to end this one by thanking everyone who backed me from the beginning, those who supported me through the bad times, and to all the sponsors who have invested in this project.
For the first time in my career this is just me and my bike, and the people behind the brands who have helped to make this all possible.
It was important to me with my new found freedom to represent companies I love, and work with people I was proud to represent; and I’m happy to say that became a reality.
Thanks to Orbea Bikes, Orca Clothing, Met Helmets, Praxis 4iiii Power Meters, Shimano, Koo Sunglasses, Elite Trainers, Epic Cycles and Broad Bean Wholefoods for getting me back on the road.
Now it’s time to get my head down, eyes forward, the hard work is only just beginning.