Veal Re­port

Fear of Liv­ing

Pedal Magazine - - Out In Front - BY ED VEAL

If I asked what your favourite part of cy­cling is, what would your an­swer be? There could be so many great re­sponses, as this won­der­ful sport has so many amaz­ing dis­ci­plines and caters to all lev­els and abil­i­ties. I would love to say mine is just cruis­ing along on my road bike with the wind in my hair – but I would be ly­ing for two rea­sons.

One, I don’t cruise; it is all about speed and rac­ing for me. And two, I don’t have any hair to blow in the wind. I am a cy­clist but the truth is I am much bet­ter de­fined as a bike racer. I love the speed, the risk and the dan­ger. Rac­ing is “life” for me.

Here is one def­i­ni­tion of rac­ing. “In sport, rac­ing is a com­pe­ti­tion of speed, against an ob­jec­tive cri­te­rion, usu­ally a clock or to a spe­cific point. The com­peti­tors in a race try to com­plete a given task in the short­est amount of time. Typ­i­cally, this in­volves travers­ing some dis­tance, but it can be any other task in­volv­ing speed to reach a spe­cific goal.”

Have you heard the ex­pres­sion “speed kills”? Well, in bike rac­ing, speed is the name of the game, and with high speeds come crashes. I have had my fair share of crashes over my ca­reer. Yet for the amount of rac­ing I do, I don’t crash much at all, but it is bound to hap­pen and this year I had two beau­ties only a month apart.

First was at the Tour De Delta UCI road race. I was go­ing up­hill ab­so­lutely full throt­tle just cen­time­tres off the wheel in front of me when my bars were swept from be­hind by a pass­ing rider. It hap­pened so fast. I hit the deck be­fore I even knew what had hap­pened. My bars twisted to the right and I slammed down on the left. Stunned, I fought to get up and tried to chase back on. My hel­met was smashed and sway­ing side to side on my head with ev­ery pedal stroke. I de­cided I needed to call it a day and get checked out.

Last week­end at the Two Days of Buf­falo, it hap­pened again just as fast. We were all strung out, do­ing 50kph in the lead-out train ap­proach­ing 600-700m to go and a rider a few bikes in front of me turned his head to look be­hind and his bike moved with him. This sim­ple mis­take took out 10 rid­ers. I was up over my bars land­ing on a pile of bikes and rid­ers in a mil­lisec­ond. No sprint glory to be had but I did col­lect some new scars and a set of bruised ribs.

Now some may shy away from rac­ing be­cause of this kinda stuff, but for some it might make rac­ing even more ap­peal­ing. I can tell you it hasn’t changed any­thing for me. I knew crashes were al­ways a part of the game. I signed up for the good, the bad and the ugly and I’m very aware of the con­se­quences in­volved. Not ev­ery­one jumps back up and brushes them­selves off, though. I feel very lucky once again just to be hurt and not in­jured. I write this still pretty banged up with sore ribs and road rash still stick­ing to my T-shirt but I know it could have been so much worse.

We have all seen it in sport, hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dents chang­ing peo­ple’s lives in an in­stant. Maybe you have gone through it your­self or seen it with close friends and fam­ily. I know I have.

Th­ese days I can’t stop think­ing about fel­low trackie, Kate O’Brien, and her long road to re­cov­ery. What hap­pened to her is scary and while I sense what she is go­ing through, I feel so help­less. It is a re­minder that life is so very frag­ile, but there is some­thing I want you all to know: This scary rac­ing life style is what I and many other high-per­for­mance ath­letes call “liv­ing”.

I’m at my hap­pi­est when bomb­ing down the track full gas, fight­ing in the chaos of a bunch sprint or de­scend­ing at over 100kph. Life is chas­ing th­ese spec­tac­u­lar mo­ments. I wake up ev­ery day dream­ing about be­ing in th­ese hair-rais­ing sit­u­a­tions again and again. Fear of hurt­ing my­self or even dy­ing isn’t even on the radar. What I am fear­ful of is not liv­ing.

We only get one chance at this thing called life and I want to en­joy it to its ab­so­lute fullest. Rac­ing gives me so much plea­sure and en­joy­ment. I can’t speak for ev­ery­one but if some­thing were ever to hap­pen to me, you all need to know I was happy and ex­actly where I wanted to be. I still haven’t fig­ured out if I found rac­ing or if rac­ing found me, but re­gard­less I’m thank­ful for it ev­ery day.

Love you, Kate. You are a true war­rior and if any­one can make this mas­sive come­back, it’s you. Death is not the big­gest fear we have; our big­gest fear is not tak­ing the risk to be alive.

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