Fear of Living
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.