“What do you mean it doesn’t have any brakes?”
We all have to start somewhere. In all honesty it doesn’t really matter where this is; the important thing is taking that first step (or in my case tentative pedal stroke). Try new things, work hard and you never know where it might take you. If you’d have asked me a few years ago if I thought I’d become a professional cyclist and be living in Girona I probably would have laughed.
Look back another couple of years and you’ll see me sat in my Dads car crying. If he’d have driven home like I asked him to then maybe I wouldn’t even be riding a bike right now.
I’d been surrounded by bikes for much of my childhood, but in all honesty had never really shown much of an interest in them myself. I would be talked into the occasional bike ride. But these would inevitably end in me pushing my bike up the small hill into the village in the middle of a full on tantrum. It was probably the equivalent to riding over a speed bump; but at the time it was my Everest. They say ‘it never gets easier, you just go faster’. I would have been happy enough with making it back to the front door without having to walk. It was at the end of a massive ride though. I mean we’re talking at least 10km. Credit was definitely due for making it into double figures.
My real cycling career began in a fairly typical way. I was always into sport as a child, and ended up being a hockey player in my formative years. From the age of around 9 this was what I did, until around the age of 16 when I developed a knee injury. I was advised to take up cycling as a form of rehab and physiotherapy to strengthen the knee without putting too much pressure through it.
I was happy enough to just ride around the lanes for an hour and call it a day, but one of my Dad’s friends managed to convince me that the local track was the place to be.
Knowing absolutely nothing about it I of course said yes. I hadn’t even seen a velodrome or a track bike before, and this quickly became abundantly clear. We arrived at the track one evening after school. I got out of the car to take a look, and immediately announced there was no way I was riding on that. It was practically vertical and it was clearly impossible for anyone to stay upright on it. As most of you will know, an outdoor track is much shallower than an indoor velodrome. You can imagine my reaction when seeing one of those for the first time. But that’s a story for another day.
I got back into the car (and I wasn’t crying at all at this point, honest) and entered into the standard parent/child argument. Eventually my Dad came out victorious, and I agreed to give it a go. Changed and ready to brave the treacherous slopes, I was handed the bike I was supposedly going to ride. First question: What do you mean it doesn’t have any brakes? Second question: What do you mean you can’t stop pedalling?? Third question: How the hell are you supposed to stop??? At this point I’d fully committed to it though, and there was no backing down, which for me turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get on the track, instantly become a phenomenal cyclist and start winning every race I ever entered. A child prodigy born. It took a few years of getting knocked down and back up again, but now I’m in a place where hopefully one day this will be the reality. Not the child prodigy part, I’m already too old for that unfortunately. But I’m riding for one of the best teams in the world, and providing an environment for rider development is their speciality. Together we can do great things in the sport. I’m sure of that.
I might not have grown up knowing that this was my dream, but I can’t imagine my life any other way now. Cycling has become my entire life, and without going out of my comfort zone I may never have got here. I’m not just talking the training and racing and time actually spent on my bike (of which there is plenty); the cycling world becomes your everything.
I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had, places I’ve been and friends I’ve made for anything. Even though I’m only at the beginning of my career and (hopefully) the best is still to come, the journey so far has been a great one. Don’t get me wrong, as every other rider out there will tell you, it’s hard and you’ll have your fair share of downs; but if you’re lucky then the ups will vastly outweigh these.
So the moral of the story is to go out there and try things. Dive in head first and give it everything you’ve got. You never know what’s round the corner if you just dare to take a look.