Despite only being eighteen and without a great wealth of life experiences to draw on, I find huge satisfaction in retrospect. There is something quite special, romantic even, about looking back at seemingly insignificant events. Retrospect fits the life of an athlete: Big career progressions boiling down to one or two breakout results, the mindset of learning but never dwelling key to the constant limbo between good and bad days. In cycling, a sport in which you lose disproportionately more than you win, it is probably fair to say such an outlook is a basic requirement…
Just over four years ago I ventured upon one such moment. It was a beautiful early summers day. The type when you start layered in clothes but return bare legged, pockets full and with the re-emergence of some winter-hidden freckles underway. It was my Mum’s birthday, the 15th of June. Marked precisely, yet ultimately just another Sunday morning amongst increasingly many I had begun to dedicate to discovering Essex.
I have always been an athlete of some description. One of my earliest memories is jogging down my street to London Fields for my first Saturday training session. Arsenal socks my pride and joy, heart beating at what lay ahead. Then it was on to swimming, culminating in a channel swim relay five years ago. Eleven hours and thirty-four minutes the fruits of countless mornings spent lapping across Dover harbour. I have and always will find life inside of sport, however before I stumbled into cycling, I think I was always trying to find my true place.
Growing up in the city cycling seemed truly unique and it still does every single day. The mountains I watched on television seemed foreign and incredible, as they still do. In the end it took an unaware mini-cab driver, his car door and some broken bones for me to truly forget the endless laps and chlorinated world of swimming. To find the amazing experiences two wheels seems to so readily present. Quitting has never been my thing and as such leaving swimming, despite the insignificance of what I was achieving, didn't come naturally. And yet like all good moments, I look back and it fitted just right.
‘No cycling for six weeks and no swimming for nine’ were the doctors words. I was pedalling a month later yet haven’t swum since. And how could you? Cycling has brought me so much thus far and it is only just beginning. There are so many moments waiting to be had and then looked back on, it is just about getting out there and finding them.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Leigh Day for their support. Whether I would look back on that Sunday so fondly without their help all those years ago I cannot say. There is no time to dwell, there is riding to be done and self-inflicted but enjoyable pain to be had.