I’ve spoken a bit about things I would do differently if I started racing again in other posts. Below are some other things I’ve thought about in my time off, that would change how I approach any racing in my future.
For years I’ve wanted to be pro. I spent three years with a multi-part plan and in my last year as a junior (2016), it was my final year to see that plan through. First I had to win junior nationals, then go to worlds, and then get onto a continental team. I didn’t win nationals and I didn’t go to worlds (I was invited though). Not completing those parts of my plan hurt me more later on than they did at the time.
Part three of my plan, getting onto a continental or pro team, was all that remained.
Manitoban Chris Prendergast rode for H&R when I was a cadet, and I had met a few other riders over the years. My best friend Danick was also on the team. Going into 2016, my goal was to get onto H&R for 2017. For a long time I had wanted to get on that team.
My season started out brilliantly, and as I started to see that I was faster than I expected, I started to set my sights on other teams that I hadn’t properly considered before. These teams aren’t necessarily better, but they got into bigger races such as the Tour of California and/or Utah, held training camps, and sometimes paid their riders, which are all attractive elements. At road nationals at the end of June, Mark approached me and told me that he was prepared to sign me for H&R for the following season.
Having this sort of interest in me from the team that I had been looking at for years gave me an incredible sense of (false) confidence. I suddenly thought that I must be better than I actually was. In my mind, since I hadn’t had to apply to H&R- they had approached me- perhaps I might have a shot at better resourced teams that until then had seemed like long shots. I was used to having to persuade people and sort of sell myself to a team, so I figured that this interest from H&R was a good sign.
I applied to teams such as Silber and Axeon Hagens Berman. My hopes were high and I was expecting a positive response. I sold myself as a long-term investment, stating that as a first year U23 in 2017, I could develop under their leadership into an ideal and strong rider after a couple of years. I didn’t hear back from Axeon, and I was told by Silber that I was too young. I felt I had let myself down. I was brought back down to earth by the many rejections I received from teams. Danick informed me around that time that he would be riding for Silber. H&R had until relatively recently been a dream, and now it seemed like the acceptance of my defeat. Eventually, I got over it (or so I thought).
This all took place from late July, August and early September, when I was really struggling to find motivation to ride. Part of me hoped that getting on a really big team would provide me with the motivation I was lacking.
Once I accepted that I wasn’t this prodigy cyclist that I had begun to think I was, I signed for H&R; full of pride. Finally, I could call myself a pro. I had been offered a position on the team at the age of 17, and signed when I was 18, fulfilling the final and biggest part of my three-part plan.
In late September after signing, as I searched for motivation, I learned that Silber had signed a kid my age. I thought I had accepted not being on the team, but now I was reminded of the disappointment. To add insult to injury, I had been rejected for being ‘too young’. Now I knew that my age wasn’t the problem. A month or so later, Silber released their official roster. I was again reminded of the young kid, who they described as something along the lines of: ‘So and so raced for Accent Inns/Russ Hay’s last season finding himself on the podium in many pro-1/2 races in the PNW as a junior...’ That wasn’t him they were talking about, that’s me. Now I’m sure it was just a mistake, but it made me wonder. It also hurt because I had imagined that exact release months before saying that exact thing, except it would have actually been about me.
I have heard about athletes who make it to the Olympics and fulfill their life-long dream of being an Olympian. They spend little more than a moment at the games living that dream. And then it’s over and the high fades and they fall into a depression. What do you do when you’ve reached the top? Where do you go? What is there to look forward to? These athletes discover that they spent so many years thinking about only one moment, and as soon as that short moment’s over, they’re lost.
After signing with H&R, I felt like I was stalled. I went into a depression. Going pro was my high point- a goal I had set myself. Reaching it lost me. I didn’t know where to go, or what to look forward to. This was as far as I had planned.
Now this isn’t to say that I hadn’t dreamed big. I’ve imagined winning Canada Games, going to the Olympics, wearing the rainbow jersey of a world champion, racing the Tour or my favourite race, the Tour of California, and riding for my absolute dream team, Orica Scott. Even now, those thoughts put butterflies in my stomach. But as far as setting goals go, I thought I had been ambitious in setting my three big ones, and I didn’t set higher ones. I had reached my final goal.
For the record, I have absolutely nothing against H&R. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have with them, and feel extremely fortunate to be a part of H&R. In the end, I am relieved to have signed with them. I can’t think of a better team. The manager, Mark, and the team are amazing. I don’t feel I would have had the courage to share what I’m sharing had I signed with a less understanding team. I believe this is a strength of H&R’s. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, which is why I haven’t spoken of this struggle before. I would have been in way over my head on any of those other teams. I doubt they would have been as accepting and accommodating of my current situation as well, and it probably would have been a really bad move for me to commit to a team with a lot of pressure this season. In no way do I think or did I ever think that I was too good for H&R, I just thought that maybe I was good enough for other teams as well.
With Silber, I continue to think they’re a fantastic team. It’s important to understand that this story is about what was going on in my head, and not what I believe to be true. At the risk of being misunderstood, I’m sharing this part of my journey. This is a lesson I think others can take something away from.
When you set goals, set crazy goals. Set many, and set different ones. Don’t make the same mistake I made of setting all of my goals to be fulfilled by 18. Set short-term and long-term, and always have something to look forward to. Set goals in your sport, and set goals in other aspects of your life. Don’t let your goals in sport be the only things that you strive toward. It’s extremely important to incorporate balance. If I find myself racing again, I will set many goals. I will also set goals in terms of schooling or the exploration of other walks of life off the bike. I’ll have a plan for after reaching each goal. I also will not set my goals or make plans alone.
There is a dean at the U of W collegiate who told me, when I applied, that the school was focussed on preparing students for what’s next. When I signed my contract, I had no next. Now I’m working on having many nexts.