Life after trying to become pro: the same path but two different journeys

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My path to becoming a professional cyclist has been the most exciting and rewarding journey of my life thus far. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the feelings and emotions I’ve felt has made me into the adult I am today.

Like any journey or story, there are key characters that are there through the ups, downs, twists and turns. Those are the people who always have your back, and are able to stand back and look at the situation and give you another perspective, and for me, I actually listen to these people.

One of those people in my life is my friend Bec Werner, a.k.a Werndog. Bec and I have been friends since I turned pro beginning of 2012. I raced with Bec on Specialized Securitor at the Tour Down Under that year, and Bec held onto the blue leader’s jersey till the final stage, only to lose it to GreenEdge who had us outnumbered and under the pump. Over that week in Adelaide, we forged a friendship that would blossom when I moved to the Bay Area of San Fransisco.

Rebecca Werner pictured during the criterium in Adelaide - Santos Women Cup - foto Cor Vos ©2012
Rebecca Werner pictured during the criterium in Adelaide – Santos Women Cup – foto Cor Vos ©2012

Bec is one of those people who would give you the shirt off her back. So when I was broke and starting out as a pro, about to move to America with nowhere to live, no connections and no money, Bec organised host housing for me with the coolest family, the Levensons, in Menlo Park. Bec introduced me to the whole Bay area community, and her host parents, Dan and Andy. Probably the coolest couple I know. We were like their adopted kids for the 2012 spring and summer, spending most of our time away from the bike cooking up a storm and watching bike races on the TV. To this day, 2012 was probably the best year of my life so far, and I attribute a lot of that to the awesome community in the Bay area. You guys rock!

So as my career as a pro began to blossom, and I found my feet racing overseas (or so I thought, but more about that later) Bec’s journey was slightly different.

After a promising start to the season with strong performances in Australia, as well as in the early part of the US circuit, things started to head south for Bec. Unable to explain why she didn’t have the legs in races or those good sensations you should have after training hard and doing everything right, Bec started to doubt her ability and her potential at making it as a pro.

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Often these are not the stories that are told. We only ever hear of the young guns storming the international scene. What about the talented ones who tried but didn’t succeed? I think people on the outside have these romantic ideas of what it must be like to be professional, or trying to make it as a professional. Nobody wants to see or hear about the struggle.

Bec’s year was tough and for her, 2012 was the year in her mind to make it or break it as a pro. If she didn’t get picked up by a professional team, then there was a good chance that was it. As it turned out, Bec had medical issues with her liver, so her underperforming and feeling down right shit on the bike was due to something out of her control. As Bec’s season wrapped up she headed home lost, not sure what direction she wanted to take with regards to bike racing.

I, meanwhile, was preparing for the world championships in Limburg, Holland, where I would get my arse handed to me. That was my first real taste of what the top level was actually like, and all those races I had won in Australia, New Zealand and America just did not compare.

Bec and I both headed back to Australia feeling a bit defeated.

But I had just signed a fresh two-year contract with Specialized-Lululemon and had my work cut out for me over the summer to get stronger and faster for the spring. Bec meanwhile was battling with the decision of whether to keep riding and racing. Two girls setting out on the same path, but ending up on a completely different journey.

I don’t believe myself to be any more talented than Bec, I just had opportunity and a bit of luck thrown my way. Don’t get me wrong, I worked bloody hard to get where I am today, however, I do recognise and appreciate the people like Kristy Scrymegour, my team owner; Mark Brady, my former coach; my parents and close friends that have been there by my side through the good and the bad.

Most of you that read my blogs would be aware that I’m still kicking around as a pro, racing for Orica-AIS in 2016, and loving the sport more and more as the years go on. My discovery of who I was and what I wanted to be as a person really started in 2012, my first year as a pro. So where did Bec end up after the 2012 season? Did her journey continue on the bike? Does she still have a love for the bike, even though it broke her heart?

Well, the answer is that while she did not continue on to become a pro cyclist (yet), the bike continues to play an important role in her life. Bec has been on an epic journey in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word, having travelled all over the world these past two years. And today, she takes off on another adventure: a bike tour from Adelaide to Brisbane in the tracks of her parents who made the same journey 34 years ago. This 2500km ride will serve as the last leg of Bec’s self-discovery journey and you will be able to read all about it here, on Ella.

Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Velocio-SRAM. With the team since its inception (as Specialized-lululemon), the South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season

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