The journey, not the destination: Loren Rowney on her start in sports and missing the big Australian Summer races

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I have been a cyclist now for essentially half of my life. It first started back in 2002 when I was a scrappy, gangly young teenager based on the Gold Coast, and one of the only girls racing.

My very first race was a club race in E grade against all the ‘old codgers’ as well as some junior boys. I learnt a lot from those early days of fighting for a wheel against men twice my size and strength. I think it may be how I ended up becoming quite handy in the bunch.

As a teen, I was terribly self-conscious, with absolutely no confidence or self-esteem. But I loved to win in any and every sport; and win I did! To be honest I needed it, I lived for that winning feeling. I felt it was the only time I could almost be comfortable with accepting praise. I knew I was gaining the approval of my dad, my peers, my school as well as society. I felt that if I wasn’t achieving as an athlete, I was nothing and no one. This was my special talent. This is what set me apart from the rest of my high school classmates. I was that girl who could run really fast, jump really high, throw things really far and ride my bike to the New South Wales border and back.

I wasn’t like the rest. I wasn’t normal. I was different and I liked that! I needed to feel different. We are all brought up believing that we are unique, that we are special, that we are talented and that we can achieve whatever we want, if we put our minds to it. That’s definitely how I was always brought up anyway.

“Believe in yourself Loren, you’re the only one holding yourself back from achieving greatness”. That was one of my dad’s favourite one-liners he would say to me prior to a competition or race. Ever since the age of nine years old, when I was competing at my first ever national cross country running championships in Canberra, my father was telling me to “just believe!” It seems easy right? Just believe you are great; and you will be great! But reality is, it really isn’t that easy for most of us.

Even the greatest athletes in the world, I know have some self-doubt at some point in their career. I guess it is how you deal with it that can be the difference between achieving greatness and being mediocre. You could have some bad luck, sustain an injury or illness, or there are a number of other variables that can be thrown into the equation, all of which can muddle things up and change the outcome you want and you believe you deserve in a race.

I guess you’re probably wondering if now, after competing at a national level in competition since the age of nine (I am now 27), I have got it all figured out? The answer is no, I certainly don’t. I’m a constant work in progress; I am always looking for ways to self-improve. I’ve been told I am far too harsh and far too critical of myself. That is a flaw I am working on. It is all part of having an obsessional personality I guess?

You’re probably also wondering my reason for telling you all of this? I suppose I wanted to shed a bit of light on my background and provide you with a bit of insight into my past. All of that obviously contributes to who I am today.

This year, 2016, looked to be, and I believe will still be, the year in which I come into my own as a professional cyclist. However, being a new signing to ORICA-AIS, a lot of people were wondering why I wasn’t at the ‘Bay Crits’, the national championships or the Tour Down Under. I received messages from people I haven’t spoken to in years! I guess in our small cycling bubble, if one rider is missing, it definitely gets noticed. During a recent Gold Coast bunch ride, a local legend said he’d heard that “I’d racked it and become a triathlete” I mean, really? He obviously doesn’t know my roommate in Girona, Carlee! There’s no way she would ever allow me to do that, let alone forgive me if I did! So the answer is no. I’m not becoming a triathlete, and I’m not “racking it”.

Basically, I needed to take a little bit of a ‘time-out’ from the cycling world during December. I needed a bit of time for myself. Time to reflect, time to re-focus, time to reset and refresh as well as time to decide what it is I want out of this incredible, crazy circus we call professional cycling. I felt it was best for me to take this break early, rather than to push myself through a busy Australian Summer of Cycling. Whilst I have definitely missed competing in some of the biggest and best races on my home soil, it has meant that the main part of my racing season overseas won’t be affected.

I have some big goals this year and plenty of things I would like to achieve.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank my ORICA-AIS Team and teammates for being so supportive, accommodating, and for allowing me to have this time out. I have begun training again and I’m ready to hit the remainder of 2016 head on! My first race back will be the Cadel Evans Great Ocean road race in Geelong this weekend. (Side Note: I feel like this is where the ORICA GreenEDGE theme song “Won’t Back Down” should be playing in the background haha!)

Until next time!

Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Orica-AIS. The South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season

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