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by Loren Rowney
January 30, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
For the longest time now, I’ve tried to imagine what I would be doing if I weren’t racing my bike. I’ve spent a good 10 years chasing the dream of being a professional athlete, and for five years I’ve had the privilege to live that dream. This may seem like quite a short career in everyday life, or even if you compare to that of my male counterparts in the sport, but after five years in the pro peloton, I’ve decided that I’m quite ready to move on to other things and seek a new direction. That’s right, at the ripe age of 28, I’m retiring.
What will my new future hold? I have no bloody clue, to be honest, but I do know that it doesn’t involve me racing my bike at the top level anymore.
I also know that I will continue to ride, because I love how I feel when I’m on my bike, and it is so much a part of who I am. And I will continue to travel, because it is through travel I’ve met some of the most amazing people, and seen some of the most beautiful things. And, if you will let me, I will continue to try to inspire those around me, hopefully through my words and experiences.
For those who have followed my journey, and maybe saw some of the darker sides to me over the past years, I want you to know that I’m fine and that I’m happy with my decision. This is a decision made on my own terms, which is the best kind of decision.
The truth is, as much as I love sport, as much as I love competition, I never truly learnt how to deal with the anxiety and pressure around performing. I definitely became tougher, more determined and wiser as the years wore on, but I never truly learnt to deal with my anxiety, which has been part of me since a very young age. It got to the point where after years of not dealing with it head on, I developed an eating disorder, which I now recognise as merely a coping mechanism to deal with the fact I wasn’t doing what I really truly wanted.
Rowney (right) enjoying a funny moment with her favourite teammate Tayler Wiles.
There are so many beautiful things about the sport of cycling that I will always cherish, like the camaraderie between not only your teammates but those you are competing against. Those brutally cold days in the spring, willing one another through a horrendous race in the rain where your fingers are so frozen you can’t brake anymore. Sharing a bottle with someone in the grupetto on a 40-degree day in the Italian mountains, 30 minutes behind the front group. Pre-race dances in the camper, fist bumps and inappropriate chatter/sexual innuendo with chamois cream in the camper to calm the nerves before the storm.
I’ll miss a lot of things about the sport, even some of the nerves, however, I certainly won’t miss the French coffee. The hardest thing will be coming to terms with the fact that a chapter is well and truly over, and knowing there is a lot of uncertainty ahead. However, as someone put it to me, you get to be that person who gets to say “what will I be when I grow up?”
I’d like to use this announcement to thank some of the many special people that have made a huge impact on my career: Mark Brady, the coach I will always refer to as the one who got me to where I am. Kristy Scrymgeour, for giving me my first job as a pro cyclist, and her continued belief in me. My mum, for always being my rock, and my dad for always being there, even though there were many ups and downs.
My best friend and person Carlee, we have grown into adults together. I have so much love and respect for you. Thanks for always being there, through the thick and the thin. Tayler, for being the best teammate a girl could ask for. My second mum, Helen, who got me back on the bike all those years ago, and supported me like her own since.
Bec, for always being the voice of reason, and my fellow dreamer. Bill, for mentoring me, and helping me get through some of the most challenging times. Hannes, thanks for putting up with all my BS these past couple of months — I love you so very much! To all my past teammates, friends and competitors in the peloton, keep doing what you’re doing — inspiring others, growing the sport and being amazing people on and off the bike!
Carlee and Loren: always goofing around these two.
Favourite teammie(s): Tayler Wiles. I love you girl!
Favourite race: Women’s Tour of Britain
Most memorable win: My first UCI win in the Women’s Tour of New Zealand
Best host family: MaryAnn Levenson and her lovely family
Best pre-race coffees: Tayler Wiles’ pour-over coffee, using her beans from Equator coffee or La Fabrica
If I could go back and ride anywhere in the world, it would be: I would have loved to have raced in Japan, and Asia in general. I’ve heard such amazing things about the atmosphere, the countries, the culture. Perhaps I’ll head there some time in a different role.
All these memories will stick with me for a lifetime; the experiences, the people, the challenges have all made me into the person I am today. I still have a lot of growing to do, a lot of figuring out what I want, and where I want to head. I am so sure of one thing though — thanks to the bike, I have become the woman I am today.
Dear readers, if you’ll have me, I will continue to write about all the things we love about bike riding and bike racing. I’ll continue to share my experiences on and off the bike, and hopefully inspire you all to chase those goals, and make those dreams a reality like I did. And hey, come ride with me in Spain — I could use the company on my adventure rides!
I have loved this chapter of my life, but I’m excited to grow up and see what I’ll become.
Rowney wins stage four in the 2015 Route de France. Photo by Bart Hazen