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by Anne-Marije Rook
October 17, 2017
Photography by Gosh Damn Films
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
“I’ve decided to stop.”
As hobbyists, amateurs and pros alike, there comes a point where find ourselves faced with the decision of quitting. Cycling can be a forever sport, yet racing days tend to be numbered. And that is simply part of the lifecycle.
However, retirements and dramatic premature exits aside, it’s not a story that’s commonly told. But in a mini documentary released today, filmmakers Josh Lawson and Dan Vallint-Riggs tell that very story through the experience of Rose Osborne (Drops Cycling).
Several months ago, Lawson had approached Osborne to see if she’d be interested in being a subject for a film project. Only a couple years into her career and riding for a still developing team, she’d offer a good insight into the entry level ranks of professional women’s cycling.
“I am fascinated by the lower ranks of professional sports where it’s not all glamour and team buses, and it’s more about people turning up who drive themselves to races and fund their own way,” Lawson, the film’s director, told CyclingTips.
“And we had wanted to make a film about women’s cycling for ages but we didn’t quite know how to approach it because neither of us are women, and we didn’t want in anyway for it to be cliche or condescending or focus on all the bad things going on in cycling. I just wanted to tell a story. So when I met Rose in Bristol, it was perfect.”
Osborne, however, initially declined. She is not one to volunteer for the spotlight and had actually just decided to quit her racing career.
“When she told me she was quitting, at first I was like ‘well shit,’ but then I realised it’s actually a much more interesting story,” Lawson said.
While hesitant at first, Osborne eventually agreed.
“I guess it’s not the usual story, and I was unsure about doing it. I had this feeling like you have to be a real professional who’s won lots of races to talk about these things,” Osborne told CyclingTips. “I just hope people find it honest.”
The 27-year-old Briton had never set out to become a professional cyclist; it was merely a result of a coming up through the ranks at the right time.
“I loved sport of all kinds growing up and my dad was a big cyclist. He always wanted me to cycle but because he did, I didn’t,” Osborne said. “I did just about every sport there was until it came full circle and cycling was the only one I hadn’t done and I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t really into it until I started racing.”
This was at university, and once she caught the racing bug, she caught it badly.
“Once I started racing, I was hooked. I started doing it more and more. And so when I graduated, I started looking for grad work less and less,” Osborne said.
Local success led to a spot on WNT Pro Cycling in 2015 followed by two seasons with Drops Cycling.
“The timing was right. Women’s cycling had just started picking up in the UK. There wasn’t the field there is now and it would be harder to go through the ranks as quickly as I did now,” Osborne explained.
It was her competitive nature that had initially drawn Osborne into cycling, but once in the pro ranks, the experience changed.
“The draw initially was winning. But once you go up in the ranks, your chances of winning become more slim. You find your role in the team and eventually racing became about something other than winning: the experience, the people, the adrenaline, traveling to other countries —almost everything but the result, really,” Osborne shared.
“It got to the point where if I finished the race in 20th or 60th, it made no difference in how much I enjoyed the race.”
And while the experience was “mega fun,” a racing career does come with a lot of sacrifices.
“In the end, it comes down to how much you are willing to give. I found finding motivation to train quite hard as it was, and the idea of going back into another winter to train was a pretty horrible thought,” Osborne shared.
“Like everything, there’s good and bad things about the sport. But I guess it’s hard to know exactly what it’s like until you do it. I definitely did not know what I was getting into but then, I never really aspired to become a pro cyclist either. I just went from one team to another and then it just led that way…I want to do loads of other things, and cycling is very restricting in what you can do outside of training and racing.”
Upon making the decision to leave, Osborne said she felt a sense of relief.
“It was weirdly not heart-breaking to leave it,” she said. “Not having to do something everyday was a big relief. I still like cycling and knowing I can just go out when I want to is quite nice. Giving up the community is the hardest bit.”
In sharing her story, Osborne hopes it offers a glimpse into another side of the sport, and it shouldn’t be seen as something sad.
“Some people may think I’m giving up on a dream, but it isn’t really. I feel super lucky to have had the chance and would not take anything back at all. I have gotten a lot from it and I want to try new things now. It is with no sadness that I’m quitting,” she emphasised.
Osborne has already started a new job outside the cycling world, but continues to enjoy riding. Her competitive spirit remains alive and well, too.
“It’s only been eight weeks since I stopped training properly. I keep thinking I might just pick up a new sport, do it for a couple years and then do another one,” she said with a laugh. “I have done a bit of climbing recently, so who knows?”
To watch the film, click the image above the article.