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How Cycling Pros Stay Motivated — and You Can, Too

By Ian Dille | May 3, 2016 | Rally Health

If you’re an athlete, motivation often comes easily. Your passion for your sport, your innate competitiveness, and the personal satisfaction of your accomplishments help keep you working hard, eating well, and taking care of your body. But what happens when a serious injury or illness strikes, or when weather interrupts your training regimen? When you can’t do the one thing you love, how do you keep going?

Whether you’re a professional bike racer like the members of Rally® Cycling or a recreational athlete trying to improve on personal benchmarks, these setbacks can be tough to take, both physically and mentally.

In 2015, professional cyclists Bjorn Selander and Shane Kline of the Rally Cycling men’s team both found themselves hospitalized and undergoing surgery, unsure of whether they would ever compete again. Women’s team member Catherine Ouellete has a different challenge, regularly facing extreme winters in her home of Montreal while preparing for the spring racing season.

In reflecting on their journeys from the hospital room back to the starting line, or the many monotonous hours spent training indoors, all three athletes revealed where they found the motivation to keep pursuing the sport they love.

Never, ever give up

For three years, Selander struggled with a severe and mysterious condition in his leg. Every time he over-exerted himself, stabbing pain ran down his left thigh. Formerly one of the country’s best junior racers, he began riding well below his capabilities.

“People thought I had just disappeared from the sport,” he says.

For years, Selander saw dozens of different doctors and therapists, and traveled across the country seeking a diagnosis, all to no avail. Finally, he visited a vascular surgeon who theorized Selander suffered from iliac artery endofibrosis, a thickening and narrowing of the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the legs. The condition isn’t uncommon in pro cyclists, but Selander’s symptoms didn’t mirror those of others who suffer from it.

Tests confirmed the theory, and Selander underwent surgery to repair the artery in September 2015. Now he’s back on the bike, and looking forward to racing.

Bjorn Selander, Emerson Oronte

Bjorn Selander, ready to ride again, along with teammate Emerson Oronte

 

“You can’t give up after seeing one medical professional,” Selander says. “If I saw someone a couple times, and I honestly didn’t think they were going to fix me, I stopped seeing them and I moved on. It would take two or three weeks to find someone new, and there would be this letdown. But I continued to believe that someday I would find the person who would figure it out.”

Even after surgery, Selander still faced a long road to resume racing with the Rally Cycling team at his full capacity. “I had to go back and see the body workers and physical therapists who weren’t able to fix the underlying problem,” he says. “Because I’d basically been riding and racing with one leg for years, I had to correct a number of muscle imbalances and strengthen parts of my body that had gone unused as my body adapted to my injured state.”

Selander says he’s still not back to full strength, but can now devote all of his physical and mental energy to training and racing instead of trying to get healthy.

Take baby steps

Before he crashed and broke his hip in 2015, Shane Kline was looking forward to a breakthrough season. The previous year, he’d focused intently on his training and diet, lost 15 pounds, and transformed his body from that of a bulky sprinter into that of a well-rounded stage racer, capable of competing in the country’s most mountainous courses and toughest events. So as he writhed on the side of the road after crashing at an early season race in Arkansas, all his hard work seemed wasted.

“As I’m laying in the hospital, finding out that my leg was broken and I needed to basically have it bolted back together, my initial mindset was, ‘I’m probably never going to race my bike again,’” says Kline. But after a month essentially bound to his bed, peeing into a bucket, Kline started riding a stationary bicycle indoors.

“You start walking, and you go OK, maybe I can get back on the bike again. Then you get back on the bike and you start training again, and you start feeling good.

“I began to settle down and think, well, if this comes together and everything goes right, right here, maybe I can race again?”

In August 2015, approaching the end of the season, Kline lined back up at a major race in Canada. “You always have those fears, you don’t want to go through something like that again. When you’re laid up on a bed for two months, it’s not fun. You can only watch so much TV, and you go into a dark place,” he says.

“The first time you bomb a descent, you’re like, ‘Oh man, what if I crash and do it again?’ But at the same time, you started racing for a reason. Because it was something you loved to do.”

Rally Cycling | 2016 Training Camp | Men's Action | Deer Creek Rd. | © Sam Wiebe
Shane Kline, back on the bike

 

Kline says while many racers hesitate to speak about their faith openly, it was his desire to share his faith that drove him to return to racing.

“I’ve always seen cycling as a platform for me to put out there that I do have faith in a higher power, and believe in God. I know that I’m just one guy, racing a bike a little bit, but if I can get on a podium, and give thanks, it’s a way for me to say, ‘Hey, if you have faith, it’s OK to show it.’

“To be able to do that, that’s all the motivation I ever needed.”

Look forward

Sometimes it’s not illness or injury that threatens to derail your training or exercise regime, but a spate of bad weather or a long and demoralizing winter. Catherine Ouellete, 19, is a first-year professional racer on Rally Cycling women’s team. She often faces months of sub-freezing and snowy conditions in her home of Saint-Lambert, Quebec, just outside Montreal. The wintry weather typically forces Ouellete to bring her cycling training indoors, spending hours on a stationary bike, battling the boredom of pedaling to nowhere.

Rally Cycling | 2016 Training Camp | Women's Action | Yerba Buena Dr. | © Sam Wiebe

Catherine Ouellette, right, at training camp in Southern California with the Rally Cycling Women's team

 

Ouellete says that though riding indoors isn’t her chosen method of training, it’s certainly an effective way to stay in shape. “The key for me is riding three to four days a week indoors, with breaks in between days on the trainer,” Ouellete says. “That way it’s broken up, and you can keep thinking, ‘OK, just one or two more days to go this week.’ If I tried to ride indoors every day, all week, I would lose motivation very quickly.”

For Ouellete, there’s a carrot at the end of the winter as well — her team’s training camp in sunny California is a reward for her dedication. “That’s something to look forward to while I’m riding inside, and motivates me to stay in shape over the winter,” she says.

Ian Dille is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. He has written for Outside magazine, Bicycling, and Texas Monthly, and is the author of the The Cyclist's Bucket List (Rodale, 2015).
Ian Dille
Rally Health