by Oliver Evans
My intention when I write is to encourage a conversation about mental health in sport, particularly in young cyclists, and discourage unhealthy approaches to the sport. From athletes to parents, supporters to coaches and team staff, I hope to make it known that certain parts of the sport need to be refined, and certain pressures need to be considered.
Young athletes need to be respected and understood.
In sharing my struggles with mental health I have shed light on some of my negative experiences, but in doing so, some readers may interpret my experiences as being only negative.
Last week I was doing a group ride when a young rider asked about my experiences with the sport. He said that he was thinking of putting out some resumes to professional teams, but upon hearing some of what I’ve dealt with, he wasn’t absolutely sure if he wanted to proceed; he doesn’t want to experience the same things I had.
My suggestion to him was to refrain from closing a door before it’s even open. Don’t decide against taking an opportunity before the option to take it has even presented itself. Explore possibilities. If a team offers him a position, that’s when he should decide whether or not he wants to take it. I also suggest that once that door begins to open, and if a team does offer a rider a position, that is when a conversation can be had about values and support that exist within the team.
Something to consider is that I’ve had difficult experiences at multiple levels of the sport.
A rider’s decision to race shouldn’t be based off of what I’ve experienced. What has happened to me will not necessarily happen to you, and you may not react to certain things in the same way that I have.
Perhaps, as a young rider, what can be taken from what I’ve shared is that there is the chance that there will be unwelcomed pressures or experiences, and riders can consider what I’ve shared and develop a strategy for if similar things are said or happen to them. As a parent, coach or any sort of mentor to a young athlete who may read what I write, consider whether you share similar values and whose best interest those values will serve.
The reality is that, as with anything, there will be parts of cycling that you won’t enjoy. But for every lame experience I’ve had as a rider, I’ve had many that were amazing. There’s a reason why I’ve continued in the sport for so long. I continue to navigate and re-evalutae my evolving relationship with cycling, and would never encourage someone to miss an opportunity.
Make what you can of your relationship with cycling. Race if you want to race, and apply to teams if you want to go to the next level. Don’t hold back. Be respectful to yourself and keep it healthy and fun. Have conversations, ask questions, seek help if needed, and ask for second opinions if something you’ve been told is questionable. Try and find a team that shares common values with you.
Best of luck!
Oliver Evans is a 19-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, who is currently based in Victoria. He races on the road with H&R Block Pro Cycling.