Jessy Carveth's - Path to Cycling
"My path in cycling has been anything but predictable.
Playing soccer and running xc and track throughout my life and into university, cycling was never in my timeline. An injury from running had me cross training on the bikes in the gym throughout my last year of running. Eventually, spinning my legs while facing a gym wall got a bit boring and I was lucky to meet a local triathlon coach, Shannon. She convinced me to come on a few rides outside with her, despite my hesitancy (and plain old fear) surrounding my bike handling, or lack thereof. Through our chats on the bike, she introduced me to my mom-away-from-mom, Keli. She was one of the leaders of a local group ride in Halifax that her and Shannon thought I should get out to. And so, I went out to the group ride one Wednesday night, absolutely terrified. I was met with some friendly and welcoming people, some of whom would later become some of my best friends and ended up having a great time. I continued to come out to the group rides, each week becoming more and more confident, and by the end of the summer, had gone from hanging on in the B-group, to riding confidently in the A-group.
The end of the outdoor riding season in Canada aligned with the end of my running career, with my last race being conference championships at the end of October. When I realized that competitive running wasn’t something my body would be able to continue, I told Keli that I wanted to go ‘full in’ with cycling. That’s when I met my coach, Luc. He took me under his wing, and I started training through the winter on the indoor trainer. At one point early on we had a phone call. He asked me what my goals were with cycling. This wasn’t something I really knew the answer to, so I told him; “Well, I’m not really sure how good or bad I am, but I’m competitive and want to go as far as I can with this.” (And let me tell you, I did not think Europe was ever one the table here).
In February, I headed down to Arkansas for training camp with my coach and some other riders. When I got there, I did some power testing for the first time and learned how long 30-seconds actually is. I really didn’t know what to make of the number I got, but next thing I knew Luc had gotten in contact with some prominent people in Canadian cycling. Now, Luc might have known my power number were good, but what he didn’t know was exactly how bad I was at the actual riding of the bike. Now when I say bad at riding the bike, I mean we would have to stop so that I could eat, because there was no way I was taking my hands off the bars. The good news was that two-and-a-half months of riding outside will make your bike handing a lot better and you won’t have to annoy your ride partners every time you need to eat. As my time in Arkansas came to an end in late April, I came back to Nova Scotia just in time for racing to get started. Now there was nothing overly exciting about the start of my first racing season. One of my goals for the season was to qualify for Canada Games, which ended up not being a very daunting task as there was only one other girl from my province and the competition in Atlantic Canada is not overly deep.
After qualifying for Canada Games, I had (what I think) was the most significant event of my season, a women’s camp by Bridge the Gap. Bridge the Gap is an organization in Canada that supports up and coming cyclist reaching for the next level through mentorship, funding, and various other projects. The camp was put on by one of the best Canadian cyclists, Karol Ann Canuel, and Shawn Clarke, a cycling coach and assistant sports director in the World Tour. The camp hosted about 12 female cyclists and had a focus on racing tactics and the path from racing in Canada to eventually landing on a pro team. Through this camp, I was able to meet other girls who have been in the sport for a long time and begin to build my network of influential people involved in cycling. Following this camp, I had done a bit of racing in Ontario and Quebec, alongside racing at Nationals in Edmonton. I finished the season at Canada Games in August and following that was a pivotal moment in my cycling path. I had the opportunity to go to Spain for the winter, from the beginning of September to the end of January.
My time living in Spain was easily the best and worst five months of my life. I met so many amazing people and met so many cyclists from Canada and from around the world. I was able to make friendships and memories that I will remember forever. I was able to greatly improve bot my fitness and bike handling as I rode through the mountains. Although it was great most of the time, getting covid for the first time, having the stomach flu, being in a big crash during a group ride, breaking my fork and my wheel were some of the lows. The biggest setback during my time in Spain happened two weeks after I got there. When I first got to Spain, I trained alone for the most part because I hadn’t met many people at that point. However, this one day I was lucky enough to be riding with someone. We were going down a decent that is popular to cyclists here and were about 20 km from home. As I come around a blind bend in the decent, a large industrial van is also coming around the corner, the driver in my lane on his phone. That was the last thing I saw before sitting up in a ditch, the van gone and my riding partner on the phone calling an ambulance. I ended up breaking all three bones in my elbow, tearing the ligaments, and destroying the joint capsule. I ended up needing two surgeries, eight pins, and two plates to put my elbow back together. The next two weeks were spent in a full arm cast, prisoner to the indoor trainer. A week after getting my cast off I had already gotten a decent amount of range of motion back, thanks to the daily physio sessions. Although I was supposed to be off the bike for 6-8 month, I had had enough of the trainer. I decided to try riding my bike down the street to see if I could hold myself up. Success. After confirming my arm was able to hold the handlebars, I ditched the trainer. The first month was very painful, finishing every ride with my elbow stiff and swollen, but it slowly got better. Today, there is much less pain, and my range of motion is close to where it was before the accident (though it will never be exactly as good as before).
During my time living in both Girona and Sabadell, I came into contact with Michel, the DS of a Dutch club team, Restore cycling. The club races throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, focusing on the Women’s Cycling Series and various UCI .1 and .2 races. After a few conversations with Michel, he invited me to ride with the team this season. I talked with a lot of people before making the decision to ride with the Dutch team. My biggest worry was my lack of race experience, as I knew European racing was a whole new world compared to racing in North America. However, the overarching conclusion that came from everyone I spoke with was that it may be hard, and I may not know what I am doing, but I also have no bad habits to unlearn and that I will be learning how to race in Europe from the start of my cycling career. A lot of Canadian racers I spoke to said that although they were successful in North America, the racing over in Europe was just so different that they all struggled at the start.
So, I cancelled my return flight home and got a Dutch visa. I’ve been in the Netherlands for almost two months now and have started to get some European racing under my belt. I’ve raced in the Women’s Cycling Series, a UCI race (sort of), and some Belgian kermesses, some of these races having girls I would have never thought I’d line up against. There are racing opportunities every week, something you’d never find in Canada. I’ve been getting more comfortable with the style of racing here and can’t wait to see where the season takes me.
Not long ago I was falling off my bike learning how to clip in, today I’ve got a few different party tricks on the bike. My path to the European peloton was certainly not typical. It has required a combination of hard work, good connections, and luck. I used to like planning ahead into my future, but this journey has taught me that plans can change quick but sometimes for the better. I don’t know what is coming next, but for now, I’m going to keep enjoying the ride."
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