Shanghai – 2016
I sat down across the table from my then team’s new director. I’d never met him before, all I knew was he was from Slovenia (where the hell even was that?) and that his name was Tomaž Poljanec.
This was my first year back racing at the UCI (international) level after leaving the sport due to crippling anxiety and depression in early 2009. I was not fixed, not by a long shot. But thanks largely to the support of my coach Mark Windsor, I was facing it and had earned a spot on the squad.
How the hell was I going to get this guy to understand my situation? To conceive that although 26, I was entering the scene again like a junior. Would he have any time for me or be a hard arse Euro, that saw little value in anything but olive oil and seasoned riders? Holy shit! Would he even understand what I was saying?
Immediately upon taking my seat, I got the feeling he could rip me a new one, if he wanted. Thankfully however, I didn’t get the feeling that he wanted to. Rather, he seemed to pay genuine interest to my fumbling attempts to articulate why the hell I was there. To explain that I wanted to learn to manage my mental illness better and better. That I believed that in learning to do so, I could be of genuine multidimensional value to the team and become of genuine value to myself – I wondered if he bought any of it or was just faking. Stuff! I wondered if I bought any of it?
Two years later and I find myself on a new team and so does he – Continental Cycling Team Ljubljana Gusto Xaurum. A team the two of us played big parts in establishing. Tomaz now the manager and myself a rider.
I had been petrified of being misunderstood and being found to hold little value. Instead, I’ve been mentored, supported and appreciated. I’ve been sought out for advice and my mental health understanding has been integrated into the framework and heart of Ljubljana Gusto Xaurum.
Don’t hear me wrong, this is no “dream come true”, “feel the rhythm, feel the ride” or “quack, quack, quack, go ducks!!” kind of situation. I’m not fixed, and sustaining a team and giving it a future is not going to be easy or guaranteed. But we are building a global community and facing things that scare the shit out of us. And that is something in itself!