Emakumeen Bira Tour 2013: Knowing When To Quit

by Ashleigh Moolman Pasio

In professional sport, success usually comes to those who are willing to push through the pain barrier  and never quit, no matter what the circumstance. I’ve been rewarded for having this never say die attitude but, last week at Emakumeen Bira Tour, I learned first hand that one of the hardest decisions for an athlete to make, is knowing when to quit!

Crash in Stage 1 Emakumeen Bira Tour 2013

The weather was the first challenge to push through. It rained every single day of the tour which made the oily roads consistently wet and slippery. I had my first taste of the tar on stage one, when the bunch slid around an oily corner, claiming the first 15 or so riders. Although I wasn’t hurt, I went for safety first during the sprint and finished in the top 30.

Stage two was more of a climbing day and my teammate Carlee Taylor and I were attacking, making the racing on the first two climbs of the day. Just as we crested the second climb, about midway into the race, it started to rain and, with a wet descent ahead, I surged to the front to claim a bit more control. Then I heard a familiar scream behind me. My teammate Carlee had crashed, slipping out on a corner and into a ditch. Thankfully, Carlee came off lightly but riders started being more cautious and I followed suit, picking Vos’ wheel as the safest I could follow. However, on the next corner there was another crash and this time it was me sliding across the road.

As we took the corner, my wheels just slipped from under me and I hit the tar, bum first, and hard! I got up as quickly as I could. I checked that my bike was safe to ride and then got back on and put my head down. I could feel a sharp pain in my left gluteal muscle, but my head told me to ignore the pain and to keep fighting. As I rejoined the race, Evelyn Stevens also reassured me, convincing me we could close the split that I unintentionally caused.

Usually I pride myself on my fighting spirit and my positive mindset no matter what the circumstance, but I couldn’t overcome the pain from my crash. At first I managed to stay with Stevens and Luperini, who was also in the group, but I was nervous on the last descent and I eventually lost contact with the group. In the end, I finished the stage in 11th.

Emakumeen Bira Tour 2013 ITT

Immediately after I crashed on Stage 2 my instincts told me something wasn’t right, but my mind wasn’t willing to accept defeat. Crashing is very much a part of cycling and it’s just part of the job to get up and keep going, so starting the third stage was an easy decision. It helped that it was a 13km individual time trial but I was still in a lot of pain.

I suffered through the time trial and then the next day I had the same decision to make: ride through the pain or abandon. It’s a simple call to make if there is an obvious injury like a broken bone but, with no outward signs of serious damage, I struggled to make a choice! Eventually, I decided to start the fourth and final stage.

Like I said earlier, sometimes the choice to abandon is the hardest one to make. I may not have had an obvious injury, but when I was struggling to stay in contact with the pure sprinters on the climbs, the writing was on the wall. My left leg felt lame. It had no power and the throbbing pain wasn’t helping either as I tried to compensate with my right leg. It was a tough decision but I knew in my gut I was doing more damage than good, so I decided to abandon.

Cycling is such a humbling sport, because even when you think you’ve got the knack of it, you are thrown another curve ball and faced with a choice: use the curve ball as an opportunity to learn and grow, or to let it get you down. I learned last week racing in the Basque country that abandoning can be even harder than pushing through the pain, but knowing when to quit is a lesson every athlete has to learn. It’s important to listen to your gut and trust your instincts!