Early this year, we enrolled track and crit racer Cat Gaskell into the Canyon//SRAM Zwift academy – a search for the next pro team rider via the social turbo-riding platform.
Zwift allows riders all over the world to cycle ‘together’ online. If you use a smart turbo trainer such as the Wahoo Kickr Snap Cat used inclines are replicated and your power to weight ratio dictates if you drop back or accelerate away on the climbs. Even the benefit of drafting is replicated via the resistance.
The idea was Cat would ride with the team in Belgium, and then complete the Academy to see how far she could get to being the next Canyon//SRAM team rider. Unfortunately, it didn’t all go to plan.
I came into this season feeling pretty strong – I had managed a fair few podium positions and wins at both crits and on the track and I had plans for plenty more races throughout the year. After my trip to Belgium with Canyon//SRAM and Zwift, I was also pretty excited to give the Academy a go. I never considered I’d get that far but thought it would be a fun challenge and was interested to find out how turbo training following a specific plan could improve my fitness and strength. I had never trained on a turbo before; rollers were always my go-to indoor training tool.
June arrived, as did a track open meet at Herne Hill. Unfortunately this day of racing did not go to plan and I was taken out in a very bad crash when several girls went down in front of me and I had nowhere to go but over my handlebars. I was knocked unconscious and woke up in hospital with a broken neck, cheekbone and eye socket, and a separated shoulder.
The first few weeks went past in a concussion-fuelled blur and only after my second op did I get told I’d not be able to ride outside for about 12 weeks post-shoulder surgery (in case of further crash damage). Devastating news, especially in the middle of the summer.