Team rider Louie Evans looks back at an up and down start to the season.
Coming towards the end of the cross season in January I started to lose form. Usually I am a very consistent rider but my racing and training started to become very inconsistent. Whilst I had some good races, others were a total write off, I even had my first DNF in a cyclocross race after 11 seasons of racing. Shortly before the National Championships I had what I thought was a stomach bug which meant I couldn’t race, this subsided however a few weeks later it came back.
Tuesday 24th January 2018: A few tests later and a late-night call from the doctors left me sitting in the A and E, ready for the hours of waiting ahead only to be rushed through within minutes of entering. My first finger prick later I was met with some stark news from the young nurse who was seeing to me “I think you have diabetes mate” to which I replied, “no way, you’re joking”. The first thing that ran through my mind was what about my bike, I can’t have lost the opportunity to try and reach the higher levels of cycling before I’m even 17, it was gutting.
I was not a stranger to diabetes as it is in my family, however you never expect to hear that you have it yourself. Anyway, I spent the next 24 hours in hospital before being discharged, glucose meter and insulin in hand. By this time I had informed the rest of the team and there support and reassurance was fantastic and I’m not sure I would have had the same level of motivation to get back out on the bike without them.
I got back on the bike a week after being diagnosed which helped me to understand the nature of training with diabetes and how I would move forwards. It was difficult at first, as to check my blood sugar whilst I was riding meant I had to stop, finger prick, not have enough blood, finger prick again, not get the blood into the tester properly and so on and so on. We then stumbled across a relatively new product called the freestyle libre which allows me to check my blood sugar by just scanning a £2 coin sized disc, which sticks to my upper arm, using a small Garmin bike computer sized scanner.
And so the race is on. After entering the Clayton Classic before being diagnosed, rather than throw away my entry, I decided to race. I had a much better race than I expected, staying in the race for around 2/3 of the time, eventually I had to pull out as my nutrition wasn’t good enough which meant my blood sugars were getting too low and my legs had given in. Shortly after this race the team partnered with Secret Training nutrition, their Stealth training drink and juice bars have been invaluable to my riding as they provide plenty of energy without causing my blood sugar to rise too rapidly which can cause tiredness, they are also easy on the stomach which is something I have not experienced with other nutrition brands. After this race I knew I would be back to where I wanted to be soon enough.
Fast forward to the beginning of March. After a pretty poor start to the year I had the opportunity to go skiing over in Italy which I took up as it sounded like fun. I got in a fantastic 3 to 4 hours skiing before a small fall where I fell awkwardly resulting in me snapping my right femur, I'll spare you the details! It’s not all bad however, not many people get a free helicopter ride through the Dolomites, although if I was given the option I might have sacrificed it in return for a leg which wasn’t broken. Nothing that a metal rod couldn’t sort out anyway. After the private jet (ambulance) home (talk about living the high life, I know!) I was left back at home after yet another set back! I pottered around finding things to do but the worst of it all was I had just had my new bike delivered and it was sitting in the house as a reminder to never go skiing ever again. It did take a few weeks until I’d had enough of sitting in a chair so I had the new bike placed onto the turbo so that I could get back on the bike, even if it was only for a little bit at a time. Over the weeks my cycling has increased and increased; cycling has been key to my recovery as it helps to build strength without weight baring on the leg. After the turbo I finally got back out on the road. I expected to be completely unfit but surprised myself when I had lost as much fitness as I had expected. I trained for 3 weeks out on the road before commencing racing again. My first race back was at Darley Moor with Will where I surprised myself by staying at the front of the race for the whole time despite not having the strength in my legs to sprint for the higher places at the end. Since then my training as gone from strength to strength as I’ve made great improvements in my performance over recent weeks.
Very shortly I will be heading to Athens, GA in the USA for the Team Novo Nordisk talent identification camp, to put a nicer end to my season!
I can’t thank the team, team staff, parents and sponsors enough for their support and encouragement, it has been fantastic to have everyone behind me throughout this and I’m sure I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without it!