My Story

A quick recap of my 2023 season and how it went for me!

2023 Season Recap

It’s been a long year and I think it would have been a potentially confusing year for those on the outside looking in. It was confusing from the inside as well! Let me start off by saying that I finished 2022 having done a total of possibly 10 racing days, in the space of about 6 weeks. My performance was obviously nowhere near the level required to ride in the professional peloton after 8 months of dealing with a potentially career-ending injury.


I began emailing with the team management at the end of the 2022 season to see what would happen in 2023. Obviously, my performances had been incredibly lacklustre but I was hoping they would have seen how hard I had worked to reach a good level again. I began to tentatively message other teams, knowing full well that other teams would not want a rider who basically hadn’t raced all year and who was a bit of an unknown entity. On the day that I was due to leave Belgium, after an anxiety-inducing and ominous wait, I had a message from my team manager that, of course, I deserved to know about my future and to come to the office. The contract extension that I was offered was a gift that I didn’t expect and the relief was incredible. I got to work on making the winter training in 2022 worthwhile and I entered 2023 ready to race.



I had a training camp with the team in Calpe. While at this camp, I waited to meet with my coaches to discuss my racing plan. I had already been told I would be starting at Vuelta CV Feminas in February. At this meeting, I was told the team wanted to pull me out of this real-life race to ride at the virtual Zwift World Champs. It was a fun opportunity which I really applied myself to.



After some great prep and some Zwift racing, I was ready to go! On the day of the Worlds, I really focused on nailing my prep. I made sure I had a good weigh-in (this needs to be 2 hours before the race). I then ate and drank a lot to prepare to race! Unfortunately, due to a technical issue with my video, I had to reweigh myself 15 mins before the race started which was so stressful! My race wasn’t great because I was so preoccupied.However, I was happy to just have the season started – albeit virtually.



Now things could really get underway! Training had been going well, so at the start of the month, I headed to GP Oetingen and Drentse Acht van Westerveld feeling excited. Sadly, both races were cancelled due to snow. Back to training! I hired an altitude tent myself and used the block of training to the best of my ability.



This month was good for me, but I was a bit apprehensive as I was only starting to race while most of the peloton had been racing since February! I lined up at GP Mouscron, and (not to make excuses) I had a bit of a mental wobble there when a team car passed me really closely on a narrow road, clipping my hip with their wing mirror at speed. PTSD is no joke, especially when it comes to cars and nearly dying! Onto Brabantse Pijl, where I was told beforehand that it was not expected that I finish the race, but that I simply help my team-mates where possible before reaching the local circuit. Job done! Two weeks later was Gracia Orlova. I ended up coming 14th overall in GC, despite not having aimed for that. My TT was quite strong, and on the Queen Stage, I had performed very strongly on the climbs, setting some post-crash power PBs, and most importantly helping my team-mates. There was one small hiccup where I went a bit TOO hard, but I was happy overall with my performance. After this race, I was taken out of the Tour de Bretagne.



I was taken out of GP Mazda and Flanders Diamond Tour. I went back to Ireland to find some races. I began to hear a bit less about training and my motivation and confidence in myself as an athlete diminished with no races to aim for. However, I was happy to be nailing the day to day process of training, rehab and recovery.



This was by far my favourite month of the year. I was racing a lot in Ireland, against the men and women, and I found back the reason why I loved cycling! I did Nationals, which was a good weekend for me – 4th in the TT and 5thin the RR might not sound like much, but my performances put me right up therewith the winning moves. It was an emotional weekend for me too – it felt like I really put my crash behind me and performed well. It had been so long since I had competed against those girls that I didn’t really know where I stood, so it was a real confidence boost to know I still had it! I knew something had to change in my set-up, so I changed coach to John Wakefield. I felt like I now really had the support of someone behind me who believed in me and my abilities.



I started in the Argenta Classic, my first race with the team in almost 2.5 months! I was looking forward to racing, but I’ll be honest, this race was just so boring to me. It was pancake flat and around the centre of Antwerp. I know it doesn’t sound professional to say that, but it was just not my race. The team was really displeased with my performance (or lack thereof) at this race, and I wasn’t surprised. I had another race a week later in Stuttgart, which I really enjoyed as it had some more climbs! Unfortunately, I just missed that racing fitness that comes with regular competition. I did what I could to help my team-mates.



I was taken out of Konvert Koerse and GP Oetingen. In some ways, I guess this disappointment motivated me, because I set new all-time power PBs across 5 and 10 minutes at the beginning of the month – 321 and 296 watts respectively. My 5 minute power was set at the end of a 5 hour ride! I headed to Giro di Toscana feeling READY! I was so excited for the Queen Stage. Coming into the base of the climb, I was wiped out by another rider and crashed hard onto my already weakened right side. I damaged my hip so badly. I can’t describe the pain, and I spent the next couple of weeks hobbling around or on crutches.



My final race with the team was Giro del Emilia. I was super excited for this race, but I hadn’t really been able to train since my crash the month before in Tuscany. I knew I wasn’t fit and I couldn’t really get out of the saddle without pain, but I thought having one last hurrah with the team would be nice. I didn’t really realise just how unfit I was though! It was a disappointing race and off-season came at the perfect time, because I was mentally DONE.


So that’s it. Season 2023. Pretty disappointing, isn’t it? Sometimes, it felt like I was training for nothing. I finished the full 2023 season with 13 race days, not counting the brilliant and fun individual race days I did in June in Ireland. Coming towards the end of the season, I really was considering retiring, as I just felt mentally exhausted. The glory days in cycling are so good, but when it’s been this long since you’ve had one, you forget what the high really feels like. I would get glimpses of what it feels like to be in flow during a race, and then I would have a long training block and lose that rhythm. Getting the offer from Hess Cycling Team for 2024 was an unexpected turn in the tale, and being in a fresh new environment with a packed racing schedule has given me a new dose of motivation!

Thanks for reading!

Imogen x