Editor’s note: Geneviève Jeanson is a former bike racer from Québec

Dear Geneviève,

I would like to write you these few words to talk to you.  It’s a matter of advising you and, don’t worry, it is especially not about lecturing you. In fact, at your age, someone should have told me these things.

When I was very young, many years ago, I practiced a sport that I loved at the beginning. Cycling. For the first few years, I pedaled, pedaled and pedaled some more.  Simply because I loved the feeling each ride gave me… even when it was raining or windy 😉 With September just around the corner, I can’t help but remember those good times.  The arrival of fall, the end of the season and those last few rides, the cooler morning air, those climbs that activate our pulses… and the holes and crevices that keep our reflexes on high alert.  I loved riding my bike so much that I slowly turned to competitions where I quickly confirmed a certain talent.  In short, the way was open for me… with all the dreams that success can bring.

« Trust your gut »

I still had fun, but slowly my passion took another direction, because of the obligations and pressures that were suddenly imposed.  As you know, when you are young in a sport, you are quickly put on a pedestal where you can easily be exposed to desires, projects or temptations that are not always appropriate for you. It is at this precise moment that I want to invite you to be careful. You will see that you will be tempted to deviate from your values and your personal choices, simply because you will want to listen to those around you when they will only show you the good sides of glory, podiums, medals and victory at all costs.  If you are not careful, you may even end up favouring performance at all costs and imposing certain things on yourself… simply because you have been convinced that this is what you must do, because according to those around you, this is what is best for you.  I’m telling you Geneviève, trust yourself and make YOUR own choices.  Believe in yourself and question yourself.  And above all, don’t forget to have fun first.  Having fun will never prevent you from performing.  On the contrary!

When I think about it, after all these years, pleasure is all that should count. Every day. If not, what’s the point of eating asphalt? If you cry at night, if you’re not happy or scared, it’s not normal.  No matter what anyone tells you. No victory, no trophy should interfere with your desire and pleasure to have fun or to ride. If you don’t feel like doing what you love anymore, it’s not normal Geneviève. You need to talk about it and ask for help.  If you are isolated and feel lonely, it’s not normal.  You need to have allies and friends to talk to and trust. If you’re afraid to talk to your parents or loved ones about what you’re going through, that’s not normal…even though we don’t always want to confide in our parents.  If your coach is asking you to cross certain boundaries or asking you to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing, that’s not normal and it’s ESPECIALLY not good for you. Your coach needs to respect you and remain your coach, not more. This is even if she or he tries to convince you that without him or her, you are nothing and will achieve nothing.

« I should have asked for help »

It’s important that you respect yourself and feel good about yourself.  All the time! If you have a ball in your stomach, a heavy heart, or a clouded mind, it’s not normal.  Believe me Genevieve, none of this is normal. I can tell you about it because I have unfortunately experienced it for the wrong reasons. That and this damn obsession with winning. I trusted. I had even come to accept and, worse, think it was all okay. You may be told that I made bad choices.  Yes, I did.  But what other choice did I have? I was alone. I was afraid that no one would believe me, and I was also afraid of losing everything. I was so afraid of everything and of losing my coach that I even wished myself a bicycle accident! In short, I should have asked for help, but I was locked in a shell, and it became impossible for me to confide in myself with peace of mind.

Looking back now, I know that I did not take the right path… simply because my motivations at the time should not have been those of those around me.  Years later, I am still paying the price and that is why I wanted to write to you. I wish someone had told me about these things when I was younger. I know what you could experience and feel, Geneviève, if you forget yourself.  You must trust yourself and not be afraid.

If you are going through something difficult and the pleasure is no longer there, you must ask for help and not be ashamed. WE will believe you.  I’m telling you Genevieve, things can change. Your passion for your sport must remain your only fuel.

Don’t forget Geneviève, you are never alone, and I believe you.