3 Comeback Stories That Will Motivate Your Cycling

The Dragon Ride is a keenly anticipated event in cyclists’ calendars, and one that requires dedicated training and preparation. So, when things don’t go to plan on the day – or life events mean we don’t make it to the start line – frustration is an understatement.

Luckily, the human spirit is resilient, and most cyclists will make it their mission to return to their two-wheeled companions after a set-back.

We spoke to three determined participants who are making a comeback at the Dragon Ride 2024, when their 2023 event didn’t go to plan. If you’re looking for some inspiration or know someone making excuses for entering next year’s Dragon Ride, this article is for you!

Comeback kid Kevin

My name is Kevin O’Toole, I am 62 and I have been working as a porter at a private London hospital for 34 years.

I got into serious cycling about 10 years ago through a couple of work colleagues who are keen cyclists. When I eventually traded in my mountain bike for a road bike, we started going on long cycling weekends to France two or three times a year. This of course came to an abrupt stop due to the pandemic, after which time I was keen to get back on my bike and tackle a sportive. At this time, I set my sights on the Dragon Ride, which I’d heard was a challenging but epic event.

I was so looking forward to taking part in this year’s Dragon Ride but unfortunately had to withdraw when I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition (where the narrowed artery is going into the heart the wrong way). When I saw the consultant, he said that if I continued to keep cycling for long periods, the exertion on my heart could cause a heart attack. He recommended open heart surgery to permanently fix the problem and at first, I was a bit nervous about the operation. This was dispelled when I considered that if it helps to prolong my life and keeps me cycling, it will be well worth it.

So, I had open heart surgery at the beginning of August this year and am now, thankfully, on the road to recovery. This involves taking long steady walks to help the chest bones heal and having cardio rehabilitation to help build my strength. Although it can be frustrating at times, I must be patient until I can return to normal activities and get back on my bike. I can’t wait to join my work colleagues again and start training for this amazing event!

Get moving again Mark

I’m Mark, from Gerrards Cross in Bucks. I have loved cycling all my life, starting as a child on a BMX in the street, eventually graduating to a road bike passed down from my dad.

I lived in Madrid in my youth and this was where I became passionate about road racing and serious cycling. I joined a large established club in Madrid and remember following my cycling heroes such as Pedro Delgado and Sean Kelly. I recall saving all my pocket money to buy new gear – some things have not changed! I now ride regularly with an unofficial club called the Chalfont Chargers and train for large events like the Dragon Ride, L’Etape du Tour and others as annual challenges to motivate me and maintain fitness.

The Dragon Ride 2023 was going to be a special year for me; I have completed the Dragon ride Medio Fondo several times, but 2023 was set to be the first time riding the Gran Fondo. I was really looking forward to the extra challenge at this event I always thoroughly enjoy.

Unfortunately, while commuting into my office, a car drove straight into me from behind while I was waiting at a junction. The result was a very serious fracture to my knee. It was June 8th, just over a week before the 2023 Dragon Ride. I was lucky that this was the only major injury, but also very unlucky in that the surgery resulted in a blood infection which has meant being off the bike all summer. I’ve only just starting to gently turn the pedals indoors! The driver has since admitted full responsibility.

It has been incredibly difficult missing the events I had planned like Dragon Ride and L’Etape du Tour. However, I have remained positive, and the rehab and physio are going well. I will have further surgery later in the year to remove the metal work, but I hope this may be a little more straighthood!

2024 is about regaining strength and re-building endurance through the winter and into spring. Naturally, I am slightly nervous about the recovery. From not being able to walk or bend my leg in June 2023, to pushing hard up the Devil’s Elbow less than a year later feels like a long journey. However, the human body and mind are amazing and being positive and listening to medical advice will get me there!


Giving it another go Gareth

My name is Gareth, I am 42 years old and live in South Wales. I played professional football between 16-18 years of age and continued playing semi-professionally well into my adult life. That was until 2018 when I had discectomy surgery and had to give up all running sports.

As someone who enjoyed a very active lifestyle, it was a non-negotiable that I find another way to exercise after this event. I found that coaching football once a week and cycling was the best medicine. The mental escape of cycling has become vitally important, and I feel blessed to live in Wales, with world class routes on my doorstep.

I completed my first Dragon Ride in 2022 (Medio Fondo route) which was a great experience, even though my back had begun to play up again in the lead up to and during the event. The event was very well organised; in particular, there were some great food stations along the way. Not only that, I raised £500 for Macmillan which was a huge achievement.

Despite this, I still feel like I have some unfinished business with the Dragon Ride. My back injury meant I couldn’t put 100% into the day due to discomfort, which still plays on my mind. Next year, I want to improve my time and ride pain-free; I plan to start training again soon, to make sure I am up for the challenge!

I am so glad to have taken up cycling after football. It’s made me think that we take the countryside for granted; it’s amazing the effect that nature can have on you.

My message to people is your health is the most important part of your life. It is true that without your health, you are unable to do much at all, far be it the things that you love. So, keep active and do it with a smile on your face!