‘I would rather have had broken a collarbone’
This season has been tough for George Jary. He speaks to Rupert Cornford about breathing problems, loss of power and the ticking clock to turn professional
Why has 2018 been a challenging year for you?
I had this cough which developed in races and I wasn’t sure what caused it. Between March and May, I was backwards and forwards to hospital, doing allergy tests and asthma tests. I was able to ride but my power was about 10 per cent short of the year before.
I tried having a break, sauna therapy, halotherapy – where you breathe in salt every day – I tried so many things. In the end I saw an ENT specialist in Spain who said I had a deviated septum, where the middle bone in your nose isn’t straight, and would need surgery. They aren’t sure exactly what’s caused it; it’s probably something I have had my whole life, but it’s been a problem this year because of allergies.
I came to an agreement with the team that I would have the operation when there was a break in the season. I would come back to the UK in July and they would offer me another year on the same conditions.
You talk about it rationally now, but it must have been so frustrating not knowing…
The worst thing was not knowing; it’s as if I had done something wrong. In some ways, I would rather have had broken a collarbone, so everyone could see what it was and when I would be back riding. But it was like I was just weaker… You make a lot of sacrifices to be a cyclist at this level and I am not prepared to live abroad if I’m not competitive in races.
I learnt a lot in previous seasons – riding on the front, in the breakaway, getting bottles probably saved my season this year – but you only get four years as an under 23, so it’s time to start getting some results. When I look at it in a level-headed way, I am grateful the team are being patient.
What’s next, after the operation?
I think it’s going to be a week or so recovering, with a massive swollen nose, and then further down the line I can get back on the bike. I’ll go back to Spain in the autumn to the Basque Country, as I have found a job teaching English for the winter. I’ll earn some money until the season starts in March, when I hope to be supported by the Dave Rayner Fund again.
It sounds like a bump in a long road. What’s the reality of trying to turn professional in this sport?
For people who have got this far in cycling, there has already been a selection. You have already got through school and the temptation of going out with your mates.
After racing juniors in the UK, the European step sorts out who is prepared to turn themselves over to cycling; who is prepared to watch what they eat during the season and do the hard miles in training. People who get results as an under 23 are able to make the transition as much as they are talented.
One thing about all the riders on the Dave Rayner Fund is that you really have to invest everything in the team and the place you go. Very few super talents are picked up from the age of ten and nursed through the British Cycling system. The majority of people who want to be professional cyclists have to do it the hard way and get out there and do it.
So, you have to really want it… what’s it like being that driven?
It feels like an adventure, a big challenge and the only way… When you are in it, you are focussed on the next race. It’s a nine-month season but there are so many check points. They occupy your mind. There is always another goal.
The hardest points have been when I was left without racing, with too much time to think. Last season, there were often weekends when I wouldn’t make the selection. But because I am in Spain and I am fully committed, I wanted to find races to do. I got lifts with people, I rocked up to races on my own and that got me scouted for this team.
There was one race where I turned up on my own, got changed on a bench in the park and got fourth place. People were amazed. I got a lift to a hotel, stayed there and raced again the next day. Nobody was washing my bike for me or washing my clothes… you get a great deal of respect for that. Eventually, I would like to think pro teams would be interested in somebody like this.
Are these sacrifices for your dream?
You don’t appreciate the sacrifice you make until you stop and look back. I wouldn’t want to live like this forever – riding as an amateur, breaking even and relying on funds. You have four years as an under 23; if you are any good, then you can become professional.
Following the operation, this is about showing everybody who has had faith in me that I am 100 percent committed. It’s a big carrot to think you could earn your way into a job you love and never work a day in your life.
In September 2018, Phil Jones MBE and James Golding will ride the entire OVO Energy Tour of Britain one day ahead with the aim to raise £50,000 to support the Dave Rayner Fund and its riders. Donate now by visiting justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tob1da and for updates on the challenge follow @roadphil and @daveraynerfund #TOB1DA