Molly Weaver will take a step back from professional cycling to focus on her mental health as she battles depression, she announced in a recent post on her website titled Behind the Mask. The British rider, who has struggled with the mental and physical ramifications of being hit by a car last February, thanked her team Trek-Drops for their full support.
"For the past few months, I've been fighting a battle with myself," Weaver wrote. "As most of you have noticed by now, I've not shown my face on the start line for a while, and I've been relatively absent from the world of social media as well. Nothing's been a done deal, but now the time has come to announce that I'm taking a break from professional cycling.
"I'm going to start by saying that while I'm extremely sad about the way things unfolded over the past months, I'm also happy with the decision I've made. I'm seeing this as a hiatus, and not an end to anything. I've loved being a professional cyclist, and I hope someday the journey circles back round, but for now, some time away is necessary. It's a time to focus on other things, discover myself away from the pressures of this life, and fully recover mind and body," Weaver wrote.
"I would also like to thank my team for supporting me in this decision. I couldn't have asked for any more from them during this time, and I will miss being a part of Drops more than anything this year."
Weaver had a difficult 2017 season full of setbacks and injuries. She was hit by a car in February while training in Girona, where she suffered a fracture to her right collarbone, her sternum and vertebrae, and was concussed.
After recovering from the physical wounds, she began her season with Sunweb in May at Salverda Omloop van de Ijsseldelta and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, and then the British Championships in June, where she finished 29th.
She went on to start the Giro Rosa last July and helped the Sunweb team place second in the opening team time trial, but she abandoned the race during stage 3. She also competed in La Course, where she endured a hard crash, and then Prudential Ride London to end the season.
In an interview with Cyclingnews ahead of the British National Championships last June, Weaver said that after physically recovering from the car incident, she had lost all her form and had to start building from scratch, which was tough as much mentally as it was physically.
She reiterated how challenging it was to make a full physical recovery from the car incident and other crashes in her recent blog post, but noted that she wasn't able to bounce back from the toll they took on her mentally.
"Over the past year I feel like I've had a lifetime's worth of misfortune condensed into one extended nightmare: hit by a car, 13 broken bones, back and neck; the battle to comeback; to crash again; another impact with a car, another concussion. Season over. Since then more crashes, more concussions," Weaver wrote.
"For a lot of people maybe that would have been enough to end a career anyway, but time healed the physical wounds for me, and it was the mental scars that burnt ever brighter.
"I've always been my biggest critic, and I've sought control and perfection as an athlete. The moment that car hit me was the spark that lit the flame. I lost control, and everything was far from perfect."
Weaver signed a contract to compete with Trek-Drops for the 2018 season, where she was looking forward to taking on a leadership role, particularly during the spring Classics.
She began her season in Australia at the Santos Women's Tour but didn't start the fourth stage. She also competed at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Women's Herald Sun Tour. Although she was initially scheduled to compete in the Classics, she has not raced since her time in Australia.
"I started to struggle more and more to even get out of the door, let alone train. 'What's the point? You're going to fail anyway.' The voice of depression chipping away at your self-worth," Weaver wrote.
"My biggest mistake was doing nothing to stamp it out at the first signs of trouble. But at the time, in the grips of the demon, I couldn't see this. I didn't want to admit I was struggling. That isn't who I am. I'm stronger than that.
"Turns out strength has nothing to do with it. Depression can find anyone, and most of the time you don't even see it coming."
Weaver said that she intends to spend time finding happiness both on and off her bike, and in new avenues, and she hinted at a new project in the works. She also sent a clear message about the lack of dialogue when it comes to mental health, particularly in a sport where physical injuries are spoken about so effortlessly.
"The more we open up a dialogue about mental health, the less power it will have over us. When it comes to physical injury we shout about it, but when it comes to mental injury we hide it away. But it's not weak to admit you're struggling," Weaver wrote.
"It would have seemed easier not to write this blog, not to open myself up to the potential scrutiny and judgement, but then I would have been contributing to the problem. Athletes are strong by definition, but we're also human."
You can read Weaver's full blog post on her website here.