The professional women's peloton last week raced one of its biggest events of the year, the Giro Rosa, but did so without one of its main media advocates, CJ Farquharson, a photographer who contributed to Cyclingnews, her own web site womenscycling.net, and to numerous women's teams and race organisations.
Farquharson announced before the start of the race that she would be unable to attend, and was closing down her web site due to lingering health and financial issues stemming from a serious incident, in which she was hit by a motorcycle official during the 2007 women's Thuringen Rundfahrt.
"It is with deep regret that I am forced to announce that I will not be able to follow my plan to return to work at the Giro Rosa in July," Farquharson wrote in a statment. "After the disappointment of missing the beginning of the season, I had hoped to be fit in time to be in Italy to follow my tenth women’s Giro, the Giro Rosa.
Farquharson still suffers from chronic pain to her shoulder and her right leg, which was nearly severed in the incident, as well as fighting a legal battle with the race's insurance company, from which she has not been able to recoup her nearly $200,000 medical costs.
"In addition to recovering from the broken bones, torn skin and ripped muscles and ligaments, I have been subjected to more stress and anguish than I could ever have imagined possible. Due to client commitments, I have even had to return to Thuringen and even the scene of the horror each year."
"Whilst the professional women’s peloton is following the well-worn pattern of races throughout the road racing season, I have been forced onto the sideline, due to my ongoing medical situation," she stated.
"It has been an honour to witness some truly exceptional performances by highly talented and dedicated athletes during my time following the peloton. I have also had the opportunity to meet a variety of wonderful individuals connected with the sport through their various occupations and interests. There are some people with whom I have formed longstanding friendships and whose support has been an inspiration during my most painful times and whose company has been a pleasure during the more enjoyable moments. I thank them all."
The entire women's peloton will miss the support of Farquharson, who, with now-retired partner Suzanne Lawrence, were often the only media covering their races.
World champion Marianne Vos expressed her admiration for the Australian, telling Cyclingnews, "You couldn't miss CJ at the start of the race. Always there in full motor gear, even when we riders sweated away from the startline. You'd suppose she'd suffer the heat, but she never complained and kept doing her job. She took great pictures of the riders, always with an eye for the beautiful surroundings.
"Her race reports were always important to me, especially because it made my mom happy that she could always find out what happened in races, when she was following them at home.
"I have good memories from the time Annemiek van Vleuten and I went to see Melbourne after the World Championships in 2010. CJ and Suzanne opened their house to us, showed us the city and we had fun times together.
"CJ and Suzanne, we miss you, but I want to say thanks for all the work you did for women's cycling. Because of people like you, people got more into our races and this was how our sport could grow. Most of all, I want to wish you all the best for now and in the future."
Emma Pooley (Lotto): "CJ Farquharson was a real heroine of women's cycling. She followed the greatest road races on the women's calendar, reporting and photographing in the thick of the action, at a time when there was considerably less media interest in the sport.
"I think a lot of the greatest riders of the past decade will be grateful to her as a true stalwart of women's cycling. I know that I owe the fact that there are ANY photos of my first win at a UCI race to CJ! She was also warm, friendly, and never intrusive. She suffered a terrible motorcycle crash, not at all her fault, in 2007 while photographing at a race. CJ is still suffering badly from her injuries there, but despite this she's been back to work as a photographer at many races since. I really feel for her and wish her the best for her recovery - she will be sorely missed."
Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon): "It is sad to hear that CJ has stopped covering women's cycling, she was always at the races from the time I started. To me, Cj was the a permanent figure in women's cycling and any time I needed photos, I always sent people to CJ's website. She brought such a wonderful spirit and energy to the sport and she is greatly missed in the peloton."
Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle Honda): "There are very few people in the world who put their body, mental state and finances under extreme pressure in order to develop something they're passionate about, especially when the ultimate goal can only be achieved over a long period of time.
"CJ was one of these people, CJ was driven to push herself to her absolute limits for a pure passion, CJ was one of the few people who took matters into her own hands to develop our sport and support the dream of many female cyclists.
"Our sport was screaming for attention 10 years ago and CJ made it her business to deliver the beauty of our sport to the media, our sponsors, our fans, followers and families by travelling the world with a fancy camera, using her skills, endurance and accuracy to capture the most memorable moments in women's cycling with colourful descriptive images.
"On behalf of women's cycling, we'll forever be in debt to CJ as we're now enjoying the benefits of a truly professional sport and it's a direct result of the many years that CJ fought all the challenges our sport presented, in order to deliver our sport to the enthusiastic public.
"When we refer to photographers on site at female cycling races, we often say "there was a CJ on the last corner who might have the shot"….. CJ was an integral part of women's cycling for many years and she will always be regarded as the photographer who put women's cycling on the map!"
Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products): "When I arrived in the European peloton in 2009 CJ was already a mainstay of the women's peloton. Her and Suzanne were always at the races and it remained the same until 2013 when they started to have to be more selective about the races they attended. For a long time they were the only sources of information for major women's races and they did a lot to 'pave the way' for people like Sarah Connolly and Kathryn Bertine who are now pushing women's cycling into the 'main stream'. More than friendly faces at races they were key information sources, even if CJ missed my victory salute at the 3rd stage of the Tour of Chongming Island in 2011!"
Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized Lululemon): "It's very sad to see CJ retire especially under the circumstances still having troubles with her injuries sustained in the accident in Germany a few years ago shooting one of our races. She will be dearly missed around the peloton. She's been at almost all of my races throughout my entire international career so far and has always been one who is happy to have a chat and capture both the serious and fun side of women's cycling. I wish her all the best for the future and she will always be part of the women's cycling family."
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