Lizzy Banks has not been a professional cyclist for all that long. A latecomer to the sport, Banks left the sixth year of her medical degree to pursue a career in cycling, giving up long-held hopes of being a doctor to try to be a professional athlete. She made a name for herself as a rider who had taken a risk, stepped away from well-laid plans to try and make it in the peloton, and looked to be doing just that.
But for the last two years, her place in the peloton has been empty, the 32-year-old sidelined for two seasons in a row by back-to-back medical issues threatening her trajectory toward the sport’s top.
In an in-depth interview with Cyclingnews, Banks reflects on the challenges she has faced and overcame nearly two years later.
At first, Lizzy Banks’ switch to professional racing was all going well, exceptionally well, in fact. After racing for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling in 2018, in her first full European seasons she won stages at the Giro Donne in both 2019 and 2020, as well as coming second at the GP de Plouay, behind compatriot Lizzie Deignan.
She then survived the untimely disbanding of Équipe Paule Ka in 2020 to secure a contract with Ceratizit-WNT for the next year. At the beginning of 2021, she had just had a breakout season, she was on the right track, and then a concussion she suffered at Strade Bianche put everything on hold. As unpredictable as head injuries often are, Banks’ concussion resulted in not just a few weeks or months off the bike, but the whole rest of the season.
“It’s kind of weird because I went into the 2021 season pretty fit, maybe not the best I’ve ever been, but pretty fit with pretty high expectations of how things were gonna go,” Banks said.
“I knew that I had a really good shot at the [Tokyo] Olympics if things went as well for me as they had in previous springs or in the end of the previous season. And then, obviously, everything turned upside down with my concussion.”
Looking at Banks’ results and calendar from the last two years, it’s easy to assume the whole block was a write-off, but she explains how actually, between the two seasons, she thought she was on her way back to normal, fully recovered from the concussion and ready to go again.
“I had that period between October and February where I really felt like a professional athlete,” she says. “I was the fittest I’ve ever been in January 2022. I set my best all-time 20-minute power. I was missing a bit at the top end, but I knew…
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