Former British road champion, Sharon Laws returned to racing last weekend after recovering from a broken collarbone. Laws finished the Trofeo Binda World Cup race in 59th position, 6.46 behind winner Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans).
Laws, who won the nationals in 2012 at Ampleforth, sustained the injury in a crash during the opening stage of the Ladies tour of Qatar, her first race with new team Bigla. The injury was adjacent to a previous break which was plated, making an operation difficult and extending her recovery time.
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Sunday’s race didn’t go as Laws had hoped, telling Cycling Weekly: “My race wasn’t great at all, but I did what I could.” In fact it was Laws, winner of the Queen of the Mountains jersey at the Women’s Tour last year, who attacked on the first major climb of the day, “I just don’t have the form to make a meaningful impact. I really struggled breathing on the climbs.”
Despite struggling for breath, she still managed to drive over 900 kilometres home to Spain after the race.
Sunday’s race was meant to be the first test of form following her injury. She has been training hard on the roads around her base in Girona, and was back on the indoor trainer within a week of the crash. However she was dealt a blow, contracting a sickness bug in the lead-up to the Italian race, meaning five days off the bike at a crucial time.
Laws is 41 in July and knows the end of her career is not too far off: “If I can ride at a good level this year, then potentially I could ride another season. I don’t want to be a rider that’s there to make up the numbers, just to ride a bike. I only want to be there if I can be competitive.”
She rode for the United Health Care team in 2014 and, whilst she did race some European events, including the Giro Rosa, most of the time was in America. “I don’t really know my level in Europe anymore. I loved racing with UHC last year, it was a really professional team and I’d never been to America. I’d always wanted to experience racing in there, so I’m really glad I did.”
British rider Lizzie Armitstead takes victory from a six-rider lead group in Trofeo Alfredo Binda
Serious injury has been a constant blight on a career that only really got started when she was 34 years old. After each setback, however, there has been an incentive, whether that be Olympics, or just to prove she could come back again. This year could have been different.
“This break was like ‘is somebody trying to tell me something?’” she laughed. “But I did think should I just call it a day. I think maybe if it had happened in July then maybe I would have done, but it was so early in the season and I hadn’t even tried yet!”