“Looking back, the crash in the Rás when I had the yellow jersey ruined my career”

Posted on: November 3rd, 2012

Cassidy battled on after his 2008 Rás crash but was forced to retire mid stage while leading

Cassidy battled on after his 2008 Rás crash but was forced to retire mid stage while leading


By Brian Canty

Former An Post-Sean Kelly professional, Mark Cassidy has said he knew going into the start of this season that his head wasn’t right and it was inevitable that he would walk away from the sport.

He had been with the team since 2006 and re-signed for the 2012 season last winter. But midway through his first race, the Beeverbeek classic, he decided he’d had enough and went home shortly afterwards.

It was an ignominious end for the 27-year-old former U23 National Champion but one that he has very little regrets over – an injury stemming from a crash in the 2008 FBD Rás not helping his enthusiasm to race professionally.

“I signed for this year and I trained in the winter and it didn’t go too well. And then the first race, I kind of knew it was time to stop because I wasn’t getting the benefit from training and my motivation wasn’t that great. I just said I’d get out now instead of being over there in the house for nothing.”

“We had training camps before the Beeverbeek and I didn’t feel great or didn’t improve so I didn’t even get picked for any of the big races before it and I knew then if I wasn’t in the mix I knew I wouldn’t have been good in the races either. The head just wasn’t there and there’s a lot of risks to be taken in races too and if you can’t take them…”.

“Subconsciously you’d know when you come in from training how you were going. When I was younger I didn’t do that much training but when I did, it would be good hard training and every day you’d come in and go ‘right, that’s good hard miles in the bank’. And I’d get stronger and stronger and when I went to races it would build up and build up and I’d get more confident and I’d be like a racehorse on the line waiting to go.”

“But the last couple of years it’s been the opposite. You’d do a full winters training and then you might feel shit before the race and wonder ‘why is this happening?’ Your head would be wrecked before the race and then you hit the first hard part and bang, you’re gone.”

“I think the lads were surprised I jacked it after the first race of the year but I don’t think they were too surprised either. My head really hasn’t been in the sport for about four years. I’ve just been going along going through the motions. Sometimes you’d be motivated and sometimes you wouldn’t and it just wasn’t right.”

Arguably, his greatest achievement was pulling on the race leader’s yellow jersey in the 2008 Rás while riding for An Post-Sean Kelly. But a terrible crash coming out of Limerick early in the race ended his chances of a high placing, and effectively his career too.

“I’d say that day ruined my career,” he acknowledges.

“I was never right after it. We were just going along through Limerick and it had been a wet day but it dried up. I was in the gutter at the time. I was in a good position but I just hit a brick or something on the road really hard and I went up in the air and hit the ground a real thud. My hip was just destroyed and my elbow too. The elbow wasn’t broken but it would’ve been better if it was because I would’ve been in a cast.”

“Afterwards, you’d get up on the turbo trainer and just hold yourself up with one arm and keep riding all crooked. It kind of stayed with me on the road then. I got the elbow scanned and it was severely bruised and there was fluid in it and quite painful but I could still train.”

“If it was broken I’d be told to stay off the bike. But I trained away and was holding myself up with one arm on the bike. If you go out then and do three hours you’d develop all these imbalances. So it was the crash and the recovery afterwards that finished me really.”

He tried correcting the problem, at great financial cost to himself, but nothing was working.

“It was frustrating. You’d get used to feeling bad and eventually you just say to yourself; enough. There was a whole load of different things over the years though. I’ve spent thousands on physios and different osteopaths. I went to London a few times to see an osteopath and it just wasn’t working out. I’d feel great one day and shit the next.”

Cassidy, who won a glorious stage of the Rás into Kilcullen in 2010, said though he has only been out on his bike for an hour about twenty times since he came home in March he would not rule out racing at home next year.

“You never know. When I came home originally, I remember thinking I would race at home but then the first weekend I said, ‘I’ll give this a miss’… and it’s November now! But yeah, hopefully now I will. I had an operation there recently just to sort out some breathing difficulties.”

“I had some bad tonsillitis and I was in (hospital) for a week as well and I must get my tonsils out in January but I’ll do some training and try and race as well. I’d enjoy not being on the bike but sometimes, like around the Olympics and the Tour and the Worlds you’d be motivated. But then I think, ‘There’s no point getting motivated, there’s no hope. That’s gone’.”