Although she had returned to World Cup racing in South Africa last month having taken the year off to have a child, Willow Rockwell (née Koerber) has decided to retire permanently, and immediately from the racing world. Although she was one of the USA’s Olympic hopefuls for London 2012, she decided that racing was no longer what she wanted to do. According to her blog, she had only ever known racing (she entered her first race soon after taking the sport up and was an instant success) – either preparing for one, racing one or recovering from one and had never really got to enjoy mountain biking.
“The truth is, I never loved racing. Maybe it was because I never had the experience of riding without a race in front of me. I raced a few days after my first mountain bike ride. If you have read my book, or some of my blogs, you may already know that. Racing owned me.”
“Racing served a purpose. It cleansed me. It polished my soul. It freed me from huge chunks of pain and shame and it sent me around the world. I pushed through, time and again. I got up when I fell. Over and over. I sometimes raised my hands in victory, and I learned to survive defeat. I had the best intentions to return to racing with a new sense of perspective.”
And, seemingly after turning up at the first World Cup of the year, she looked around and decided that it wasn’t for her any more. Her Trek Team sponsors, who stood behind her when she took most of last year off to have her daughter, were equally understanding and have let her retire immediately, with no plans to replace her this year. Which can’t have been easy…
The official release from Martin Whiteley, her manager says:
“Trek World Racing’s Willow Rockwell (USA) has announced that despite her best efforts to return to the sport of mountain biking after taking time out to have her daughter, the reality of the situation is nothing like she had imagined. In this past week Willow has decided definitively that it’s time to stop racing for good and focus on her new family.
Recent experiences at the opening round of the World Cup and in training back home have acted as wake up calls for Willow who’s found herself needing to be honest about being able to push herself so hard whilst also being the mother of a new-born baby.
The 34 year old has had an illustrious career in the sport which has included 2 bronze medals at the World Championships, as well as numerous Continental and National Titles, and was ranked as high as No.2 in the world on the UCI rankings in 2011. As ambassador for Trek and Gary Fisher bicycles, there are very few athletes who have given so much, since her first days with the Subaru-Gary Fisher program, which she joined in 2005, through to joining Trek World Racing at the beginning of last year. Willow has always been a top professional for all of her sponsors.
Willow released a statement which in part says: “After much soul searching, and many tears, I have decided to end my mountain bike racing career. I committed to racing for 2012 before having my child. There was no way I could have predicted the changes that have occurred within me. Thank you for your support during this time of intense decision and transformation. I especially thank my Team Manager Martin Whiteley and my team, Trek World Racing, for understanding that sometimes life has other plans. Enjoy every moment on the bicycle, for every moment adds up to create your life!”
Team owner Martin Whiteley says: “It’s true that we are sad not to see Willow racing in our team colors again, but it is equally true that we are fully supportive of her decision, and we are grateful for every day we had Willow with us on the team. Eternally positive and a great spirit, she will be missed not only from our family, but from mountain bike racing in general.”
Willow’s retirement is effective immediately and she will not appear at this weekend’s World Cup event in Houffalize or the Sea Otter Classic as previously planned. Trek World Racing has no plans to replace Willow for season 2012. Willow’s husband Myles continues with the team in his highly valued role as Downhill Rider Liaison.
For more behind Willow’s thoughts, here’s the announcement on her blog: http://www.willowrockwell.com/news/2012/04/09/freedom-2/