Sky's the limit: Ruth Edwards on burn-out and her passion for racing

'I found it hard to really suffer that hard in gravel races and I slowly realised that if I wanted to race maybe I should just race' American rider tells GCN following her return to the road scene

Clock11:46, Sunday 28th January 2024

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Heath) is back on the road after two years of gravel racing

Following her fourth place in the Deakin University Elite Women's Road Race on Saturday we reached out to Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Health) to talk about her opening phase of racing in Australia, her return to road racing after two years away, and her plans for the rest of the season.

There was just one problem: time zones, with Edwards several hours ahead of the UK and no ideal time to connect over the weekend. However, Edwards kindly agreed to the interview but requested that we talk on Sunday and when we set our alarm clock for a sprightly 7:30 a.m. we thought that Edwards would be available. Wrong(ish).

Read more: Ruth Edwards rediscovers race rhythm at Santos Tour Down Under

The jet-setting life of a pro road rider means you’re never standing still and when Edwards quickly responded at 7:32 a.m it was from a long-haul flight at 40,000 ft as she travelled from Australia to the US. Fear not, because in our exclusive catch-up with the Human Powered Health rider, we talk about her two-year hiatus from road racing, burn-out and finding the passion to return.

GCN: Hey Ruth, it’s 7:30 a.m here. Is the next hour good for you?

Ruth Edwards: Hey, any chance we can just message? 7 hours and 45 minutes left of my flight 🙃.

GCN: That’s brutal but sure, that sounds great. So overall how would you assess your Australian adventure? It feels like you never left the sport in many ways.

Ruth Edwards: I’ve always loved coming to Australia. In January you’re looking to leave home to go to a training camp anyway, so why not head to an amazing area and get to do some well-run races? So it felt like an exciting way to head back into racing, especially considering that I’ve got some good memories racing in Australia from 2017 and 2020. Being back in the peloton was easy for me. It felt young and there were a lot of new faces for me. But otherwise, it felt like home. I enjoy the peloton and that part of bike racing, so it just felt really fun to be back. Human Powered Health is showing itself to be a really fantastic team and I’m very happy there. They filled me with a lot of confidence to go for it and try.

GCN: Do you think you needed that time away in gravel to still have those positive feelings when it came to the road? As in, if you'd stayed in road racing, and not raced gravel, do you think you'd still have the same passion for road?

Ruth Edwards: Oh no I didn’t have a choice in 2021 other than to take a break and I have zero doubt in my mind about the choice I made then. I mean, I obviously had a choice but continuing wouldn’t have been the healthy and happy choice. I was the definition of burnt out 😅.

GCN: So that time away was extremely useful? Road racing can be so demanding from a mental as well as physical point of view, and I guess fans or those outside of the bubble - with no disrespect to them - don't see situations like constant travel, being away from home, and all of those outside pressures. Ps, don't worry, I won't ask you questions for 7h 45 mins.

Ruth Edwards: It's okay, I'm so bored. Yeah, I mean I live in Colorado and had to spend six months away from home. I was constantly missing my husband, family and dog. But I also just couldn’t motivate myself to suffer anymore. Bike racing is really freaking hard and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I started racing at 15 and had an extremely healthy career with no really stops. Which isn’t a complaint. But I also think on top of the pressure to preform, constantly missing home, fear of what would happen when I stopped racing, I also just didn’t want to go into another year of telling myself to just die and suffer as hard as I could.

GCN: Was there a moment when you thought: 'Right, that's it, I've got to come back'?

Ruth Edwards: No, I just realised that after a year of racing gravel just for fun that maybe after a bit of a rest I did have motivation. And I tried to apply that in gravel racing in 2023. But I found it hard to really suffer that hard in those races and I slowly realised if I wanted to race maybe I should just race. It was a slow choice to make with lots of thought over six months.

GCN: That feels like a really healthy standpoint when you're in a profession that can be so demanding - As in you're appreciating the fun and the sacrifices as part and parcel of the sport.

Ruth Edwards: I’m grateful for my home and family life being so strong and having the confidence and ability to make these sorts of choices. Before stopping I just couldn’t see clearly and it all felt so overwhelming. Now I’m more self-confident and determined to stick to who I am and do the best with that. And just enjoy the fun that bike racing can be.

GCN: And the results are already starting to come, right? Fourth yesterday is a great indication of that after the Tour Down Under. Are you where you thought you'd be?

Ruth Edwards: Hah that’s also the fun part. I didn’t really know where I’d be so there wasn’t any such thing as failing. Fourth isn’t winning. But I’ll take it 😉.

GCN: What are the ambitions for the coming months in terms of calendar/objectives?

Ruth Edwards: I’m headed home for two short weeks here before heading to Europe Feb 11. I’ll start in Valenciana in February and my biggest goals are the Ardennes Classics in the spring.

GCN: It's going to be a great season. The team seem to have gelled well at the start of the year, and look really competitive.

Ruth Edwards: Yeah! It’s a great team. I’m super happy there. They made me feel really valued right from the first message. They were super enthusiastic about having me on board and the chats I had with management seemed passionate but also human and that’s how I am. So it just felt right from the start.

GCN: Just 7h 22m mins to go. Appreciate your time and thanks for the interview. Have a safe flight.

Ruth Edwards: 😂😭😅Yeah no worries.

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