Timeline – 1993 to 1996

1993

First real ‘pro’ contract.  Signed for a whopping $7000.00 US for the Kahlua Cycling Team.  Started the season with victories on the domestic US racing scene, won races in Europe and almost led the women’s Tour de France, sitting in second place overall until a nasty crash put her back minutes in the overall.  Still has a nasty scar on her shoulder as a souvenir of ‘almost yellow’ in the Tour de France.  Clawed her way back and finished a respectable 19th place overall, racing up the historic L’Alpe D’Huez climb.  Another National title in the time trial.  Raced in her first World Championships, setting a national record in the individual pursuit and finishing in the top twenty in the road race.  Most vivid memory was racing the magnificent Viking Ship oval in Hamar, Norway.  A temporary track was built in the enormous speed skating oval, months before the 1994 Winter Olympics were to be held.  Remembers standing in the entrance to the Viking Ship, thinking ‘one day I will be back here as a speed skater’.  A sign of what was to come.  Ended the season winning the prologue in the European Economic Community Tour, then had to quit because of tendonitus in her achilles tendon.

 

1994

Pro team folded and she didn’t even get paid the entire $7000 of her contract.  Out of work, free-lanced on the North American curcuit balanced with racing for the National Team in Europe.  Had a guest spot of the Saturn Cycling Team and won the Powerbar Women’s Challenge in Idaho, the same stage race that was her debut tour back in 1992.  Another National Champion title in the time trial.  Silver medal in the team time trial at the Commonwealth Games.  Finished a close but no cigar fourth place in the world championships time trial.  After winning each and every time trial all year long, it was a disappointment to say the least.  Not one to wallow in self-pity, she went to the European Economic Community tour and won the time trial and finished 3rd overall.  Still has the triple magnum of champagne presented to her by Bernard Hinault that day.

 

1995

Finally, a team.  Earned a spot on the powerful Saturn Cycling Team and set out to prove she deserved it.  With wins in small US races, to an emphatic victory in the Liberty Classic race in Philadelphia, a silver and a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Argentina, another National Championship title in the time trial and a silver medal in same event at the World Championships in Columbia. Realized her dream of competing for Canada at an Olympic Games by pre-qualifing for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

 

1996

Olympic year.  Things started out strong and then the focus was gone.  Found herself so unmotivated it was hard to finish the races she started.  After finishing a humiliating second-to-last place in the final stage of Tour de L’Aude in France, returned to Canada wondering what was wrong.  The pre-qualified status for the Olympics left her feeling unchallenged.  That and the grueling training regime began to take it’s toll.  On a whim, decided to race a small race in Ontario, a race that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things and a race that was hardly on the radar leading into the Olympics.  In this small, unimportant race, the challenge was rediscovered.  It happened on a small hill with about ten kilometers to go, she decided to attack and try to win instead of sitting in the pack, settling for a field sprint that would end in certain defeat.  The reminder of what it was like to try, to dig deep inside for the effort to keep the gap, and then to try again to drop the one last opponent standing in the way of victory.  This was all it took.  She was hooked on this idea of ‘trying to win’ every race.  From that day forward, she ‘tried’ to win each and every race.  Wins, losses, it did not matter: the strength gained in trying brought the form of her life when the Olympics started in July.  Came away with two bronze medals in her first Olympics.  One in the road race and one in the time trial.  Should have stopped the season then and there, but instead was pulled in all directions.  Finally ended the season over thirty race days and two months later in a state of mental and physical exhaustion.  The one bright light at the end of the season was she met the love of her life, Peter Guzman, while visiting friends in Oregon.

© 2016. Clara Hughes. All Rights Reserved. Site Design | SGD