Daryl Impey is a well-known name within the professional peloton. Having competed at the sports pinnacle level since 2008, the South African star has achieved great things over the past thirteen seasons, including multiple Tour de France victories, National Championships, Santos Tour down Under overall titles and the list goes on… Well regarded for his exceptional all-round ability; to climb, to sprint, to act as a domestique and to win. Often seen at the pointy end of an uphill sprint, Impey is a versatile weapon on the road and was a big signing for Israel Start-Up Nation ahead of the 2021 season.
Impey has enjoyed his fair share of success over the years, however like the majority of riders who have raced for seasons on end, he’s had to overcome a number of setbacks along the way. Cycling is a high-risk sport, where crashes and injuries are plentiful and often completely uncontrollable. There are very few riders at the top of the sport who haven’t been forced to abandon a race at some stage due to a crash, resulting in overwhelming heartbreak and frustration after working tirelessly to reach their peak condition. To suddenly have that ripped away is a feeling like no other. Once the initial shock and disappointment has been processed, a whole new journey of its own begins; recovering both physically and mentally, then regaining confidence and reaching race fitness to get right back out there in the game.
Impey’s most recent accident at the Ruta del Sol in May has been his biggest to date and with that, the recovery road has been a long and arduous one. Having only just joined Israel Start-Up Nation at the start of the year, pre-crash, Impey was in top form with great motivation and big goals on the radar, including the Tour de France and the Tokyo Olympic Games. So, to have that ripped away from him in seconds, suddenly left with a broken body, has understandably been an immensely challenging setback to overcome and to bounce back from.
Thankfully, due to good health care, an encouraging support network, hard work and a strong mindset, Daryl is well and truly on the mend now, back training on his OSTRO VAM with a fresh perspective and motivation for what comes next.
Here, Daryl shares his thoughts on overcoming his latest injury:
Photography by Noa Arnon and Bettini Photo
Can you talk us through your crash at Ruta del Sol and the injuries you sustained?
It was my biggest injury to date. I broke my pelvis and collarbone so that set me back a few months. I initially started out in a wheelchair and then progressed to crutches once my collarbone could take some weight. Both surgeries went well and I am back to riding comfortably now. The biggest stress was not knowing when I would get back on the bike and how I would feel, but I did a lot of rehab and listened to the doctors and I think it was a success. I must say that the surgeon did an amazing job.
As a professional of many years, how does this accident compare to those overcome in the past?
They are always setbacks, but this one has taken the longest amount of time to recover from. Mentally, it was tough to miss the Olympics and the Tour. I also feel like I was physically going the best I have in recent years, so it felt like a real shame to miss out on those big targets.
How has your recovery journey been progressing so far?
I started some movement again on the e-bike and the trainer once I was able to get back on the bike. I was actually able to ride before I could walk because I wasn’t allowed to put pressure on my right leg. I started out slowly with 20 minutes easy at 100 watts, but at this point I am back on the road managing four hour rides relatively well. Naturally, my fitness was lost due to nine weeks of no riding, but it has slowly returned and I can thankfully see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
What kind of rehab have you been doing?
I’ve been doing a lot of core and stability exercises, strength work in the gym and riding my bike. The first goal was to get all the muscles activated again, followed by building some strength over time.
How has this affected you mentally and what do you do to mentally overcome a serious injury like so?
It was tough at the start, knowing the injuries and the likely long road to recovery. Now, it is starting to slip into the back of my mind and I am already setting small goals along the way. I have a great family too, who have been so supportive over this tough time, but they have also been a great distraction from the normal cycling bubble. Mentally, they have sped the process up.
What sort of riding are you able to manage now?
I am now edging on 5 hour rides, so that’s exciting and feels like a good step in the right direction.
Before your accident, how were you enjoying your new team?
I have really found a new motivation at Israel Start-Up Nation. I think I was starting to get too comfortable at my past team of nine years. I needed fresh goals and new people to impress. So, by joining ISN, I definitely started to find my desire and will to train hard again.
When do you hope and expect to return to racing?
I would love to pin a number on before the 2021 season closes, but I just need to follow the process and see where I land. I want to be able to race, not just be on the start line to tick a box.
What are you most looking forward to when you return to racing?
Being back within the team spirit and having a laugh with the boys. Travelling to the races is also a part of the job that I love. Going for some objectives along the way will be great too.
OSTRO VAM thoughts?
The OSTRO VAM is a great all-rounder. It’s light, but also fast, which is a tough combination to get these days. I really enjoy it. Compared to other bikes I’ve ridden in the past, it has great speed and has to be one of the fastest out there.
Why do you choose to race and train on the OSTRO VAM?
I don’t like interchanging between different bikes, and with this bike being so complete for all terrains, for me it’s a no brainer to just stick to the OSTRO VAM.