Manon Carpenter says she is enjoying mountain biking again after her shock retirement from downhill racing in the summer.
The 2014 world champion Carpenter, 24, walked away after admitting she no longer wanted to take the risks involved.
“It had been building up all season but it came to a point when I just realised my head wasn’t really in it any more,” she said.
“I’ve had plenty of big crashes over the years. In the past I’ve been able to get up, shake them off and not really think about them.
“But after the crash last year [when she broke her collarbone at the World Championships] and a few other crashes I’ve heard about this year from other riders, I was getting the feeling I didn’t want that.
“Since then I’ve just been riding at home and I can say the excitement’s come back.”
Staying in the sport
The Caerphilly rider spent almost six years as a professional downhill racer – winning both the World Championships and World Cup series in 2014.
But she said the 2017 season was a ‘battle’ in her mind and in August revealed her decision to retire.
“When the announcement was about to come out, I was terrified,” she admitted. “I just wanted to retire in secret and no one know about it!
“But everyone was really understanding. The fact that the reaction was so positive has really helped me stay in the sport.”
After a short break, Carpenter said she was ‘scared and nervous’ when faced with riding again. But it wasn’t long before she was riding down hills again – though this time on her own terms.
“For me there’s a difference between riding fast for fun and trying to ride on the very edge for racing,” she said.
“For me, jumps are fun. I can calculate the risks and I’ve just been enjoying it.”
Carpenter describes her professional career as a ‘defining five or six years of my life’, but says she hasn’t missed racing.
“I’ve realised I can ride mountain bikes and be involved in the sport without the racing. So that’s been nice,” she continued. “I’m a rider and I ride for fun.
“I’m going to be working with British Cycling, getting women into mountain biking and organising rides. I’ve also talked about coaching but haven’t sorted that yet.
“I really enjoy seeing people having a good time on bikes and trying something they’ve not done before. So if I can get involved with that, I’ll be happy.”
The Welsh rider will now have two months off cycling following further surgery on the collarbone she broke in 2016.
But she hasn’t ruled out competing again in some form of the sport in the future.
“I’d never say never to anything because I don’t know how I’d feel in a couple of years,” she admitted.
“Part of me walking away from racing was about me deciding what I wanted from life and what meant the most to me.
“So I don’t know if the Olympics or Commonwealths would be a carrot that would draw me out of retirement or not.”