Professional cyclist Imogen Cotter during a training session at her home in Ruan, Clare; (photo/David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

‘Lucky to Be Alive,’ Cyclist Races Months After Head-On With Car

Seven months ago, a vehicle collision shattered Irish road cycling champion Imogen Cotter’s kneecap and forearm, leaving her ‘lucky to be alive.’

When an oncoming driver sought to overtake Imogen Cotter this January, the Irish pro ended up in the crosshairs.

The “high-speed” head-on crash in Spain shredded the 29-year-old’s carbon Canyon bike and did the same to her patella and radius. Shortly after the accident, she posted from the hospital where she’d undergone surgery the previous night.

 

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A post shared by Imogen Cotter (@imogencotter)

Fast forward 7 months, and the 2021 elite women’s Irish road race champion found herself right back where she belongs — kitted out and on the saddle, in the thick of a race.

Cotter competed Sunday at the pro kermesse (a Dutch road racing style) in Berlare, Belgium. It was her debut ride for her new team, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Continental squad Plantur-Pura. Unbothered that she rode at the back of the pack for most of the race, Cotter understandably chalked it up as a personal success.

“The plan was just to race for about 75 mins and see how my knee and wrist reacted to it,” she explained via Instagram. “My own personal goal was to enjoy it, to remember why I worked so hard and suffered through all the hours of physio pain and the monotonous exercises and stretches day in, day out. To set a new bar for my comeback. And I did really enjoy it!”

 

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A post shared by Imogen Cotter (@imogencotter)

Cotter lined up in Berlare after recovering from substantial physical damage. She told road.cc that scans after the incident showed there “was no cartilage left in [her] right knee,” under a wound that required 40 metal staples to close. She also received metal plates in the knee, as well as in her injured forearm.

But a highly successful crowdfunding campaign helped the young pro heal. Her return to the pro field signals the resuscitation of a career that looked highly promising in the months surrounding the incident. In addition to winning the Irish road championship in October 2021, Cotter was due to ride for Team Ireland in the UCI Esports World Championships at the end of February this year.

Judging by the modesty she used to describe her performance on Sunday — and the substantial scarring her right knee still shows — Cotter’s road back to the pro podium could still stretch on for a while. But don’t think that’s bringing her down.

“I’m looking forward to some hillier races soon and getting my skills back bit by bit, but today feels like a big win,” she wrote after Sunday’s race. “I might have been sitting at the back of the peloton for most of it, but gotta start somewhere.”

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.