After-effects of double discectomy operation bring curtain down on eight-year pro career

Leda Cox has been forced to retire from professional cycling due to “a debilitating spinal injury.” In an eight-year career, the West Londoner rode for teams in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and the US and also represented Great Britain, while perhaps never gaining the recognition won by some of the higher-profile members of the British Cycling team.

The 35-year-old achieved 30 victories as a pro, including two stage races, won three national track and road medals, and amassed 24 Great Britain team caps. In 2008, she scored notable wins in the Coupe de France and the Tour of Tuscon, Arizona.

As an amateur, Cox crashed heavily while yards from victory following a solo breakaway in the national criterium championship, leaving her needing spinal surgery. Her surgeon predicted that she would never ride a bike again, but she was back riding after eight months and within a year of surgery turned professional with the Dutch Vitron-Wiltra and topped the British rankings the same year.

Last year, however, Cox went under the surgeon’s knife once more following a crash involving a number of cyclists during the Tour De Grande Montreal in Canada, which she was riding as part of the French ESGL 93 GSD-Gestion team. The cyclist underwent a double discectomy, which necessitated having part of her spine removed and has left her with Cauda Equina, a condition that affects leg control and has other nerve-related complications.

Announcing her retirement on her website, Cox talked about the role her personal beliefs had played in helping her forge a career as a professional, saying: “ I’ve been very fortunate to have such a long and varied career in so many countries and with so many great riders. I’m a Christian and my faith has been such an important part in my cycling career. I have always tried to use my sport to honour God for the talents he has blessed me with.”

She continued: “I’ve also been blessed with some great people around me who have been part of making it all happen. I want to thank all the background people who make West London such a hot bed for cycling. They know who they are. I also want to thank Neil Hassan and Andy Verral who helped set me on my path into Elite cycling and the late Ian Goodhew who did so much for women’s cycling over the last 20 years. It’s people like Ian that have kept domestic cycling going and have nurtured talent on our shores to export beyond them.”

“I also can’t go without thanking my greatest supporter, my husband Jez who has put up with only ever seeing me in the winter since we married seven years ago,” Cox added.

“Currently I am using my time to concentrate on getting as mobile and pain free as possible. A massive thanks to anyone that has had a part in my career. You know who you are,” she concluded.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.