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“Today feels like a big win”: Imogen Cotter makes racing comeback – seven months after being struck head-on by speeding motorist

The former Irish champion returned to the peloton at a Belgian kermesse on Sunday, her first race since fracturing her patella and radius while training in Girona

Former Irish champion Imogen Cotter made her return to the peloton on Sunday – seven months after breaking her patella and radius in a head-on collision involving an overtaking driver.

Cotter lined out yesterday at the pro kermesse in Berlare, Belgium, in what was her debut ride for the UCI Continental squad Plantur-Pura and her first race since winning the elite women’s event at the Irish national road race championships in October last year.

The 29-year-old, who signed with Plantur-Pura for 2022 after previously representing Movistar’s e-racing team, was training near her new home of Girona at the end of January when she was struck head-on by a speeding motorist who was overtaking a cyclist on the other side of the road.

> Fundraiser for Irish champion struck head-on by speeding motorist raises over £18,000 in three days

Following the collision, after which Cotter said she felt “so lucky to be alive”, the Co. Clare rider had plates and metal screws inserted into her patella, and plates were also inserted on the outer and inner bones of her forearm. According to Cotter, scans at the time showed that there “was no cartilage left in my right knee”, which also required 40 metal staples to ensure the wound healed.

Imogen Cotter's bike after training collision with motorist (credit - Instagram/ Imogen Cotter)

Cotter's bike following the training collision in January (credit - Instagram/Imogen Cotter)

After months of recovery and gruelling rehab, Cotter made her long-awaited return to racing in East Flanders at the weekend, where she took part in a professional kermesse, a traditional Belgian style of racing centred on laps of a town or village and usually associated with a local fair or carnival.

“Today I did my first race of 2022,” the Irish rider posted on Instagram yesterday. “The last time I lined up was 1 October last year, when I won the nationals!

“Today, I started with a kermesse here in Belgium. The plan was just to race for about 75 mins and see how my knee and wrist reacted to it.

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

Cotter only took up cycling three years ago at the age of 25 but quickly rose through the ranks, moving to Belgium to participate in the domestic racing scene there while working a number of part-time jobs.

She rode as part of Movistar’s e-racing team in 2021 and has built a strong social media following advertising products, which has helped fund her training and racing programme.

In October 2021 Cotter won the Irish national road race title, and later that autumn signed a one-year contract with the Plantur-Pura team for this season. She was due to represent Ireland in the UCI Esports World Championships at the end of February before her crash derailed her season.

Following the terrifying collision, Cotter’s housemate in Girona, Alina Jäger, set up a GoFundMe page which raised over €25,000 to help support the Irish rider as she recovered from her injuries.

“I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated and supported the GoFundMe that was set up,” Cotter said at the time on Instagram.

“I had no idea it was being set up and when I saw it I was really upset, overwhelmed and emotional. It’s amazing to see how many people are really rooting for me.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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