It’s not easy to mixte studies and high level competitive sports. Cameron McPhaden has been doing just that. For the past couple months, he’s been preparing for the biggest, hardest and most epic challenge of his cycling career: Tour of Rwanda.
“WHY BIKE RACING IS CURRENTLY TAKING A PRIORITY OVER GETTING AN EDUCATION”
By Cameron McPhaden.
The current stage of life that I find myself in, is different from most cyclists racing on the International scene. I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering from the Queen’s University. My daily schedule is built around my training as a cyclist, my duties as a student, research assistant and as a teaching assistant.
The daily struggle of making time to fulfill my training requirements and my school requirements simultaneously means that I do not have a single minute to waste. Early mornings are the norm; I get in an hour and a half of interval training on weekdays before heading in to my office at 9:00. It’s not the optimal time of day or length of ride to get the most out of my training sessions, but it’s all I’ve got. On the plus side, my weekends are full of adventure riding with other strong cyclists who love to hammer the pedals hour after hour. These glorious weekend rides contribute to refreshing my mental state, which helps me to survive the grind of the week ahead.
If I were not preparing myself for the upcoming Tour of Rwanda, I would not be worrying about interval training or having my form peak again at the right time. I would be resetting my yearly clock by taking time off the bike to start up training again, refreshed, in the new year.
Many of my hopes for the upcoming edition of the Tour of Rwanda are driven by my passion for bike racing. I aim to be aggressive and competitive throughout the eight days of the tour. I know that there will likely be a day or two where there will be nothing that I can do, except to survive. However, I have been exceptionally gifted with the ability to tell myself: “I will only quit when I’m dead”. You won’t see me pulling over to hop into the ‘Balai’ (broom wagon) if the race gets too tough. I will be there to the end, giving everything I’ve got for my team.
My teammates are what drives me to be the best that I can be. I’m not looking for personal glory, money or sponsorships from competing at the Tour of Rwanda. My personal gain comes from the satisfaction of the service to my teammates as well as the shared memories of being a part of such a tight-knit brotherhood.
After learning more about the ties between cycling and the Rwandan genocide through the movie “Rising form Ashes”, I have a new appreciation for the connection between family, friends and bike racing. The development of international-level riders, teams and programs from such a devastating time in Rwanda’s history is an incredible story that needs to be heard. Knowing that something so awesome can rise from the ashes of something so terrible gives me great hope for the adventure that lies ahead. There’s no doubt that I will receive great inspiration from sources of knowledge and wisdom that I don’t even yet know exist. I am very much looking forward to having the people and the culture of Rwanda leave a firm imprint in my mind about how I look at the world.
Before I knew that my team would be selected to compete in the Tour of Rwanda, I committed myself to three different academic jobs, each of which I have had to get special permissions to take leave. It has been quite complicated, sorting out administrative tasks with the University, getting others to cover my work, explaining to my students why bike racing is currently taking a priority over getting an education… (only slightly joking!) In the end, it will all be well worth the life experience gained in Rwanda.
The bottom line, from a mechanical engineering standpoint, is quite simple.
The greatest invention ever: the bicycle.