Believe it or not, “off season” wasn’t in my deck of cards for late spring when I planned out the year last December. 

Cycling, as in life- has its setbacks and challengest that force you to consider new perspectives and challenge your “why” in the sport.  A month ago at the Gravel Earth Series race Gravel Iberolica- Tierra de Campos I went straight over the bars onto my head- ending my race and putting training and riding on hold for the foreseeable future.  Immediately after my crash I knew I had hit my head pretty hard and I knew I was out of the race contention, so I decided to roll it back to the finish line with some of the others who had went down.  As much as it sucked that I myself had crashed, it hurt seeing my friends and competitors worse off than I had been, with bleeding faces, destroyed bikes and obviously broken bones.  This sport is brutal and a scary fact that crashes are inevitable throughout a career.

Earlier that weekend I had surprised myself with a 9th place in a flat, gravel TT and then I followed that up with a still strong 11th place finish in the 175km traditional gravel race- setting me up for a nice top 10 In GC on the weekend.  These results were the strongest rides I’ve had in Europe, and some of the best rides of my young career.

After driving home for 8 hours post crash, I went to the doctors in my Spanish hometown of Girona, where I was told I had a concussion and would have to be off the bike for the next few days.  The following 12 days I was quarantined to my apartment, with blinding headaches, extreme fatigue and all the other symptoms of a gnarly concussion.  With my “big” days consisting of going to the grocery store or maybe a 15 minute walk and my “regular “ days consisting of trading the couch for the bed every few hours, it’s fair to say I was struggling through the healing process.

It seems cycling loves to teach these lessons of patience and “trusting the process” and while I feel like I usually do a pretty good job at managing these, this first period was one I won’t soon forget.  Concussion is a difficult injury because you can’t see it, and there’s no sort of linear timeline with the recovery.  One morning I would wake up feeling fine and get better and worse in waves, and other days the headaches were like a slowly smoldering flame.

And so it became like my off season in April.  

Sitting in my apartment in Girona, I couldn’t help but to think of the training sessions done the weeks prior, and the progress I had made both physically and mentally in the base season.  I made the difficult decision to leave Europe and return to my home in Boulder, Colorado so that I could continue my recovery and begin to focus on restarting my season.  Missing 4 big races in my spring racing block has been difficult, but has been necessary to facilitate recovery.  At first I hoped I would be back on the bike and ready to race in just a week or two.  After days of migraines and just feeling not right, I realized that might not be the case. It would end up being weeks before I would even get back on the saddle. I’ve learned that while I may have missed these races, there are plenty of other opportunities in the year- and all I can do now is be ready for them!


Writing this now 30 days later, I have been back on the bike 4 times outdoors, and have been making steady progress in my recovery at home.  I am still dealing with some vision difficulties and other lingering symptoms day to day- but I’m having a lot more good days and making progress at a good pace.   I expect that I’ll be back to training and racing ahead of my big summer targets and I look forward to the summer of racing in the USA.  This experience has surely been a test of my patience, and I’m lucky to have a supportive community and sponsors. I look forward to taking these lessons as strengths in the second half of the season- but first it’s about time to rebuild my fitness!

May 15, 2024 — Zach Spinhirne-Martin

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