‘Today feels like a big win’: Imogen Cotter returns to racing – seven months after being hit head-on by a speeding motorist

Former Irish champion Imogen Cotter returned to the peloton on Sunday – seven months after fracturing her kneecap and radius in a head-on collision involving an overtaking driver.

Cotter lined up yesterday at the professional fair in Berlare, Belgium, in what was her first race for the UCI Plantur-Pura continental team and her first race since winning the elite women’s event at the national championships. Irish road racer 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 Girona home in late January when she was hit head-on by a speeding motorist who was overtaking a cyclist on the other side of the road.

> Fundraiser for Irish champion hit hard by speeding motorist raises over £18,000 in three days

After the collision, after which Cotter said she felt “so lucky to be alive”, the County Clare rider had metal plates and screws inserted into her kneecap, and plates also been inserted into the outer and inner bones of his 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.

Cotter’s bike following the collision in training in January (Credit – Instagram/Imogen Cotter)

After months of grueling recovery and rehabilitation, Cotter made her long-awaited return to racing in East Flanders this weekend, where she took part in a professional kermesse, a traditional Belgian racing style centered 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 driver posted on Instagram yesterday. “The last time I lined up was October 1st last year when I won the nationals!

“Today I started with a fair here in Belgium. The plan was just to run for about 75 minutes and see how my knee and wrist reacted to it.

“My personal goal was to enjoy it, to remember why I worked so hard and suffered through all those hours of physical pain and monotonous exercise and stretching day after day. To set a new bar for my return .

“And I really enjoyed it! I may have been sitting at the back of the pack for most of it, but I have to start somewhere. I’m looking forward to more hilly races and getting my skills back little by little, but today feels like a big win.

Cotter only started cycling three years ago at the age of 25, but quickly rose through the ranks, moving to Belgium to compete in the national racing scene there while occupying a certain number of part-time jobs.

She was part of Movistar’s online racing team in 2021 and built a strong social network by following advertising products, which helped fund her training and racing program.

In October 2021 Cotter won the Irish national road racing title and later that autumn signed a one-year contract with the Plantur-Pura team for that season. She was due to represent Ireland at the UCI Esports World Championships at the end of February before her accident 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 recovers from her injuries.

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

“I had no idea it was set up and when I saw it I was really overwhelmed, overwhelmed and emotional. It’s amazing how many people are really cheering me on.

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