Tim Guy is a very likeable man, and has an engaging manner when you speak to him. There?s little indication that he is on a long comeback from a serious period of depression and anxiety, one that almost saw him give up cycling for good. Now the high school teacher, entrepreneur and Attaque Team Gusto cyclist is fresh off a win at the Tour de Filipinas and more importantly is coping with the mental side of things. Guy spoke to RIDE about his win, his psychological battle and mental disease in general.
?For me I?ve been coming back into the sport for the last four years, I rode when I was younger then got anxiety and depression pretty bad and stepped off for a while where I was just a shell and a mess. Coming back wasn?t about trying to get to the top of the sport, it was about realising that the anxiety and depression wasn?t coming from the bike. When I was younger I thought it was because of the bike. I was piecing my life back together at that stage and working out if cycling could be part of that, if it was possible. Before that, the stress every time I got on the bike was all-consuming.?
The rejoining of the peloton has proved to be successful for Guy, with a period with Search2retain over the past few seasons turning into his current squad Attaque Team Gusto, with which he took a stage win in only his second Asian Tour race at the Tour de Filipinas. Escaping in the final five kilometres of a tough day?s racing, Guy was able to hold off the peloton in a solo move to cross the line by himself arms aloft.
?I attacked and I thought to myself ?Oh I?ve got a decent gap here? it will take some effort to bring me back then Cam (teammate Cameron Bayley) can attack over the top and go well. As we got further on I felt like I was moving it out a bit. The thing over there was that you couldn?t trust the signs, on the first day the 500 metre to go was at least a kilometre and a half from the finish. So I had my head down and waited until I could see the finish banner. Even coming into the finishing straight I thought I was going to get swallowed up, and it wasn?t until the final few hundred metres that realised that they wouldn?t catch me, so I sat up and zipped up the jersey, and was able to roll over the line for a salute.?
The euphoric feeling of victory wasn?t permanent however, and to some extent it mirrors the ups and downs of battling with mental illness for sufferers, as Guy noted when reflecting on his emotions after the win. The biggest win of his cycling career isn?t a complete vindication of the steps he?s taken to get here, and certainly the finish line in Legazpi City won?t be the end of the road for the man from Orange.
?To get to this stage and cross over the line for the win, you?d expect there would be this huge transformation maybe to get back here, but at the same time I still battle with it a bit. So when I crossed the line, it was real actual emotional wave of ?Oh my goodness? but then I settled back into more of a bland feeling which is often what I have across the board. Of course, I have a sense that it?s something that I?ll look back on and be proud of, but the story isn?t finished yet, and riding is part of the journey to get back on track. Getting the win was incredibly special, but it?s not the end point and we carry on.?
Talk to Guy about mental disease for any length of time and you?ll find yourself learning more about what it is to struggle with the battle against depression. A lot of modern technologies and elements of society are all about ?the quick fix? and finding definitive answers to problems, but as Guy explains, that mindset isn?t helpful when fighting mental illness.
?A part of what I?ve come to realise with my mental problems is that there is no fix. If you?re looking for that miraculous cure or something that breaks you out of it, then you?re continually getting disappointed, because you aren?t fixed. It?s not until you accept that and learn to try and manage it rather that you get better. It?s interesting how that ties in with the racing, I got this win, and part of you wants to say, ?Look at that, I?ve got this fixed now?, but if you do that, you get to a point where you self-destruct, when other things don?t line up and you realise that everything isn?t all right. This win was very special and certainly a nice part of the journey but it wasn?t an answer. At the end of the day, it?s a bike race, and someone far better than you is going to win a much bigger race the next day. In a couple of years, nobody remembers what you?ve done. That?s not to play it down, I?m very proud of what I?ve accomplished, but it?s about keeping it in perspective. It?s not what defines me. It?s not what defines the battle.?
When asked what defined him as a person, or what he would like to define him in the future Guy responded,
?That?s a great question, and one I don?t have an answer for. And maybe in a sense that is the answer. When I was younger, I wanted cycling to define me, and I put far too much pressure on myself. I count my experiences of doing something great like winning the race at Filipinas as just as valuable experience as going through the really bad moments of depression, leaving the sport and finding out that running away wasn?t the answer. Even those horrible situations of running away and not finding that hope that you were looking for is just as important, in realising that there isn?t just that one thing that gives you meaning. Cycling is a great part of my life, but it?s not the answer, even just as growing up in a Christian family, religion isn?t a 100% answer to the problems you face.?
The Attaque Team Gusto rider practises what he preaches as well, with a wide range of interests and ventures that he is involved with. He?s gotten a lot of self-knowledge from the process of dealing with his mental issues, and it is clear that has helped him get his life to this point.
?At first I didn?t want to talk about my depression, I didn?t want anyone to know. I think over time, being open, being honest about and seeing how other people appreciated that. Neil van der Ploeg (rider with Avanti IsoWhey Sports) and myself host a night called ?Watts on in the Peloton? where we explain a bit about the sport of cycling, we get people up the front to feel the watts of an attack, talk a bit about the gossip of the peloton and then I share a bit of my story of anxiety and depression in cycling. That gives me an opportunity to put a bit more meaning into life, and also I?m a high school teacher, so I?ve enjoyed being able to teach and learn and have an impact there. There?s a few different areas and interests there and I?m looking to branch out as well, I?m doing a post-graduate writing course, so I think that?s been helping, having a lot of different interests.?
Coming back to cycling and taking a nice win is clearly a great result for Timothy Guy, but maybe it should be seen as a marker of the progress that has been made. Something that can show others that it is possible to battle mental problems and come out the other side with a balanced outlook on life, a plan for recovery and a bit of success to go with it.
By James Finch-Penninger @FishysCP
BrakeDown Podcast founder