Junior Hayley Bates, a junior at Colorado College, doesn’t remember the specifics of the crash. All she knows is that she went down face first at 30 mph. Two weeks later, she stood atop the podium at the USA Cycling Collegiate Nationals.
Bates, the captain of the Colorado College cycling team, is a phenomenal mountain and road biker. She crashed competing in the regular season four lap race at the Air Force Academy.
At the beginning of the second lap, Bates collided with one of the two other riders at the front of the group. Her tire caught and she flew forward. She was knocked unconscious and when she came to, she was lying roadside and someone was covering her with a blanket. “I was incredibly confused,” said Bates. “I had no idea what was going on.”
An ambulance took Bates to the Emergency Room. Her memory of the ambulance ride is fuzzy; she doesn’t know how long the ride to the hospital lasted or where she was. Later on at the ER she was informed that she had suffered a concussion, a broken nose, two broken teeth, a hole in her lip, and stitches on her face.
Bates was forced to miss the next race and stay off her bike for over a week due to her injuries. She rode outside for the first time since the crash the day before Nationals. “It was nerve-wracking and I really didn’t want to go down again. I couldn’t stop thinking that my nose [was] still broken,” Bates admitted.
Recent events didn’t help to reassure Bates. The day before Nationals, Bates and another CC cyclist, Sophie Mittelstadt, watched a cyclist get hit by a car. In addition, Chad Young, a 21-year-old cyclist from the Colorado School of Mines, died after suffering serious injuries in a major professional race in New Mexico this spring.
During the race, Bates kept her distance from other riders. “My confidence was shot as far as getting around other people was concerned,” she explained. The course had many hills, which created distance between the participants. Bates soon made her way to the “chase group,” a pack of riders just behind the leaders.
She only had to place fifth or higher to earn a spot on the podium. There were four people in the leader group—all she had to do was hold her position and she would make the podium, and that is exactly what she did. “[Doing well at Nationals] was exactly what I needed,” she said.
This summer, Bates will race on the professional cross country mountain biking circuit while maintaining her busy study abroad schedule. Although this is her first summer of professional racing, she plans to focus more on academics, as it is also her last summer as an undergraduate. Whatever her summer plans may be, her impressive performance at Nationals so soon after a traumatic injury is inspiring.