It was summer 2016. Just as his teammates were hopping on and off the team bus at the most important races of the year, Cameron Meyer was hopping on and off an open top tour bus and taking a trip around central London.
He stopped off in Parliament Square and snapped away at Big Ben with thousands of other tourists enjoying summer in the capital, but for Meyer this wasn’t just a simple holiday.
As he chugged his way around London, the 28-year-old didn’t know for certain when he would return to racing, or even whether he would pin a number on again at all.
“I had two months off the bike, I didn’t put any time frame on it, it was just let it happen, enjoy life, try to be a normal human being,” he says.
“I had to take a bit of time out just to consider where I wanted to go. I had a feeling that the track is what I wanted to do a lot more of.”
Four months later and the 28 year-old is back in London, back in a skinsuit, back with a glistening coat of sweat down his limbs, and back with a smile on his face. Racing with compatriot Callum Scotson at the Six Day London, he is back on track.
A ‘career-break’ is almost unheard of in the cut-throat and macho world of professional cycling. Olympic athletes take time to rest – mentally as much as physically – following each four-year cycle and team sport players – think rugby, football, or cricket – enjoy a large seasonal break every year.
Cyclists? They get a few weeks off in October or November. Exposure, opportunity and progress all come before rest and relaxation. Nor is it a sport that allows riders to behave like “normal human beings.” At the risk of stating the obvious, theirs is not a normal lifestyle.
And emerging from what Meyer calls “a bit of a bubble” is something you just don’t do as a cyclist, until of course the time comes to retire at which point the relentless institutional treadmill of pro cycling might seem rather comforting.
“It wasn’t easy at the time,” Meyer explains. “There were media about it and it probably was bigger than what I expected it to be, because if any normal person leaves their job, a career change is sort of normal. But we’re put up, we’ve got to deal with the media and there’s a public persona to try and please.”
A professional since the age of 20 and racing for eight years before that, Meyer has devoted more than half of his life to the pursuit of sporting excellence. He won his first world title – in the points race – in 2009 and completed the trio of points race, Madison and team pursuit a year later.
His highly-anticipated road career included the overall at the Tour Down Under (2011) but by the time this year rolled around he realised that something was missing.
“It can be hard for Australians because we do have to live in Europe away from family and friends for nine months of the year, and I was put in that position when I was 20 years old, I signed pro as a second year U23.
“I think it’s really about that balance. You’ve got to love what you’re doing and as soon as you stop that, you really start to struggle, not just on the bike but other areas off the bike.”
Meyer hasn’t got another contract on the road – “I just don’t want to rush into signing a contract that locks me down into the same situation, a situation that I might not want to be in” – but has found a goal that allows him the balance he was searching for.
After winter he plans to spend racing on the track and the Australian road season from December to February with the national squad, Meyer is eyeing up a spot on the national track team for Tokyo in four years’ time where there is talk that the Madison, the event in which he is double world champion, might make a comeback.
“I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did, it’s a hard call to make,” he reflects. “Though I think in the future I’ll look upon it that it was the best decision for me at the time, to try to prolong my career and get some more success out of it.
“It took that time off the bike to really find that motivation again. I think in the long run it will be a blessing in disguise.”