Regularly we hear the stories of sacrifice that riders and families have made in order to succeed in the sport: Year after year of driving up and down the country to compete while funding the financial costs of race fees, travel, and maintaining a bike that can cost nearly as much as a small car.
Then there’s the injuries that invariably come with competing at the highest level. Broken bones, punctured lungs, torn ACLs, hospital visits, x-rays and hours spent in rehabilitation. Its part of the sport but when do the risks begin to outweigh the rewards? After winning a World Cup in 2007 and coming 2nd in the overall series, Matti Lehikoinen went on a horrendous run of injuries that cut him down in his prime.
That’s why I respect Manon and her decision to leave the table while the choice remained her own. Precisely because she was one of the few who could regularly up the ante, go all in and win the jackpot. Aged 21, she’d already wrapped up a World Cup title and secured the holy grail of the Rainbow Stripes. She has nothing more to prove to anyone.
The common expectation might be once a winner always a winner. To keep chasing the glory because nothing else will do and If you get knocked down you get back up again. Yet real life isn’t a Rocky movie and as much as we want our heroes to prevail against the odds, we’re not the ones who pay the consequences when the stakes are raised.
Downhill is a risky business but just like in Vegas there will always be new players rocking up willing to try their hand and roll the dice. When it comes to high rollers, chances are the house usually wins. Manon Carpenter on the other hand, not only pulled out a Royal Flush, she knew when to fold her cards and leaves as a champion of the sport. Whatever she ends up doing next, one thing’s for sure.
You wouldn’t bet against her.