Neurodivergent cyclist taking part in RideLondon hopes to inspire others

Neurodivergent cyclist taking part in RideLondon hopes to inspire others
Connie Hayes said she hopes to inspire others through her cycling career (Ford RideLondon/PA)

A neurodivergent cyclist participating in the Ford RideLondon Classique event has said she hopes to show that “no matter how your brain works” you can achieve “amazing” things.

Connie Hayes, 23, who is based in Leytonstone, east London, is riding as part of semi-professional women’s only team Doltcini O’Shea in the three-stage event, which began on Friday in Saffron Walden, in Essex, and finishes in central London on Sunday.

Ms Hayes, who has cycled since the age of 13, reflected on the first two days of the event, telling the PA news agency: “The first day was pretty chill until it wasn’t.

Group standing togetherConnie Hayes (second left) alongside her teammates (Ford RideLondon/PA)

“When there was 30km to go, it went absolutely crazy hard.

“(On Saturday) there was a lot of crashes, a lot of us got caught up in them, so it was a bit of a dramatic day.”

The 23-year-old, who has dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, spoke about how cycling has been a “complete lifeline” for her.

“Competitive cycling is not the ideal environment for someone who is autistic – a lot can go wrong, a lot can change, you’re constantly having to adapt in the moment, so that side of it is a real challenge,” she said.

“However, it’s given me a completely different outlook and experience and has been a complete lifeline.

People cyclingCyclists during stage one of the race (Ford RideLondon/PA)

“I don’t think I’d be in this position now if my brain wasn’t the way it is because I can deal with the hours on the bike training and really hyperfocus on that.”

She said as she often races globally it feels “special” when she competes in the UK, with this being her third time taking part in RideLondon.

“Coming to the UK to participate in this is special as I grew up in east London and I train on most of these roads all the time and for me because it’s my local race, I’ve got a lot of friends, former coaches and even my old form tutor was out watching (on Saturday), so the support has been really nice,” she added.

As she heads into the final day, she said she has mixed feelings.

“It’s slightly sad that it’s over for another year, but the finale’s the best day as it’s very fast runs around London and the crowd last year was unbelievable,” she said.

People cycling togetherThe event finishes on Sunday (Ford RideLondon/PA)

“The crowds for the London stage have always been amazing, so it should be really good.”

Ride for Freedom, a non-profit organisation which supports victims of modern slavery through cycling, is Doltcini O’Shea’s charity partner for the event and Ms Hayes said she and the team are “proud” to be able to give exposure to the work it does.

She added she hopes others who are neurodivergent feel as though they can achieve the goals they set for themselves.

“If you’re told you can’t do something, go out there and show them you can,” she said.

“I was regularly told as a child that I don’t have the coordination to do certain things, however, I feel like I have shown that no matter how your brain works, is formed or functioned, you can go out and do amazing things,” she said.

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