Simon Lazenby caught up with Fernando Alonso ahead of his return to Formula 1 with Renault next season “Honestly, I expect to be straight up to speed,” stated Alonso. “But I’m aware of the challenge that maybe I face in the first couple of races. Not only on pure speed, but also on procedures, steering wheel commands, things that are new for me and could take some time. I’m aware that I could struggle a little bit.“But I want to think that it will not happen.”‘Stopwatch will decide when I stop, not third title’Alonso has signed an initial two-year contract with Renault, meaning he is set to race until at least the age of 41. But, when asked if he will keep racing until he secures what feels like a long-overdue third title, he said his competitiveness will be the deciding factor, not championships.“I don’t think I will target a certain result before I stop,” he told Lazenby. “I think in motorsport, the stopwatch tells you when it is time to stop, not the age. I hope the stopwatch is on my side in the next coming years.” But he also knows he needs more track time, adding: “When you go out of the sport for two years and then you drive a Formula 1 car again, everything surprises you like the first time. I need those laps now.“The simulator is good until a certain point, but then you need the physical effort of the car, the G-forces, the training of the neck. I need as many laps as possible.”First few races could be a ‘struggle’… but will they be?That’s not to say Alonso expects to be rusty when he does get started officially next year – even though he acknowledges that it could be a ‘struggle’. – Advertisement – – Advertisement – – Advertisement – Talks between Renault and Alonso ramped up after Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise confirmation, back in May, that he would be leaving for McLaren, before a reunion between the French team and the driver who claimed their last two Drivers’ Championships in 2005 and 2006 was announced in July.With Renault fifth in last year’s constructors’ standings, they didn’t appear to have what Alonso has always stressed would be key for him making an F1 comeback – a winning package – but he insisted to Simon that, with new rules on the way in 2022, they are the perfect fit.“[They were the preferred choice] for two reasons,” he continued. “One, in terms of expectations and building something from the midfield to the top, it was very attractive, very appealing. And secondly because I know everyone in this team. I know the passion for racing. It’s the third time I come here and I knew I would feel at home here.”Renault are leading the midfield this season, currently third with four races to go, so the signs for Alonso – a man who has famously not had luck on his side with career decisions in the past – are promising. They will be known as Alpine next season and, presumably, a convenient return to a blue livery.Renault car ‘amazing’ but he ‘needs laps’Alonso stepped up his preparations for 2021 with a filming day in Barcelona last month, completing 21 laps in the team’s current car.“It was amazing,” he said. “It was quite an experience.” 5:17
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Tara Ryan walked into Slocum Cafe 45 minutes before her rowing practice. It was March 12 at 3 p.m., and while Syracuse University had already decided that classes would transition online for a week following spring break, the women’s rowing schedule was unaffected. For now.She sat down with her boyfriend, Silviu Tudor of the men’s rowing team, and minutes later, the NCAA announced the cancellation of all spring sports.Ryan’s phone buzzed with texts from teammates in their rowing group chat. Should they go to practice? Their spring break trip to Clemson, South Carolina planned for the next day was canceled in a team meeting at 7 a.m., but now the entire season had been stopped before SU ever rowed on the water or in any meets.“I think I knew it was coming,” Ryan said. “But when it actually happened, I got the wind knocked out of me.”Ryan’s four-year rowing career at Syracuse that included getting cut from her first tryout, battling injuries and finally getting cleared to row again had culminated in the season’s termination due to the spread of the coronavirus. She’d overcome meningitis and a near medical disqualification from back issues and was back on the erg machine with her team just three days before.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Everyone is feeling grief in their own way, and everyone’s grief is reasonable,” Ryan said. “But I don’t know that you can understand being a senior and having your college experience ripped away when you go through all these things for three-and-a-half years.”Ryan started to cry for the second time in a few days. This time, not tears of relief, but in disbelief.• • •Ryan felt a nervous rash starting on her neck. She sat across from an assistant coach after the 11th day of rowing tryouts for Syracuse, where she compiled the third-best erg scores. Ryan, along with 27 others, was vying for one of the four walk-on spots then-head coach Justin Moore planned to offer in 2016.At the beginning of each year, SU coaches tell scholarship rowers to search campus for “anyone who looks like they could be rowing,” senior Madison Falzon said. Ryan wasn’t one of them. She wasn’t one of the “Amazons,” she said, because there were much bigger and taller girls. And she didn’t even know the proper rowing mechanics.After her first two days at Syracuse, she planned to try out for the club swimming, club rugby and club rowing teams before realizing that rowing was actually a varsity team and consistently ranked near the top nationally. Still, she could receive one college credit for attending each of the tryout sessions.But when the coach said she missed the cut, Ryan pointed to her high scores and asked for some constructive criticism.“He looked at my chest and told me I didn’t have the body for rowing,” Ryan said. “I am a bigger-chested woman, and I don’t blame him — he was the nicest guy — I blame society.”Ryan had been a Division I swimming recruit who turned down offers to attend Syracuse not as an athlete but just as a student. She was furious the coach called her not aerodynamic enough to row and her technique “shit.” Ryan knew that she wanted to continue sports into college, but swimming had burnt her out.To earn the A in the rowing class, she had to complete two more rowing workouts to get to the required 13. He agreed to let Ryan come the next day, but, despite another then-assistant coach vouching for her, she couldn’t earn a walk-on spot.“There are certain ideas of what a beautiful body is and what an athletic body is, and I don’t fit into the athletic body,” Ryan said.A few days later, the coach emailed her. He didn’t say why a spot had opened up on the team, but Ryan heard from other rowers that they cut a player who had overslept multiple morning practices. He wanted to know if Ryan wanted to join the team.“I really did respect the coach who did cut me, but he put fuel under my belly to prove him wrong,” Ryan said.Ryan began her rowing career consistently near the bottom of Syracuse’s roster — up to 20 seconds behind the top rowers on the erg spreadsheets. In her house on Euclid Avenue, she lives with six teammates, three of whom rowed in Germany, New Zealand and Australia. Her three American roommates all rowed throughout high school.Photo courtesy of Tara RyanWhen walk-ons join, they aren’t immediately included in every practice and given the same gear as the scholarship rowers are, senior Kate Aemisegger said. It wasn’t until the start of Ryan’s sophomore year that she was given gear in front of the whole team, the same season the talent gap closed to where she was “right in with the team,” she said.But in March 2019, Ryan slipped and fell on the icy campus sidewalk while walking to practice. Her pants ripped and she arrived at Flanagan Gymnasium minutes later with blood running down her leg. Head coach Luke McGee told her to get on the erg anyway.“The workout was horrible. I was in so much pain,” Ryan said.Because it happened on campus and not in the practice, she couldn’t go to an SU Athletics trainer and instead went to a Syracuse University EMT. Days later, she received an MRI on her back: Ryan had a broken vertebra, but the doctor couldn’t pinpoint when it happened.Coaches criticized what appeared to be her lack of effort on the water the next few days as the team went on a spring training trip to Clemson, Ryan said. They didn’t know Ryan was in so much pain that she was crawling around their hotel room and in hallways. At one point, she stood in the doorway of the trainer’s hotel room, shivering.“I’m afraid to move my back,” Ryan told the trainer.That night, Aemisegger — despite wearing noise cancelling headphones to stamp out Falzon’s snoring — woke up to the sound of Ryan vomiting in their bathroom.“I walked into the bathroom and she was lying on the floor asking for help,” Aemisegger said.Ryan’s fever was 104 degrees, and she spent three or four days in the hospital with meningitis. While the whole team returned to Syracuse after break, Ryan remained in the South Carolina hospital recovering.That summer, during her internship at Nike, she used their Oregon workout centers to get back into shape but still dealt with a nagging rib injury. On Sept. 10, after a series of MRIs and tests, doctors discovered she had a cyst on her spinal cord with a few bulging discs. Ryan had trouble breathing because one of her ribs had popped out of place, and she wasn’t allowed to swim, ride the elliptical or complete any workout throughout most of the fall.“It was terrible,” Ryan said. “It made my back worse because I get really stiff when I don’t exercise.”Ryan said that team doctors wanted to medically disqualify her, but Ryan negotiated with them each time. Aemisegger said the Orange practice three mornings a week, doing mostly cardio exercises, and then practice for two or three hours after classes on the erg machines — all in preparation for their spring championship season. Ryan wasn’t a part of any of that. Teammates tried to empathize with her, but Ryan felt disconnected and said she struggled with depression and anxiety.Ryan’s parents told her they knew she wasn’t a quitter, coaches advised her to take the disqualification, and Ryan kept saying she would finish. One more season, one more spring, one more chance to be on the water racing with her best friends.She walked into McGee’s office that fall and said she didn’t feel like a part of the team. She didn’t always feel comfortable talking with him, so Ryan wrote him a letter that she then read in front of him. Ryan wanted him to know how she felt, even if that meant she’d no longer be on the team.“He was so respectful and responsive,” Ryan said. “Since then, we’ve had a great relationship.”It wasn’t until January that Ryan was cleared to start working out again, and even then it was only on a stationary bike — not the erg machines her teammates were on. Doctors kept telling her she’d never row again. Her appointment to get cleared for competition was scheduled for March 23, five days before the Orange’s first spring race in Camden, New Jersey, just a 30-minute drive from Ryan’s hometown of Havertown, Pennsylvania.I don’t know that you can understand being a senior and having your college experience ripped away when you go through all these things for three-and-a-half years.- Tara RyanHer entire family planned to be there. Her mom was organizing the SU parents tailgate, and Ryan planned to race that day. She’d convinced the athletic department to move up her clearing date, and Dr. Evangeline Koutalianos from SUNY Upstate University Hospital cleared her, but with one caveat: She recommended Ryan never rowed again.“She somehow convinced the doctor not to DQ her — a chance to prove her back could make it a few more months,” Aemisegger said.Ryan didn’t take the recommendation, just the clearance. She finally could row again and practiced with her team on March 9 on the erg machines, one day before Syracuse University ended her senior academic year of in-person classes. And three days later, the NCAA canceled her senior rowing season.• • •Goodbyes have never been something Ryan has felt comfortable with. She admits she’s not good at them. For five days, she and her six rowing roommates remained in Syracuse, mostly confused. Athletes who had spent an average of three hours a day working out no longer had a workout schedule.At first, Ryan and her six roommates planned to stay at their off-campus house. They tried to workout at The Barnes Center at The Arch but found out after one day that was closing. So, they started running up and down the stairs and hills on Euclid Ave. Anything to get out of the house, to keep moving. To stop from thinking about how the season and school year they most looked forward to would never return.“It’s how you’ve lived your life for the last four years, and now the facilities you trust are gone,” Aemisegger said. “It was the most bizarre I’ve ever felt. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”Ryan said goodbye to her roommates on March 17. She doesn’t know when she’ll see many of them again — or even when her commencement will be.But she does know that even if she never got the chance to finish her final season, at least she never quit. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 29, 2020 at 9:33 pm Contact Anthony: firstname.lastname@example.org