‘I gave absolutely everything playing for my country to the point I now struggle to walk’

 
Ross McLean
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Prior’s new venture ONE Pro Cycling will compete at UCI Continental level from early April
Matt Prior tells Ross McLean of his Test comeback hope and new cycling project

HE MAY be a triple Ashes winner and a principal component of England’s surge to the summit of Test cricket in 2011 but deposed wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior accepts the greatest challenge of his sporting career may prove unconquerable.

Prior is taking the first, tentative steps towards returning to the arena which has served as his profession for 15 years following reconstructive surgery in September to cure a three-inch tear in his left achilles tendon.

The Sussex star has refused to let the burden of rehabilitation consume his entire focus and last night officially launched ONE Pro Cycling at Millbank Tower, with keen amateur cyclist Prior the co-founder and chief executive of the newly-formed venture.

The 32-year-old was a mainstay of the England side which gravitated to the top of the Test rankings under the stewardship of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss, while the last of his 79 caps came during a bleak 95-run defeat to India at Lord’s last summer.

Injury bit hard and the ebullient Jos Buttler has since grasped his chance and usurped him in the England pecking order, although Prior is not planning to surrender his legacy just yet despite a return date ahead of the domestic season being revised.

“At the end of the day, I gave absolutely everything to my team, my teammates and playing for my country to the point where I now struggle to walk. If that means I can’t play again then I can live with that.” Prior told City A.M.

“There is a realistic chance I have played my last game for England and I’ve got to make peace with that, although I remain hugely driven to get back to full fitness and play again. I’m learning to run again. So to go from there to thinking of being able to dive and keep wicket for England in a Test match is a long way away.

“I’m hugely honoured that I’ve been involved in a very successful era in English cricket and ultimately they were the best years of my life. It’s not an easy pill to swallow but that’s the reality and you can’t lie around sulking, you have to crack on.”

ONE Pro Cycling will compete at UCI Continental level from early April, two tiers below the likes of Team Sky, with the same verve and tenacity which has permeated Prior’s time in cricket.

The British squad will be led by experienced Welsh professional Yanto Barker and operate with the expressed aim of challenging the big-hitters on the UCI World Tour in the years to come.

“Every young cricketer wants to play for England, wants to be involved in the Ashes and wants to play in the Boxing Day Test match at the MCG. Those are the big events that you dream of,” added Prior.

“The biggest race in cycling is the Tour de France and that’s where we want to go and where we want to be, our dream is to get there. How long it takes, that’s another question.

“ONE Pro Cycling has started from nothing but if we can move up the ranks and take part in the biggest race then that will be something never done in the UK before.

“But it’s crucial we start on the right footing and don’t look too far ahead because that’s when you can fall quickly. It’s equally important to have that ambition although it’s dreams at the moment.”

PRIOR JUDGEMENT

Jos is the man with the gloves, he’s the man in possession and I’ll have to do a huge amount of work to displace him.
ON JOS BUTTLER

Kevin Pietersen has not tarnished any memories for me. I know, as do the rest of the England boys, those were the greatest times of my life and the winning environment was amazing.
ON KEVIN PIETERSEN

About three years ago when my Achilles first started hurting I couldn’t run anymore, so it was a case of either putting on a huge amount of weight or finding something else. I decided to get on the bike and the first thing was it really helped my Achilles, so I started using it from a maintenance and a rehab point of view, then the escapism came into play and I got the cycling bug massively.
ON HIS PASSION FOR CYCLING

We want to give fans the chance to be part of the team, through membership which is very similar to being a member of a country cricket club. One Pro Cycling will also be One Pro Cycling for the duration, which I think is a very important point and a huge differentiator between us and other teams.
ON ONE PRO CYCLING