When chronic fatigue threatened to stop him competing at an elite level, masters cyclist Peter Milostic turned his focus to nutrition and health, and was able to step up another gear. By Richard Cooke.

How cyclist Peter Milostic got back on track

Masters cyclist Peter Milostic.
Masters cyclist Peter Milostic.
Credit: Con Chronis

What drives me, as a masters cyclist? I don’t know whether this will be the last time I’m this good. So I just keep going and going and going, and I’m still able to improve, even at my age.

Even at 44 years of age, I’ll race it at an elite level. I still race with not only the best in the country but the best in the world when all these guys come and compete for the green and gold jersey at the national championships. Some of the guys on the podium with me are half my age.

For a large portion of my career, I suffered a lot of illnesses and setbacks – from around the year 2000, for about a 10-year period. It wasn’t until about six, seven years ago I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. Throughout that time I always felt that it wasn’t the competitors working me over, it was myself. It was my own health.

Then it was like a rebirthing in a way. I didn’t feel like I had done what I wanted to do throughout my career to that point. So it’s like a second lease on life. I’m really making the most of it even though I’m older.

That’s still what drives me: to see how good can I be? How competitive can I be as I get older and older? I think that can be a real eye opener for a lot of people. They say, “Oh, it’s because I’m too old, I’m too this, I’m too that.” No – it’s whether you’re still motivated, it’s whether you’re still really committed to be able to put the time and effort into a sport or into anything that you do.

There is definitely still a “what if?” When you’re young – and I was like most people – you think you don’t have to sleep as much, you don’t have to eat well, you can just make do. That cost me a lot.

I was always working plus trying to train like a pro. You’re always walking a tightrope. You can do it – and I did it for many, many a year – but it doesn’t take much for the wheels to fall off. And it takes a long time to get over things.

I was always rushing. Rushing training, because I had to rush to get to work. Rushing work, so that I could get home to try to recover for the next day, so I could just go out and rush and do it all over again and again and again. I tried to work – I was not long married, trying to pay off the house – and I’m trying to ride with the best in the country. Eventually it did take its toll.

When we lost my mum to melanoma, it was such an eye-opener. To think, “How did I lose my mum to melanoma when she was never in the sun, she never sunbathed.” She had glasses and driving gloves so she didn’t get the sun on her hands, and it was at that point where I thought, “There’s something to get on here.” Then when my daughter was born only a few weeks after that, my third child, I started looking into health and nutrition.

It came down to the nutritional side of things. I read and I read and looked at all these studies and found that my lifestyle, along with many millions of other people, is hurting us. It is hurting us bad, so I decided to do something about it and change my life entirely.

From a nutritional point of view I only eat something that I’ve made myself. We never buy anything if we don’t know what is in it. We will look at every single aspect of our food and the products we bring into the house – our soap, our deodorant, our toothpaste. That’s allowed me to get over the chronic fatigue.

Throughout my whole career I’ve always worked a job. And I think that’s what’s made me appreciate more. I look at a lot of the pros and they’re away from their wives, their kids, for months on end. I’ve never had to go through that. I always had the privilege of being able to attend all my kids’ school [events] and [be there for their] upbringing. I never missed out on things with them, so I don’t feel like the sport is taking that time away. I’ve never had to sacrifice that side of things, whereas a lot of pro athletes and non pro athletes have had to make sacrifices on that side of the fence.

My parents never rode; I had to learn everything myself. I was competing against guys and their dads or grandpas and so on had so much knowledge. The advantage my kids could get, particularly with cycling, would be phenomenal but it’s such a nasty brutal sport. I would never ever force it upon them ever, unless they wish to do it.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 9, 2019 as "Back on track".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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