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Riding the slipstream

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Joanna Rowsell

Team GB cyclist and Women’s Team

Team GB cyclist and Women’s Team Pursuit World title and record holder Joanna Rowsell tells us about her journey to 2012 and flies the flag for women’s cycling.

We have just passed the 100 days to go mark until the start of the London Olympics. Now the number of days to go on the countdown clocks are down to double figures it suddenly seems a lot closer!
Joanna Rowsell on her bike
Ever since I started cycling back in 2004 the aim has always been to compete in the 2012 Olympics. It wasn’t until two years later in the summer of 2006 that it was confirmed the Games would be hosted in my hometown of London. I couldn’t believe it! Two years prior to this announcement I didn’t compete in any sport and had always thought I would go to university but now I was training to potentially compete in a home Olympics!

Where it all began

The story of how I started cycling is interesting as it came about very much by chance. British Cycling were looking for new potential talent and sent out coaches to schools up and down the country where they carried out some basic tests on the school playing fields. Our PE teacher told us about this in assembly one day and although I wasn’t into cycling at all, the Olympic Games have always inspired me. If I’m honest I could barely ride a bike but I thought I would give it a go, mainly as it was a beautiful summer’s day and it would mean getting out of a double maths lesson! It’s even stranger that I took this opportunity when you consider that maths was actually one of my favourite subjects and I want on to take it for A-level…
We had an endurance test and a sprint test around the school playing field and my times were quite good. Not amazing, but good. As a result I got invited back for further testing. These tests were far more scientific with power outputs measured and apparently mine were pretty impressive! This left a bit of a debate for the coaches – I wasn’t the best at riding the bike but my power outputs indicated I could have potential. It was a lottery taking me on but lucky for me they took that risk and I was offered a place on the Talent Team programme!
The Talent Team involved weekend training camps where I got the chance to try all the different cycling disciplines: mountain biking, road, track, cyclo cross, BMX and cycle speedway. My first bike race was actually a BMX race! (Never again!) It soon became apparent I was better suited to the road and track rather than the off road disciplines. I watched the Athens Olympics with great interest and was particularly inspired by the track racing which seemed so exciting.
Team pursuit image

Racing to 2012

2005 was my first year of racing and I became National Champion on the track in the individual pursuit. Since then I have never looked back! In 2006 I got a place on the junior national squad and then in 2007 a place on the Academy. This was a residential programmed based in Manchester but I was keen to finish my studies (including that maths A-level!) so I moved to Manchester once I had finished my exams. Within a few months I competed in my first senior World Championships in March 2008 where I won gold in the Women’s Team Pursuit. This was the first time this event had been included in the World Championships for women. At the time this wasn’t an Olympic event but I absolutely loved it!
Fast forward 18 months and it was announced the Olympic events would be changing for London. A drastic overhaul of the events on the track in order to bring equality to the number of medals available for men and women meant that the women’s Team Pursuit would be included in the Olympic programme for the first time. I was over the moon! My favourite event, in which I had been part of the team to win the first ever World Title, would be in the Olympics for the first time in my hometown!
Since then I have been training very hard with this ultimate goal in mind. The Women’s Team Pursuit has progressed a lot since 2008 with the times tumbling down. I have just returned from the where we beat the Australian team to win the World Title (my 3rd in the event) in a new World Record time. This was our last competition before the Olympic Games so it is now time to get our heads down and put in a good block of hard work. I fully expect the record to fall again, perhaps a number of times, this summer when everyone will be at the top of their game. GB are the favourites but we all know it will be a battle the whole way. Bring it on!
Follow my progress check out my regular blogs on www.joannarowsell.com and on Twitter @JoannaRowsell
Bottom image of Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott – British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme athletes – on their way to winning the final of the team pursuit at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Round 4, London, UK. All images courtesy of British Cycling.

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