Joanna Rowsell

Joanna Rowsell

Joanna Rowsell is one of the big names on the British cycling team, with World Championships and Olympics titles to her names.

Rowsell has just enjoyed another successful World Championships, and is preparing to compete at this summer's Commonwealth Games.

We caught up with her to chat about her success, how she is feeling about the Commonwealth Games, and how she got into cycling in the first place.

- There are two huge meets on the calendar for you this year in the form of the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. The Worlds were a huge success, so how would you sum up that event?

I couldn't have asked for any better as I won 100% gold medals in the events that I went for, which is pretty good. I also achieved a new personal best in the Individual Pursuit, so that was also really good. To beat Sarah Hammer - who has been a five-time world championship in the event and the current world record holder - was very special.

To also win the Team Pursuit with the girls was great, as it is what we had been working towards all winter. Overall, it was a very successful time in Columbia and I really enjoyed it. I have many fond memories from that week.

- Did you go into that meet with any particular targets to hit or achieve?

I went in with a target of winning of two gold medals: I knew that I had the ability to achieve that, but you never know good the rest of the competition is going to be.

Even if you perform to the best of the ability, you have no idea if someone else is going to go faster or slower. You are not in control of that. I wanted to win two gold medals, and I believed that I could.

I try not to think too much about the result until it is over with, and I try to focus on the process of the race instead.

- Given the success that you did enjoy, where would you assess you are in terms of shape ahead of the Commonwealth Games?

I took a break after the World Championships: it is impossible to maintain form from February right through to July. I have just been doing some base endurance work, and into April, I am getting back into the gym to do some more strength work.

I am basically building up again for the Commonwealth Games. I have arranged to try to have two peaks this year: I wanted to peak for the World Championships then come down, then do it again. That is the plan.

- Peaking once is tough enough, how hard to do you find peaking twice in a season?

I think it is all right when they are that far apart. I have done it before with the Olympics in the summer of 2012. Usually, we just have our World Championships in March/April time of year: that is when we are used to peaking for.

We don't usually have a major competition in the summer - we did for the Olympics. Therefore, this is also a good run through for the Olympics as well. When you have two targets so far apart it works out ok, it's more difficult when they are closer together: you have to pick one to train through and one to target. Luckily, I haven't had that problem this year.

- Can you talk us through your daily training regime and how it will change as the Commonwealths edge closer?

It varies a lot from phase to phase. One of the phases of training involves just training on the road: that involves anywhere between three to five hours on the bike out on the road, doing varies different efforts within the rides. That will be just one session a day.

Other phases include training in the gym and on the track. I will maybe do a gym session in the morning from 8am - 11am, and then I will be on the track in the afternoon from 1pm - 4pm. So that would be two sessions per day.

On the build up to a competition, we do less volume of training, but more intense training. It varies quite a lot throughout the year. I am off to Spain next week for a training camp: that will be just road riding. That should be nice, let’s hope it’s sunny.

- Saptone is an essential part of that training, so how does that help your training and your performance?

It is really important to have good iron levels - particularly as a female athlete. I try to have a good varied diet, but I think that it is important to boost that with a supplement like this.

It is an easy fit for me because I have it with my breakfast in a glass of orange juice. I have that first thing, and then will have the rest of my breakfast. It is just part of my daily routine.

Iron is something that can be easily overlooked when you think about vitamins. It is hard to get it all in your diet and absorbed well, so having that bit of extra iron every day really helps.

- Which events are you focusing on for the Commonwealth Games? And who do you consider to be your main rivals?

The Individual Pursuit is my main focus at the Commonwealth Games as there is no Team Pursuit for women.

It is quite exciting for me because there is no Individual Pursuit at the Olympics anymore, and it is nice that it is still in the Commonwealth Games.

A few girls from Australia are very good. However, I think the main rivals will be from Britain in the form of Laura Trott from England and Katie Archibald from Scotland.

They are my teammates in the Team Pursuit, but I think that they will be big threats.

- You have competed in a World Championships and an Olympic Games at home already, so how excited are you about racing in from of another home crowd?

I am excited, as it will be my first ever Commonwealth Games: I didn't get to go last time due to Glandular Fever. I am really excited about doing it.

I am not sure how much the home crowd will favour us, given that I will be representing England and we will be in Scotland. I am not sure how much of a home crowd it will be.

However, when I have competed in from of a home crowd, it has always been phenomenal. You cannot describe the noise, it is just incredible. It also really helps in the event that I do.

Because you cannot see your opponent in the Individual Pursuit - you are on opposite sides of the track trying to catch each other - so any noise and encouragement from the crowd really helps with that.

- Have you had the chance to go to Glasgow and see the facilities that are up there?

I have not actually been. I was there for the National Road Championships last summer, but I didn't get to go to the Velodrome. So I haven't been there yet at all.

- Hard to believe that it is two years since the 2012 Olympic Games. When you look back on that experience now, how would you sum it up? And how has London 2012 really driven you forward?

It is hard to sum it up in words. It was the biggest competition of my life, and we got such an amazing response afterwards. I don't think any of us could have imagined the response.

We had been world champions and world record holders before, so I thought that I had experienced all of the media hype anyway: the Olympics were another scale. So many more people watched the Olympics than watch sport normally, it was just surreal going out and being recognised and then having my face on a stamp.

Nothing will ever compare to that, as we are never going to have another Olympics in the UK in my career. I just feel so lucky that it coincided with my cycling career, and that I was able compete there. I am very lucky.

- In recent years, we have seen Team GB become a real world force in cycling. How is the team shaping up in 2014? There have been some changes with Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton retiring.

The team is at a development stage at the moment. At the world championships, we won five medals, and they all came from the women's side. The men got a lot of fifth places, and just missed out in quite a few events.

Overall, we are at a stage where we are not at our peak as we are working towards Rio. 2014 is the year to experiment with new training and try different things. As a whole, I would say that the squad is still in a development phase. However, everyone is focused on Rio.

We do go to the World Championships wanting to win, but we always work on a four-year cycle: everything that we do is about the Olympics ultimately. Every World Championships that we go to we are still collecting date and seeing what works, as it is all about peaking for the Olympics every four years.

- I was going to ask you about Rio. How much is 2016 already on everybody's mind?

It is always on my mind, but at the back of my mind. You are always thinking about that as the ultimate goal, but it is also very useful to have other goals along the way. It is always in the back of my mind, and everything I do is working towards that.

It is scary because come July, it will be two years to go: that is when the qualification starts. I can't believe that we will be qualifying for Rio in just a couple of months’ time. It has come around really quick.

I remember this time before London, and it all got really serious, as we need to get all of the points we needed to be at the Games. Just to get to the Games is quite a battle: only ten teams can qualify, so just getting there is tough. It is quite scary that it has all come around again so quickly.

- How did you get into cycling in the first place?

That is an interesting story. I was actually talent spotted at school when I was fifteen. These talent scouts from British cycling came along to my school and brought all of these bike and helmets. We did some races around the playing fields, and I was quite good: I wasn't the fastest, but I was in the top three.

I was invited back for more testing, to see if I had the raw talent to become a professional cyclist. All of the time, I was just going with the flow. I had never done any cycling before: I could ride a bike, but that was the extent of it.

I then went for some testing on static bikes, where they measure our power outputs and our power to weight ratio. Apparently, I got some good scores, and that meant that I had the raw talent to be a future cyclist. I was invited on this youth development squad, and I started competing when I was sixteen: I was actually one of the oldest ones to get on the squad, as they usually prefer people under sixteen.

I think I was a bit of a risk for them. Luckily, their risk paid off. I started racing in 2005, and I won a national title that year, which was quite a surprise. That got me into the junior national squad and I went to World Championships as a junior.

Then I got on to the British Cycling Academy Programme, which is a university for cycling. Rather than going to university, I moved to Manchester to be a full time cyclist while I did my A-Levels.

We all lived in these shared flats in Manchester and trained to be a full-time cyclist. I won my first world title within nine months, and I haven't looked back since.

- How vital and important do you think the Manchester velodrome has been in the development of Team GB?

It has been absolutely vital. To have an Olympic standard facility is great, as it means we can train on the type of place that we will be competing on.

Also, to have the whole of the team based in one place is really important as well: we have got all of the riders based up here, as well as the staff such as the mechanics, coaches, sports scientist, team doctor, psychiatrist, physiotherapist and nutritionist.

Having that central base makes a big difference and has really been key to our success.

- Finally, the legacy of 2012 is to get as many kids into sport as possible. For anyone who is thinking about trying cycling, what tips would you give?

Firstly, join a cycling club. There are lots of cycling clubs out there that also cater for beginners. If you want to cycle on the road, it is best not to go out by yourself at the start.

There are events calls Sky Ride, where they close down city centres and that allows everyone to ride around on the roads with no traffic. There are loads of events on like that. That is the best place to start.

Also, try out the different disciplines of cycling as well: road cycling, track cycling, and mountain biking. Give everything a go.

Joanna Rowsell is an ambassador for Spatone Apple, a natural iron supplement that helps her maintain energy levels during training and on race day.

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