20 June 2019

Sportsister catches up with World Track cycling champion, Joanna Rowsell

May 18, 2014

Maria David spoke to one of our favourite athletes Joanna Rowsell, the  Olympic and World Track cycling champion, prior to her resuming racing this week.


It was a big disappointment not to be a part of the first Women’s Tour because I knew how much hard work had gone in to organising it and how big the event would be. It was never a performance target for me as I would have been there to work for my Wiggle Honda team mate Giorgia Bronzini, but I would still have liked to have raced.

My summer programme is based around winning the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games so it was important to listen to my body and take the rest that I needed in order to fully get over my illness.

I am a cycling fan as well as a cycle racer so it was great watching the Women’s Tour on TV and see how the race unfolded. Marianne Vos was always going to be the clear favourite as she is so talented. I thought both Lucy Garner and Hannah Barnes did very well, both getting podium places in sprint finishes. It was great to see Sharon Laws back to her best and winning the Strava Queen of the Mountains jersey.

I think the Women’s Tour is a massive step forward in women’s racing to get equal prize money to the men’s event. There was a lot of talk about the need to improve things. But now some people have actually made the effort to do that. Whenever I told people I was going to a race they were asking, “Is it going to be on TV?” And I’d have to say, “I’m sorry, no”. But in the UK last year there were a few events like the Nocturne, Ride London and the National Championships on TV, and this year the Women’s Tour had TV coverage. The more organisers do that, the better. I think now is an exciting time to be a woman in cyclesport.

We were really pleased with our performance at the World Track Championships this year. The Canadians went out fast and slowed down, so on TV it looks like we started slow and then got faster to win. But in fact we rode at the same pace throughout the race, as that’s what we think is the most efficient way to ride. So when the Canadians went out fast I thought “this is ok, I expect them to go out fast.” It was when we were in the last 4 laps and we were still down on them I was thinking “Come on girls, come on!” There’s not much you can do at that point except to give it everything on the front, not panic, and just keep the faith that your plan is going to work.

In the end we beat the Canadians by half a second. We knew the Canadian team would be strong, so we weren’t surprised how close it was. Sometimes it’s good to have that!

The following day I had to race the individual pursuit but I found it hard to wind down that night after our big win. I tried to relax as much as possible, and refocus for the next day. I went into the next day feeling confident, strong and I had good legs. Also I was completely relaxed because there was no pressure for the individual pursuit apart from the pressure I had put on myself. I was in a good place mentally at that point – excited to race but not nervous. It was great to get a second world title.

I find as I get older I am better at dealing with the pressure. I always think nothing is going to compare to that same pressure of London 2012. I did a lot of work with Steve Peters (Team GB Psychiatrist) building up to the London Olympics because there was massive pressure and massive expectation. Steve helped me put things into perspective and forget the fact that it was the Olympics and say ‘it’s just another bike race’.

I only see Steve occasionally now but he’s always on the phone whenever I want to chat with him.  Whenever I’m nervous I always think, “It’s not the London Olympics, Jo.” Ever since London 2012 I’ve been more relaxed when racing and I enjoy it more now. I think it’s because I’ve won that big thing. I’m still full of motivation, still rearing to go, but I just don’t get as nervous anymore.

I keep my Blue Peter badge very safe with my gold medals! I was at the BBC all morning one day appearing on BBC breakfast, Radio 5 live, BBC News and Radio Manchester. Then at the last minute they asked me if I could stick around to talk to Blue Peter. I said that was fine. I loved Blue Peter when I was younger and I was asking the guy I was with, “Are they going to give me a badge?” and he was saying “I don’t know, I don’t know.” I had always entered the competitions as a kid but never got a badge. So I was chuffed when I was given one that day.

I feel at home living full time near Manchester. Dan, my boyfriend is from there and all the other Team GB girls are up here as well. My parents relocated from Cheam (SW London) where I grew up, to Shropshire. So I don’t go back to Cheam anymore, unfortunately. But I’m definitely still a Chelsea fan!

I will have races every weekend. My next race is Newport CC 10 mile time trial and the Shrewsbury Town Centre criterium. My main target is the Commonwealth Games so everything is focused around that, but I will be going to Wales to defend my National Time Trial title at the end of June.

I also plan on racing events like the Tickhill Grand Prix and the National 10-mile time trial later in August. Then we have the National Track Championships in September, European Championships in October and Track World Cups in November and December. It is a busy, year-round racing season but I enjoy it!

Maria David, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine




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