Published: 26 April 2012
Report: Simon Powers
In a normal year, winning the world championships and breaking the world record in the process would be the highlight of the season, and usually be followed with a period of rest and recovery before training was resumed.
However, an Olympic year couldn’t be more different and riders such as Joanna Rowsell, who have proved their mettle in the world championships, now have to knuckle down again for the next three and a half months and prepare to do it all again at the 2012 Olympic Games.
So, despite breaking the world record twice in one day as part of the Women’s Team Pursuit Squad in Melbourne, Joanna Rowsell is keen to point out that their job is far from done.
"It’s all been about peaking for the Olympics as opposed to the world championships. The world cup in London and the world champs in Melbourne have been markers to test our form"
“It was great to win the world championships but we are all well aware that it is by no means in the bag. There’s absolutely no room for complacency, we have got to keep working hard. None of us are at all complacent; it’s going to be a battle all the way.”
In the past few weeks, after returning from Australia and following a very brief rest, Joanna has been getting in plenty of road preparation in the Surrey countryside. Looking ahead, she will also do some Road events in Belgium and a training camp in Majorca before reacquainting herself with the boards alongside her world champion team-mates Laura Trott and Dani King. This return to the track comes at the end of May and will be a period of hard work, including plenty of scrutiny and fine tuning from her coach, 2008 Olympic Champion, Paul Manning. Since taking on the role of Women’s Endurance Coach in 2008, Manning has brought a wealth of knowledge to the team, knowledge which Rowsell recognises:
“Since Paul has been coaching us, we’ve spent far more time on the track as a team; which is really valuable. That’s one of the biggest changes we’ve made since 2008, which has really brought the times down with a lot more focus on speed work and technical work.”
A recent analytical article looking at the difference between times recorded at the 2008 world championships and with the equivalent times at the 2012 worlds, showed that times in this women’s discipline have come down by nearly seven seconds. When asked if the event is becoming more like a sprint now than an endurance event, Rowsell remarked:
“It certainly is going that way.”
Rowsell’s run up to the 2012 world championships was very different to the same period 12 months earlier. In November 2010, shr broke her elbow during a training session on the track and the resultant recovery period was a major setback to her training plans. To top this off, she was also diagnosed with glandular fever.
“I didn’t ride the worlds in 2011 after the injury. That was quite a down time for me, also having glandular fever, I didn’t make the worlds for Apeldoorn. I didn’t expect to be selected but it’s always hard not to make the team.”
However, this setback spurred her on to get back to the velodrome and gain the form required to produce times such as those we saw in Melbourne. Also in the motivational mix was the fact that the last time she raced the event at the world championships, in Copenhagen in 2010, her team lost the rainbow jersey to the Australian team by just over half a second.
“I’ve been in the team ever since the event was in the worlds, except for 2011. Having won silver in 2010, it was really great to get that rainbow jersey back.”
Now, with attention turning to London, it’s clear that Joanna, although confident, is still aware that, despite the world dominating success she and her team-mates have enjoyed recently, they face serious threats to their gold medal ambitions from teams such as New Zealand and Canada as well as that from their closest rivals, Australia.
“The times from the rest of the competition are improving fast. It’s quite clear that, particularly, Australia are improving. If you look at them this season they are improving probably faster than we are. We need to keep improving otherwise we could get overtaken.”
This is a fact that both the team and their coaches are well aware of. Since the start of 2012, the team have been preparing for what is a very special year.
“It’s all been about peaking for the Olympics as opposed to the world championships. The world cup in London and the world champs in Melbourne have been markers to test our form”
With strong displays at such ‘test ‘markers’ as the world championships and with periods of fine tuning both on the boards in Manchester and a holding camp in Newport during July, the times we see from the GB trio in London are likely to be even more impressive than those in Melbourne. We already know that the London track is fast from the times clocked at the world cup in February and with Rowsell and her team-mates ready to push the boundaries yet again, we could be in for something special, starting with that all important 12 lap qualification ride on 3 August.