Rebecca Romero Pursues TT Olympic Glory
Story posted February 5, 2010; by Larry Hickmott | Orbea For Goodness Shakes Team Launch |
Back in 2006, a young female athlete made the huge decision to swap sports and in the space of two years went from a cycling novice to an Olympic champion. That athlete was Rebecca Romero. It was no easy journey for her to make but step-by-step, Rebecca made her way to the top of her chosen sport and in Beijing, Rebecca achieved what she set out to do and that was to win an individual Olympic Gold medal. It was, in her words, a job well done. “The challenge got tough during the last bit of the run in” she told me, “but I managed to turn things around and it was amazing to achieve my dream of being Olympic champion.
Rebecca celebrates after the Olympic win in Beijing. Having achieved her dream of being Olympic champion and having her event axed from the Olympics in London, she will now test herself against the Time Trial and has not ruled out the Team Pursuit either. Photo: Phil O'Conner Photography
What followed post Beijing was chaos. First, Rebecca found herself being pulled every which way as so many people wanted a part of her. “I wasn’t unprepared for that” she says. “It was chaos and I wasn’t getting any recovery time. For about three or four months afterwards, I was flat out and really struggling mentally and physically because I didn’t have the time to have a break from it. By the end of January, things settled down and I was able to take that break and got motivated to get out on the bike again. I spent the next month riding the bike and getting back some fitness and this gave me the break I needed to make the decision about whether to carry on.”
“It was a really tough decision but I wanted to come back and defend my title and was really motivated.”
Unfortunately for athletes like Rebecca, defending a Gold medal is not made any easier by the goal posts being changed as they were for Chris Hoy an Olympic cycle before. Rather than make decisions eight years in advance or even four years in advance, the powers that be at the UCI and/or the IOC, make irrational decisions that mean an athlete can start out in the Olympic cycle preparing for a specific target only for it to be taken from under them.
“For the UCI to cut the event just blew my world away” Rebecca explained. “It had been such a hard process to make that decision to come back to it and to get back that dream and focus. The Pursuit being cut from the programme really threw me. At that point, I assumed that was it, my time was up on my career but I am a pretty stubborn person and wanted to exhaust all my options before I walked away from something and start my life somewhere else.”
Rebecca Romero is delighted to have the support of Orbea for her Olympic challenge.
Rebecca had looked at many different sports outside of cycling post Beijing including canoeing, javelin and speed-skating but after a lot of analysis came to the conclusion that pursing an Olympic medal in a third sport wasn’t realistic. It had to be cycling and so she, along with her coaches in GB, looked at other individual events and the only realistic opportunity was the Road Time Trial. So, 2010, will see the Olympic champion from the Women’s Pursuit, switch her focus, either in part or fully, to the road and the Time Trial.
“This year is about having a go at the time trial and seeing how I fare and what the possibilities are” Rebecca explained. “If I find that the aim of medalling in the time trial in 2012 is not an option, then at least I will have had a good go at it. But if it does work out and the option is there, then the aim is to carry that through to London.”
While the powers that be in the UCI/IOC have not been kind to her in the timing of their decision, an irrational one in so many people’s eyes, Rebecca is upbeat about the time available she has to make the switch. At this time in the previous Olympic cycle, she hadn’t even got onto the track so feels she is ahead of the schedule in preparing for the Time Trial. Rebecca knows that the domestic time trialling scene is a world away from the international one and that while she will be one of the top riders here in Britain, her position in the World pecking order is an unknown.
Rider and machine, Rebecca shows off her special bike for 2010.
Rebecca does have some benchmarks of sorts. She has seen how fellow Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins has fared in World Time Trial Championships as well as her British rival Wendy Houvenaghel who was second to Rebecca in the Pursuit in Beijing. As ever, the Olympic Champion is not going into this blind. “This possibly could be an even harder challenge than the Pursuit to get to medal standard” she explained. “It is pretty daunting and scary starting from scratch.”
Rebecca says it would have been so much easier to carry on with the Pursuit knowing what works and knowing she had been the best in the World but she is still very positive about the Time Trial. “I think I have the physical capability, experience and the mentality to do it” she says. “The one question mark I have is whether I have the resources to dig deep and make it happen because I know what it took to make it happen last time.”
“Before, it was about becoming an Olympic champion which was a key motivating factor. But, having done that, I’m now going into the unknown mentally of working towards doing it again. When it gets tough though, I won’t be able to throw the question to myself of ‘why are you doing this – because you want to become Olympic champion’. This time the reply from within will be, ‘you already are Olympic champion, what do you need to be doing this for?’
Rebecca though, as she has already admitted, is a pretty stubborn character and doesn’t do failure. Failure is simply not an option and is one of the things that drives her onwards and upwards. She has thought a lot about what she is doing and the pathway options she has to finish her career on a high. “This year’s goal is to explore the time trial route but I have definitely not written off the Team Pursuit at all. I’m just exploring where I can go after this year. If for example the TT is going to happen, I can go back to the Team Pursuit as well and run them both side by side.”
The Pursuit, says Rebecca, is very different to the Time Trial and may well be a bigger challenge than it was going from Rowing to the Pursuit. Photo: Phil O'Conner Photography
For now, Rebecca is back on the bottom of the ladder again looking up and ahead lies a season racing for Orbea-For Goodness Shakes! The Olympic Champion is very pleased with the help she has had from Orbea who have provided her with not only a state of the art Time Trial bike but all the equipment she needs to pursue a career on the road prior to the London 2010 Games. Having learnt the ropes on the track already, Rebecca has been free to move back home to the Henley/Marlow area of London where she admits she is very settled and happy. “It has made a massive difference” she admits, adding “it’s a great area for training.”
Ahead lies a training camp in Majorca with GB and some domestic racing which she says will provide her with the opportunity to blow away the cob webs and lay down a few markers. Her first international Time Trial in a UCI calendar where time trials are rare will be at the end of April. The push will then be on to gain selection for the World Championships in Melbourne which would be the big test to see whether an Olympic medal in this event is a possibility. Because the Time Trial is so different to the Pursuit and her efforts in rowing, Rebecca will also be exploring her options in other road events such as road races and circuit races both here in Britain and abroad to get the training needed to do a good time trial.
While London 2012 will provide Rebecca with the opportunity to end her career with something special, a medal in front of her home crowd, she admits she is torn between being an athlete there or a spectator. Whilst she knows the support from the home crowd will make a significant difference, Rebecca also knows that London 2012 will be a massive experience for spectators. Some how, having seen how driven she is to tackling huge challenges head on, I can’t see the Olympic champion standing on the sidelines for her last hurrah. As she explained, she has already wasted time in this Olympic cycle preparing for an event that was then axed. Now is the time to pursue the new challenges in her Olympic career and 2010 will see Rebecca do just that. Good luck to Rebecca in 2010 and in her quest to be an Olympic champion again.
2004 Olympic Games, Athens: Silver (Rowing, quadruple sculls)
2005 World Rowing Championships, Japan: Gold (Rowing, quadruple sculls)
2006 Begins her cycling career on the track in April coached by Dan Hunt
2006 British Time-Trial Championships: Gold.
2007 Track Cycling World Championships, Majorca: Silver Individual Pursuit.
2008 Track Cycling World Championships, Manchester: Double Gold Individual and Team Pursuit.
2008 Beijing Olympics Games. Gold (Individual Pursuit)