Joanna Rowsell is one of the most celebrated female cyclists in Great Britain today. Her triumphs include being on the Great Britain Cycling Team, competing in the London 2012 Olympics where she won Gold in the Women's Team Pursuit and she also currently holds the National, European and World Champion title. Joanna is also the World Record Holder for her event.
Looking forward to Rio 2016 and after a marvellous time at the Commonwealth Games this year, where she took Gold in the Women's 3km Individual Pursuit, we have an exclusive with this fantastic woman.
Hi Joanna, many thanks for taking the time out of your celebrations to speak with us. So let’s get started, which do you love more: the bike or the competition?
I love the competition and I love winning but I couldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy the day to do day training as much as I do.
It is great that you love what you do, more people should take that on board in their day to day lives. Could you give us an insight into your typical day?
I train six days a week and usually twice a day. So a typical day might involve two hours of training on the road from 9 till11am followed by lunch at home. Then head down to the track at about 12:30pm ready for a training session that lasts from 2 till 5pm. The evenings are usually spent relaxing and recovering but I enjoy going out for food or to the cinema.
Good to know that you have time to relax especially after all that training!
We can only imagine what race day is like, but could you fill us in?
Every race day varies depending on the time of the competition. Here in Glasgow I was competing at about midday so I ate a big breakfast in the morning before heading to the track and starting the warm up routine. There was about four and a half hours between qualifier and final so I had time to head back to the village and get some food before going back down to the track for the final. After the final there are media requirements, the podium ceremony, dope control, more media requirements and finally some time to see my family and get some food!
How did the Commonwealth Games compare to London 2012?
For me the Commonwealth Games have been brilliant and have a lot of similarities to London 2012. The main difference was that I was competing in an individual event and I put pressure on myself to win as I am also the current World Champion. Going into London 2012 there was pressure but it was different. We had a squad of four riders trying to get a place in a three rider team and the coaches didn’t decide the final line up until an hour to go before the race. So in London the pressure was all about making the team selection and the race took care of itself. Whereas in Glasgow I knew I would be racing so that was a completely different kind of pressure.
That must have been stressful. So in the team, who trains the hardest: Dani King, Laura Trott or yourself?
We knew you'd say that! What advice would you give to youngsters looking to make their start in the velodrome?
Join a club or book on a taster session and come and have a go! There are plenty of outdoor velodromes up and down the country as well as indoor ones. Try out all the cycling disciplines and if you can get involved with a club that is the best way to learn from other people.
Great advice! Before the Commonwealth Games, you described Sir Bradley Wiggins as the 'father figure' of Team England's cyclists. Who is the mother figure?
Haha I don’t remember that! He is certainly a great rider to have back in the squad as he has achieved so much and everyone looks up to him. I wouldn’t say anyone is a mother figure particularly, although at 25, I am the eldest.
We found that quote in a deep archive! You are an ambassador for Club La Santa, how did you get involved?
I first got involved with Club La Santa back in 2012 as one of their employees has alopecia and was doing a charity run without her wig, so I sent her a message of support. I went out to train there in the winter of 2012 which was a perfect way to get back into training after a post-Olympic break. I loved it out there and was keen to go back for more training camps!
That sounds great, we need to visit! Is it difficult to balance your personal life with your working life?
It is difficult because being a dedicated sports person can mean leading a selfish lifestyle. Once training has finished it is all about recovery so that means not spending too much time on my feet, eating well and getting early nights. So I try to do things like go out to the cinema or out for food so I can still be resting whilst also taking my mind off cycling. I also think it’s really important to have downtime so I plan rest periods into my training and make the most of it. Fortunately my friends and family understand when I have to miss social events due to racing or training commitments but I also look forward to enjoying things like that when I retire one day.
That's great and good that you plan in rest periods. In your down time, when you have finished training for the day, what do you enjoy doing to relax?
I got a kitten earlier this year so enjoy playing with him; he is very entertaining (currently four months old). I also enjoy films, food, reading and shopping.
How cute! We can imagine going out for food must be restricting for an athlete. Do you have a favourite post-training snack?
I always drink a carb and protein recovery shake after training but also love dark chocolate for a treat after a hard session!
Do you have any recommendations for a good breakfast?
I always have a cereal such as porridge for slow release carbs, a fruit juice or a smoothie and then some form of protein so either eggs or a protein shake if I am pushed for time.
That all sounds delicious, we shall be putting that on the menu. So, back to the Commonwealth Games, what was the atmosphere like?
The atmosphere has been brilliant! The people of Glasgow have made it especially good by being so enthusiastic and the volunteers have been very friendly and really getting into the spirit! When I have been out training on the road since my race I have had a number of cars pull alongside me and congratulate me and ask for photos. Often as I ride past people wave and cheer because they are excited to see the athletes out and about.
How fantastic! It must be so encouraging to have the support from fans. When you found out you were getting an MBE how did you react?
I was really pleased as I had heard they might not be giving them out to everyone after London whereas before I think everyone who won an Olympic gold got one. The letter says to keep it a secret so I did, even from my parents, so they were pleased to read my name when the New Years Honours list was announced. I felt very proud but also very humbled when I went to collect the MBE.
That must have been a tricky secret to keep. You are reigning Olympic, World and European champion in the team event and reigning World Champion in the Individual Pursuit; that must be a lot of pressure. Do you have any tips to quell pre-race jitters?
The main piece of advice I have is to focus on the performance and not the result. All you can do is perform to your best; you can’t affect anyone else’s performance therefore you can’t affect if you win or lose. That is out of your control so there is no point worrying about it. Of course this is easier said than done but I also think a bit of nerves is good!
You must be superhuman? In 2013, you broke your collarbone at the London Cycling Festival, but only five weeks later were winning the Women's Pursuit on the track at the International Belgian Open. Where do you get your dedication from?
I think breaking my collarbone last summer has actually helped contribute to my success in the season since. It meant I had a bit of rest which although wasn’t planned I believe it did me good long term to have that bit of downtime. It is hard to answer the dedication question. I guess I have just always had a drive to be the best I can be and to prove myself. Of course there are days when I would prefer to stay in bed but in general I don’t struggle with motivation because I love what I do and I love pushing myself to be better all the time.
Apart from yourself, who gives you support to succeed and push yourself?
My partner Dan is my biggest supporter. He helps with everything from bike mechanics to being on the end of the phone in the middle of the night when I am away on the other side of the world and need someone to talk to. My parents have also been a huge support ever since I started and my brother Erick is a great person to talk to.
Your younger brother, Erick, is a road race cyclist; is there a great deal of competition between the two of you?
There isn’t much competition between me and Erick. We are pursuing different areas of the sport and it is a good thing to be able to talk to him and hear his stories.
And finally, what do you feel has been the defining moment of your career so far?
For me personally there are two. The first was winning my first ever World Title back in 2008. I had left school in summer 2007 having finished my A Levels and decided I would have a year out before university to see if I could get anywhere in cycling. Winning this title showed cycling was a good idea and I wouldn’t be going to university.
The second one was in September 2011 when I won the Individual Pursuit at the track Nationals. It sounds like a small event compared to Worlds and Olympics etc but it was a big deal for me. I had been left out of the Team Pursuit line up for the 2011 World Championships in March that year and the team had won without me. I had had a terrible run into the World Championships with a bad crash where I knocked my teeth out, glandular fever and a broken elbow. It was no wonder I didn’t make the team but to everyone else it simply looked like there were new younger riders who were better than me. I worked hard over the summer of 2011 despite having my funding cut and winning the IP at the track Nationals in September that year proved to everyone else that I was not past my best and there was still a lot more to come from me. I wasn’t left out of the Team Pursuit line up after that and made it all the way to the Olympic final and the gold medal.
And thank goodness you weren't left out as you did incredibly!
We would like to thank Joanna for her fantastic interview and congratulate her on all of her success in the Commonwealth Games. We are cheering her on for her future competitions and races!