Harriet Owen may just be 19, but she’s already had a whirlwind career in cycling.
From winning a medal in the 2010 Junior Track Championships, to being dropped by British Cycling, to coming back as a road rider and winning the Peterborough round of last year’s Johnson’s Health Tech women’s GP at the Tour Series, she tells Sarah Connolly what’s she’s learned and why she’ll always love cycling.
My dad likes that I’ve got so much into cycling, even though I’ve taken his thunder. I think he likes the fact that he’s got someone to talk to about it with. We can have a long chat about bikes and nobody else will have a clue about what’s going on – but he’s not so keen on the fact I’m faster than him.
I went to Palmer Park, started off track racing there and did their track league every week, and there was a local Talent Team coach who used to go there, and I got picked – and after that, they kept me under their wing – but now I’m out in the open.
I’m not scared of crashing. I started on the Talent Team, and got thrown into the deep end with a lot of older people, so I’ve just learnt that as bad as you might crash, it’s going to be worth it – if you take that risk, and get through that gap. It doesn’t faze me – I’ve always been all right to get back up again.
Riding the Junior Track Worlds was daunting. I only really went for experience, because at the time I was on there with riders like Laura Trott, and they all had big aims for winning, and I just kind of tagged along. I never really went into the Scratch Race with any expectations, it just happened. At the time, I thought if I don’t make any attacks, then I’ve just come here, ridden round, and that’s it, so when I came second, I was just like – “Bloody Hell”. I was a first year junior, and nobody was expecting it.
But then in my second year as a junior, I put a little bit too much pressure on myself, because I knew I could do that sort of stuff, and at the European Track Championships, I was the marked rider, and that didn’t go well, and then I crashed in the scratch race, and that was a bit of a down point.
I came fourth in the point’s race, and after that I kind of got released from British Cycling. It took me a while to get my confidence back, to be honest, but I am where I am now, and I think this year with Stefan Wyman and Matrix Fitness Racing Academy is going to do me quite a lot of good.
It’s been an odd sort of jump, from being so looked after by British Cycling to then being completely on your own, not really knowing what to do when, but because I’ve been doing it for so long, I know how to train. It’s definitely been a shock – but now I’m quite enjoying having a bit of freedom to do what I want.
When cycling’s good, it still comes with a lot of nerves, I’ll tell you that. When you’re actually racing, you don’t really think about a lot – I don’t even think about the racing, to be honest, it just naturally happens. But afterwards, when you get a good result, you just have a constant grin on your face, you’re not really sure why. It’s a good morale boost, it keeps your spirits high – but alongside that, when you have a bad race, it’s quite hard on the head – but over time, you had to live with that.
If I couldn’t race any more, I’d still work in the bike industry. I’d try and probably move my way up in Trek, just because I know a lot about it, and I really enjoy the brand. But something along those lines – I’d like work with brands, be a rep for shops and stuff like that, something along those lines.
If you’d asked me what my goals were a few years ago, I’d have said I want to be in Rio [Olympic Games] on the track, but now I’ve started doing Crits, I think I’m going to see how this year goes, and if I enjoy it, I’m going to try to move to the Continent, see where that takes me. I’ve not really got any really plans, so I’m just going to take it as it comes.
This year, I want to be able to match my 2012 results, get a good win in the bag, and see how it goes. I’ve got no set plans. It’s nice; it’s putting no pressure on myself. I’ve learnt that’s probably the best way – previously I’ve put too much pressure on myself, and ended up riding worse than I was in the first place.