Interview: Emma Pooley is Back with a Bang

We talk cycling, PHDs and chocolate addictions with Emma Pooley

Emma Pooley is back with a bang

Emma Pooley is one of those riders who has captured our hearts here in TWC. With buckets of brains (she has just completed a PHD in geo-technical engineering), sporting talent that reaches well beyond the bike and a friendly, bubbly personality to boot, she is the definition of an all-rounder.

Pooley has an Olympic Silver medal to her name, she is a former world time trial champion and after a relatively quiet year last year, she is back with a bang this year, claiming the national time trial title and three stages of the Giro Rosa in what turned out to be some breathtaking racing.

We were lucky enough to steal a couple of minutes with the pint-sized pro ahead of La Course and the Commonwealth Games. Here is what she had to say for herself:

You had a late start to the season but it seems to be going pretty well so far…

I am quite positive. I did start racing quite late. I did do a few smaller races when I was out in Australia training. Sometimes it’s a bit of a gamble but it’s worked out ok. It is hard mentally when you don’t do very well in training races but you have to remember they are training races and I think I am peaking at the right time… hopefully!

Indeed you had a pretty impressive race at the Giro Rosa. But you had a challenging start (Pooley suffered a nose bleed and mechanicals in the first stages of the race, how did you overcome that to come back in the incredible way that you did?

It was quite hard mentally as we targeting the GC (general classification) at the Giro. I have always been a GC rider, whether as a Domestique for someone else or for myself. It is more my style – playing a waiting game. It was hard to pick myself up mentally after the first two stages.

I couldn’t see anywhere that I could make that time back up – no individual time trials which even if there had been I wouldn’t have necessarily won and mountain stages but none of them long enough to get minutes and minutes. And I didn’t believe I was strong enough to get minutes and minutes anyway on the Rabo-Liv team. I think as a team we re-thought the plan and tried to go for stage wins instead.

You did so well, you had us almost falling off our chairs with excitement at some points in the race…

I have to say, the stage that I only just won that was really stressful to ride. I mean I almost fell off my own chair! I am glad it was exciting.

Emma Pooley gives it everything she’s got at the Giro Rosa 2014

You are so busy. You have just completed your PHD, you are a professional cyclist, an incredible marathon runner, a triathlete, you are campaigning for women’s cycling and so much more. How do you fit it all in?

Not very well to be honest. I mean the PHD was just something I had to finish. I had to do that last year so that is probably why I did a lot less cycling last year. I mean I did still race, but at a lower level. The triathlon and the running is because I love a bit of variation.

I mean I love cycling but I really miss running so I arranged with my team that they would let me have times of the year where I did a bit of triathlon and some running races. And it seems to work out ok. I mean it is not a great idea to do a half ironman a few weeks before a stage race I’ve discovered but I just avoid doing that before a target race. I think there is a lot to be said for staying happy and if I go running occasionally it makes me happy. 

Do you think the cross training element is an advantage for you with your cycling?

I am not sure. I think cross training is hugely beneficial at the right time of year. I think running in winter is great. It is definitely good for me, I am not saying it works for all cyclists but it definitely works for me. It is not healthy to do the same thing all the time. I come from a multi-sport background so I do think my body needs to do other stuff occasionally or else it gets fed up sitting on the saddle and pedalling in little circles.

But you need to be careful in the build up to a major race as focus is key and the specificity of training is important and you don’t want to waste energy that you could use for hard training on the bike by going for a jog around the block. It might be fun but if it makes you tired and gives you no training benefit, you shouldn’t do it.

Emma Pooley, also a talented runner, won the Lausanne Marathon
You were hugely influential as part of Le Tour Entier, the petition to have a female race at the Tour de France. Why was this so important to you?

I am really pleased it is happening, it is so important for women’s cycling.  The Tour de France is the bike race that everyone watches, whether or not they are a cyclist. And there is a reason for that – it is partly to do with tradition but also because it is the most challenging and inspirational race there is and that’s why it gives everyone enthusiasm. It has millions and millions of viewers.

As a female professional cyclist, it is very frustrating as it’s also exciting to watch women’s racing but it doesn’t have as many viewers as it very rarely gets on television. I think it’s a shame because everyone is missing a trick. The race organiser is missing a race they could get sponsorship for and make money from, the viewing public are missing some amazing racing and I as a professional cyclist am missing out on riding a professional stage race with big hills!

How are you personally feeling ahead of La Course? Are you backing yourself for glory?!

Oh yeh I have been doing loads of sprint training and I reckon I can definitely take on Vos and Bronzini!!!! Definitely joking! Not only am I terrible at sprinting, I’m not good enough to be in a sprint at all. I don’t think I have a single fast twitch in my legs left and even still I am too scared.

But my team (Lotto Belisol) has a really strong sprinter called Jolein D’Hoore, she is Belgian, a track rider so she is our sprinter so I will do what I can for her. Obviously everyone on the start line has a chance but on that kind of course, breakaways are unlikely to stick and I am not really a cobbles rider so I am slightly dreading that bit!!

I am a bit sad about this as I wish they had done a single stage in one of the mountain stages, that would have been brilliant but it is what it is and it is still going to be brilliant. Even if I have next to nil chance of winning you don’t start a race as an individual, you start as a team. Jolein rode her guts out for me at the Giro and did a great job so I am looking forward to riding for her in return.

Do you have any pre-race superstitions?

I am not sure it’s a superstition but I try to eat a lot of chocolate!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

That is such a difficult one. I have been given so much good advice and ignored so much of it and wished I hadn’t afterwards. I think my mantra at the moment is – keep it simple. I have a tendency to over complicate things and waste a lot on energy on that. I use this for life in general – I am failing at it miserably though!!

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