Interview: Team USN in focus, elite track cyclists - Total Women's Cycling

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Interview: Team USN in focus, elite track cyclists

We caught up with three of the UK’s most promising young track cycling talents Ciara Horne, Elinor Barker and Amy Roberts of Team USN to chat about their cycling dreams, aspirations and their advice on what to scoff on and off the bike. Well, they are sponsored by a sports nutrition brand after all!

From left to right: Ciara Horne, Elinor Barker and Amy Roberts. Photo courtesy of Ian Cook.
Amy Roberts. Photo courtesy of Ian Cook.

Amy Roberts

At just 18-years-old, Amy is fast making a name for herself in the world of cycling. Having started training for triathlons at the age of 14, within a year she had become the Under-16 Welsh National Cyclo-cross Champions, which helped earn her a place on the Olympic Development Programme. Now signed to the Welsh Cycling backed Team USN, she has become part of the team that most recently scooped up the Bronze medal in the Women’s Team Pursuit at the UCI Track World Cup in Mexico.

2012 was Amy’s most successful year to date, seeing her become Junior European Champion in the Team Pursuit and winning her first medal at an elite World Cup; Team USN triumphed with a silver medal.

Elinor Barker. Photo courtesy of Ian Cook.

Elinor Barker

Also 18 and currently studying for her A-levels, took up cycling aged 10 to get out of swimming classes.

Fast forward several years, and she is now the reigning junior world time trial champion – a title she claimed in 2012. Due to this, she was subsequently crowned Carwyn James Junior Sportswoman of the Year at the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year awards in 2012.

Currently riding on the track for Team USN, she is also in the British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme, but remains based at home until she has completed her studies. At the end of February 2013, she became a senior world champion for the first time as a member of the Great Britain Team Pursuit squad at the UCI Track World Championships. She’s also rides on the road for Team Wiggle-Honda.

Ciara Horne. Photo courtesy of Ian Cook.

Ciara Horne

23-year-old Ciara , a successful cyclist at international level, rides on the track for Team USN.

Horne began her sporting life at the tender age of 7 as a swimmer and competed at national level until the age of 16 when she suffered a serious shoulder injury. This prompted her to switch to triathlons, getting onto the world class start programme, however, plagued by injuries, Horne found that the majority of her training would be in the form of cycling and her love for the sport was born.

Juggling her physiotherapy degree studies at the University of Birmingham with her rigorous training regime makes Team USN’s achievements, including a Bronze medal in the Team Pursuit at the Mexico Track Cycling World Cup 2013, all the more rewarding.

What has been your greatest career achievement to date?

I haven’t got one greatest achievement; as a junior, I was happy to get two individual bronze medals in the Junior World Track Championships and also win the Junior European Team Pursuit title. In my first year as a senior track cyclist, to get a silver and a bronze in the Team Pursuit at the UCI Track World Cups was a major achievement.

~ Amy Roberts

Same, getting silver and bronze at Cali and Mexico World Cup plus finishing second overall in the World Cup series for the team pursuit was amazing.

~ Ciara Horne

Mine is definitely winning the world title in the Team Pursuit recently in Minsk, Belarus. It just blows everything else out of the water!

~ Elinor Barker

Elinor, were you prepared to come home to Wales with such a prestigious title?

Not at all! I was concentrating on the process of the event. I wanted to ride a really good Team Pursuit event, which is what I was thinking about, rather than what I would come home with!

~ Elinor Barker

Now that the track season has come to an end, what are your goals for the summer?

I will be on the road for the summer.  Hopefully I’ll get a ride in the Team Time Trial at the World Road Race Championships in Italy in September. It is really close to the start of the 2013/2014 winter track season so not sure if it will be realistic. There are also a lot of good international riders in my road team, such as Emily Collins from New Zealand and Georgia Bronzini from Italy, so there will be a lot of competition before the competition itself!

~ Elinor Barker

My main aim for this season is to gain experience and learn from being part of a professional road team (Wiggle-Honda) which has such talented international riders. I will want to help out as much as I can to get results for the team and then maybe later in the season get a result for myself, and do well in the National Road Race and Time Trial.

~ Amy Roberts

I have a list of goals for the season, but I would particularly like to perform well at the UCI time trials and the British Time Trial championships in June. I’m also keen to retain all my British University Championship titles as it’s my final year at the University of Birmingham and I’d like to leave on a high! Looking ahead to the end of the road season I’d like to perform well at the British Track championships.

~ Ciara Horne

How do you train in order to retain your extreme range of endurance and power?

I alternate between track and road cycling. At different times of the year I prioritise either track or road, where both have different types of training. I have just finished my track season for this winter, so I train at the velodrome 3-4 times throughout the week, and then I try and get a long road ride in at the weekend.

~ Elinor Barker

I have had a winter on the track, so I have been mainly training on the track with recovery rides out on the road. To get the endurance for what I will need this season on the road, I have had to get in the longer rides since completing the track season. In a way, I will treat these first few big races as training to improve my fitness as well as gaining experience and helping my road team in any way possible. A lot of the power I need I have gained from the track, so that will help a bit throughout the year.

~ Amy Roberts

It’s a combination of road and track training (with additional gym sessions) with specific sessions according to the race season (track or road). For example, during the winter season when we were preparing for World Cups on the track, a typical day may entail specific sessions looking at our starts (and the power and strength element achieved through repeated start efforts using bigger gears) with a road ride in the morning or afternoon too to maintain a good level of endurance.

~ Ciara Horne

Can you tell us about your diet on a regular training day? Do you conform to the high carb endurance approach or have you trialled higher protein or fat diets?

I don’t really have a specific diet plan. I try and get a range of everything to cover what I need for when training a lot, and supplement my recovery with USN shakes and protein bars. I try to keep away from eating a lot of foods high in sugar and fats, like takeaways, but you have to treat yourself every once in a while!

~ Amy Roberts

I have high carb diet because I’m so busy with training and school work that I need to eat all the time! I try and eat little and often rather than having everything in one big go; it just keeps me going. When I am cycling full time, after my A Levels this summer, I will have more time to think about my diet and specific requirements to improve my performance. I try not to eat too many carbs so that I don’t put on weight though!

~ Elinor Barker

I think it’s very important to have a balanced diet and I try to do so by having a good balance of carbohydrate and protein. On long training rides I will use products from USN’s endurance range and post training a personal favourite of mine is the Protein Fuel 32 RTD (in particular the chocolate flavour!).

~ Ciara Horne

What kind of snacks and drinks do you find work well for you?

I love fruit and yogurts. Also homemade mixed berry smoothies are amazing!

~ Ciara Horne

After a track session I need something really salty to replace the salts I have lost through sweat. I generally like to have some salt and vinegar rice cake. I just tend to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables throughout the day to snack on!

~ Elinor Barker

I have only just started to use energy drinks at races, like USN Epic Pro All-in-One – in the past I’ve stuck to squash! It’s definitely good in hard races to have USN Vooma Gels to hand as well; they give you a bit more energy when you really need it! A big factor for me is the taste of the products, if they give me energy and taste good, they’re perfect!

~ Amy Roberts

How has being a part of the Olympic Development Programme helped your performance?

Massively! Going to things like Junior European Track Championships, which is tied in with the Under 23 Competition, is really good as you see how the older athletes prepare and perform. The first time I went to Junior Euros, Philip Hindes was there as an Under 23 and just over a year later he won Olympic gold in London! So it’s good to see how riders like that prepare for competition. It was a great opportunity to share experiences and learn from all the other riders and coaching team.

~ Elinor Barker

I have learnt so much from going to different races abroad and have the opportunity to experience major events such as World and European Championships. The training camps on the programme are also good as they push your body, so you get a hard work out from them but you also familiarise yourself with the environment and the sort of lifestyle that you could have as a professional bike rider – including everything from how to ride your bike and read a race, to how to recover in preparation for the next event.

~ Amy Roberts

What’s next for you all?

I want to represent Great Britain at the European Track Championships in the summer!

~ Amy Roberts

I’m having a bit of time where cycling isn’t my priority until about June. I’m going to focus on my A -levels and learn how to drive; just generally have a bit of a normal life! But I will still be training, hopefully six days a week and doing some races in Europe as well.

~ Elinor Barker

Above everything, I’d like to just carry on being consistent with my training and continue to learn and develop as a cyclist.

~ Ciara Horne

Their success as a team continues into 2013, with every event providing them with invaluable experience in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Follow Elinor Barker, Amy Roberts and Ciara Horne on Twitter to see how their careers are progressing.


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