Interview: Joanna Rowsell, eye on the prize

Joanna Rowsell raced with the Breast Cancer Care Team as a guest rider at Gent Wevelgem a couple of weeks ago. Paul Burgoine was lucky enough to get an interview with Jo.

Rowsell, best known for her success on the track, can now be seen battling the elements across Europe’s roads. Image by Paul Burgoine.

Most people would be surprised to see Olympic champion Joanna Rowsell applying her trade on the cobbles and farm tracks of Flanders, but due to the early finish this year of the World Track Championships the chance arose, unluckily for Jo this has been the worse spring weather we have experienced for years.

What impact do you think the Olympic legacy has had in women’s cycling, if any?
I think it has had a really big impact bringing women’s cycling to a wider audience. On the track we are already racing the same time as the men, but not in road racing. At the Olympics with Lizzie Armitstead being in the break and going up for a medal, a lot of people I spoke to said it was more exciting than the men’s race. That was very important for women’s road racing, I think this put it into the spotlight a lot more than it was before and there are a lot more people interested, certainly there are more women out there riding bikes by the sound of things and people are getting excited about women’s cycling so that’s great.

Always challenging herself, Jo has her sights set on what she can achieve at Rio 2016. Image by Paul Burgoine.

What do you think can be done now to move women’s cycling forward in the UK?
I think what’s been done already in the Tour Series having it alongside the men’s series and even getting some TV coverage, not for very long though but even getting on the same program is a start. I would like to see more women’s races alongside some Premier Calendar races like maybe the Lincoln GP, on the same course as the men and the same day I think that could be quite exciting for women but you don’t want to take away events from people that have been organising very successful races for years I think a mixture of the two would be a good idea.

If you run women’s races alongside the men’s do you not think it distracts the attention away from the women’s race?
From my experience I think it’s good because if you just had a women’s race you would get smaller crowds, whereas if people come to see the men and catch the women’s race they might think “wow this is quite good” so personally I think it’s a good thing.

Joanna battles the elements at Gent Wevelgem. Image by Paul Burgoine.

What are your immediate race plans?
I have got a block of time trail races and I am going to Manchester for a couple of weeks to compete in some time trails up there. Then I’m going back out to Belgium for Fleche Wallone and in May another Belgium race with my Wiggle-Honda Team, then with a bit of luck going out to Canada to do some races. Then obviously the Nationals in June this year.

With the Commonwealth Games coming up have you already been thinking about them?
I am not training specifically for it, obviously I will be doing this road season ending in Italy at the World Championships Team Time Trial in September then I go straight into the track season that finishes in March at the World Championships so I plan to have a little break after that, then train hard for the Commonwealth Games, that’s the plan but I’ve not detailed it.

Do the Commonwealth games follow the same format as the Olympics?
Not as far as I know, on the track for women we have individual pursuit, point’s race and scratch race so completely different. I’m hoping to do the individual pursuit that’s my favourite out of those, there’s no team pursuit.

Can you even start to think about Rio yet?
Absolutely, I like to have a long term goal anyway especially if things aren’t going to well or your having a bad week on the bike, it’s all miles in the legs for the bigger goal, so I always like having something like that to think about, and I think you need to think long term if you want to win certainly this time four years ago we were well into the planning for London.

What are your main aims for this season?
I want to have a good crack at time trailing so the Nationals will be a good test to see how I compare to the other girls in the UK and hopefully ride some UCI time trails if I can get some entries and if my team can take me there.

Are there many UCI time trials?
There are not many over the calendar, there is the one in Canada I mentioned earlier and one in Ireland in June the weekend before the National road race and there’s a big one in September called the Crono so there are a few on the calendar it would be good to race the international ones to see how I compare because at present I don’t know where I would stand I never race individual time trails on the road so I don’t know if I would be up there or way down.

For more information on Joanna Rowsell, visit her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


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