TalkingShop: Laura Trott – Team Pursuit Comes First

When it comes to young riders racing the London Olympics, they don’t come any more special than Laura Trott. At 19, Laura is part of a cycling family and has been racing the track a stone’s throw from London for well over a decade.

Laura is already a World Champion in the Team Pursuit (Women) and is unsurprisingly the youngest in the team having only just come out of the junior ranks. But, as the saying goes, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough to race against the best in the World. That of course didn’t apply to a young Nicole Cooke who was not selected for the Sydney Games but Laura certainly looks like being part of the British team in London this August.

Laura is part of the Women’s Track Endurance team which has four riders earmarked to ride the Games; Dani King, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Wendy Houvenaghel. Laura’s event, the Team Pursuit, requires three riders and it may be that all four will go to the Games with one doing the Omnium and part of the Team Pursuit and the other three the Team Pursuit only. Or, maybe three will go and a reserve will come in from the road team. The selection of who goes and who doesn’t though is something for the future.

This time last year, Laura was leading the Under 23 Academy Team to 5th place. A month or so later, she, along with Dani King who is pictured behind her here, were World Champions.

Next month is the London World Cup, one that will in all probability have the Olympic team in it. After all, the GB Cycling team will only have one more competition after that before the Olympics; the World Track Championships in Melbourne, Australia which makes the London World Cup quite an important event in the run up to the Games.

Laura right now though is currently in Majorca far from London on the road, not a discipline she enjoys. Prior to leaving she made that clear by saying “I’m not looking forward to it, I can’t climb hills!” Laura, I will add, is the Under 23 British Road Race champion so although she may not enjoy it, she is certainly a very talented rider on the road.

When we spoke last week, Laura explained how she’d had a really good Christmas, made all the more special because it had been so long since she had seen her family down in Hertfordshire including her talented sister Emma who is based abroad.

Laura went on to say that the London World Cup is her next big target. “At the moment, I am working on building up my strength which is why we’re going to Majorca. It’s about building a base right now.”

That has meant mixing the track work with road riding until she left for Majorca. Part of that road riding was during the period Britain was buffeted by strong winds. But, being such a big year, there was no getting out of the training despite simple things like turning a corner on two wheels being made almost impossible.

Laura at the European Road Championships two years ago. She may not ‘like’ the road but Laura is capable of doing great things on that too.

Many will relate to her experience as she says “I nearly got blown into the hedge!” But no job is ever perfect and while she’ll admit to living the dream, having to put up with such tasks comes with the territory. Asked why the road work was important, Laura says “it’s about building up our strength while keeping the speed in there. The team pursuit is about going fast and they want us to be strong and fast so we do both track and road training”.

Laura explained that there hasn’t been a lot of drills in team formation on the track because the individual riders needed to do specific efforts to build up their own strength which they can then take into the team efforts that will come in the period leading up to London. The process of training was about breaking the event down and working on the various demands for each rider. The start, the speed and so on.

Then there were four …
The four remaining girls in the team (women’s endurance, track) is a far cry from the days when there were a dozen or so training to be part of the Team Pursuit. After Sarah Storey was released from the team after the World Cup in Columbia despite being part of the Gold medal winning team, Laura explained that all she worries about is being the best she can be.

“I am definitely more confident than I was a year ago about my chances for London. This time last year, there were twelve of us going for three or four spaces. At least I know I will be training with everyone from now on and a lot can happen in eight months. I’m not taking it for granted”.

All four of the girls competing to be part of the three on the track in the Team Pursuit get along well despite the incomprehensible competition for places and morale is said to be very high. While only three may compete at the one time, all four may be needed for the competition with the Olympic Team Pursuit over three rounds: Wednesday, 3rd of August, Qualifying and then Thursday, 4th of August, Round 1 and the Finals.

That means the team may decide to use all four of the squad should they be able to have that luxury when the number of riders allowed to be selected for a single nation for the track competition is so tight for the major countries. GB though certainly don’t have to worry about a clash of events within the Olympics as the Omnium for Women, for which Laura is a favourite to ride, doesn’t begin until the 6th of August. This gives the Team Pursuit rider a day’s rest should they also ride the Omnium. That may well though give the team a good excuse to only go with three, two dedicated Team Pursuit riders and a third who will do both events. That is one scenario I would not be surprised to see.

Laura is also one the of the World’s best in the Omnium where she swaps the upright bike here for the ‘time trial’ for the pursuit and 500 metre events against the watch.

Whether the team use three or four riders, Laura has a good chance if selected for the Games of getting a ride in both the Team Pursuit and Omnium. Will it be a medal winning ride (final)? That will be up to Laura who knows all she can do is be the best she can be. The key selector will be the watch and the fastest threesome are the ones who will go into battle for a medal should they get that far of course. There is so much for the team selectors to take into account, splits, delivery speed, pace management, a rider’s effect on the other three, gearing and so on.

But, if history is anything to go by, Laura is certainly in with a strong chance of representing GB. Not only did she win a World title in Holland last year in the Team Pursuit, she has shown time and time again how good she is in the Omnium and when a team has to be heavy handed in cutting numbers from squads (women’s endurance, men’s endurance, women’s sprint and men’s sprint), a rider capable of doing two or more events will be at an advantage.

Laura’s last racing outing was in Columbia where despite going into it with little notice or preparation, she not only won Gold in the Team Pursuit with Wendy Houvenaghel and Sarah Storey but also a Bronze in the Women’s Omnium.

“I went a lot better than I expected” Laura says of that World Cup. “We were training the week before on the track and I was thinking god, I’m going to go terrible; I really wasn’t looking forward to it. I didn’t feel I had done a lot for it so I was surprised at how well I went and I was happy with my riding too.”

Despite being such a natural at the Omnium and only really lacking experience in the bunch races because of her age, races I might add she has also won anyway, Laura admits everything is for the Team Pursuit. Being World Champion in that event she says, hasn’t changed her life outside of being more known to the media.

Laura adds that her school has always been a great supporter as has her local paper. Being from just outside the M25, that car park of a motorway that circles London, Laura has a lot of support ahead of the London World Cup and is regarded pretty much a ‘local’.

2003 — Laura (in Welwyn Wheelers colours) has certainly grown up to be a great bike rider since she was setting records before she was even a teenager…

“I’m really looking forward to the London World Cup if I get selected. It’s going to be great and it will be like home as I live just twenty minutes on the train from the track.”

Once the World Cup in London is done and dusted, it’s the road for Laura and that means racing abroad with a foreign Women’s team with a rider from up the road (Northamptonshire), Hannah Barnes. The track is where it’s at for Laura and if she could, she’d prefer to race the road here in Britain but she explains that she needs the ‘strength’ gained from racing hard and she says she only gets that racing on the road abroad.”

How life has changed for the young lady. From local coaching at Welwyn setting her on the right path to the little bit of coaching she got in the talent team and then more and more specialised coaching as he rose up through the various GB programmes. Laura admits that she’s living the dream!

At the time we spoke, Laura had done her ride on the road in the morning in the wind and cold and was then baking rice cakes for the other girls in the team. She was certainly one happy young lady and says that for any young girls reading this, the hard work required to get where she is was definitely worth it. If they have the talent, don’t waste it would be the advice!

“Not many people can say they have a job they enjoy” Laura says. “I ride the bike and then the rest of the time is my own.” Of course, there is always two sides to it and I expect the racing abroad will be tough for Laura just as it was for her coach Paul Manning when he had to leave his wife here in England and go abroad to race with a Belgian team. But Laura knows the prize of an Olympic medal is worth the sacrifice. A once in a lifetime chance and the young Hertfordshire rider is pursing it for all she is worth.

Good luck to Laura in Majorca and in the weeks leading up to the London World Cup which for the riders will be such a special experience and none more than for Laura and her family.

2012 London Olympics

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