Interview: Emily Nelson (World Madison Champion)

Next week, the World Track Championships are held in Poland and part of the GB team is the defending World Madison champion, Emily Nelson who is now part of the RST/Cycle Division team as well

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Interview: Emily Nelson (World Madison Champion)

A new face in the RST/Cycle Division team is a World Champion no less, Emily Nelson who won the rainbow stripes in the Madison in 2018 with Katie Archibald. Emily was at a get together of the team recently in Barton Under Needwood and the Cycle Division shop there. It was there that VeloUK got to speak to her.

Emily with her rainbow stripes, a great role model for the young team in the RST/Cycle Division colours

Emily explained how her presence in the team is down to her sister Josie who rode so well for the team during the Cyclo-Cross season with many a first on the junior podium as well as podiums in the overall women’s races. Emily meanwhile has her focus set on the Tokyo Olympics and explained how she didn’t want to get fatigued travelling around going to road races in 2019 and so joining RST/Cycle Division and helping the young riders there was a perfect fit.

“I need to be able to do what I need to do to make the team for the Olympics and not be in a team where I am being told what to do and have to travel to events. I will be doing some of the national races this year as I really enjoy the road but I need to focus on the Olympics which is not far away now.”

Asked what the competition is like for places in the Great Britain team at major events, even for a World Champion like Emily, she replies “everyone is constantly fighting for a place and there are eight of us on the podium programme at the moment and then there are riders like Jess Roberts (British Women’s Road Race Champion) who’s on the Academy programme. So there are a lot of us fighting for maybe five spaces at the Olympics.”

At the forthcoming World Championships in Poland, Emily is one of six riders selected for the Great Britain team (Women’s Endurance) and when asked how it’s felt having the rainbow stripes on her back, Emily replied “because of injury in the last 12 months, I’ve only raced one World Cup, one Madison at World level and I raced with Laura (Kenny) so I haven’t raced with Katie in the stripes since we won which is a bit frustrating.”

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Asked what it is like to ride with Katie who is a World and Olympic champion and quite simply, one of the best on the track in the World, Emily replied “Katie is so strong and one of those riders you look up to. She is like the role model of the group since Laura took time out to have a baby and Katie stepped up looking after us like a team leader.”

With the endurance events at the Olympics being so few since the big cull a decade a or so ago, the Olympics has been dominated by Omnium and Team Pursuit but in 2020, the Madison returns for the men and will also be held for the women too, the very same event that Emily is World champion in and was Silver medallist with Elinor Barker the year before.

But Emily has also seen success in the Team Pursuit so I asked does she have a favourite event? “Team Pursuit is what got me into track racing I guess and I really love the Team Pursuit but I also really love the Madison so those two events are my focus looking forward to the Olympics.”

The Women’s Madison at the Olympics will be the first time that event has been part of the Olympiad and Emily agreed that it would be quite something to be part of a history making event there. “I did the first ever Madison World title and the first in the Europeans as well so it would be quite nice to do the first ever Olympic event as well and to win it would be even better!”

A team of riders of all ages but the emphasis on helping young riders

Having the rainbow stripes is a long way from her beginning with GB which was with the Talent Team (second year Under 16) in 2012 and since then Emily has worked her way through the various programmes in GB to make it to the highest level and be part of the podium programme. During that time, she’s worked with former riders turned coaches who themselves have worn the rainbow stripes. Riders like Chris Newton who Emily worked with on the Academy and now Paul Manning when she became part of the podium programme.

Looking ahead to the Worlds and the races she may do, Emily says she doesn’t yet know which ones she will be part of and that includes the one she is defending champion in, the Madison. “The thing with the Madison is we (GB) have done four World Cups and won three of them and got a silver medal and all with different pairings so there are five of us going for the two spots and everyone of them has a medal at a World event so it is going to be quite tight making that cut”.

Looking at the two events Emily is going to be concentrating on, the Team Pursuit and the Madison; one four kilometres, the other 30 kilometres, I asked her about the differences training for them?

“The training we do for the Team Pursuit crosses over to the Madison. I didn’t train specifically for bunch races last year, concentrating on the Team Pursuit, but my fitness crossed over so I could back it up in the Madison event. We have also been in Portugal twice since the start of the year on training camps there mainly doing miles for the endurance too.”

Emily gets a new bike to keep (unlike GB team bikes) from Cycle Division thanks to former An Post pro Kieran Frend and one of the fastest people on two wheels in the world, former Elite cyclist and British champion motor cyclist, Jonny Towers

As Emily mentioned, her year since becoming World Champion has been blighted by injury and when asked about that, she explained it’s been a lingering back injury which affected her Commonwealth Games and there came a point when she rested for three months and worked hard instead at strengthening the back.

“I had a bit of time off, started racing again and then went back to having more time off so I missed the Europeans. During the block of time off, I was doing rehab and strengthening so it wasn’t like I just rested for two months. I was working hard and surprisingly the injury’s not come back. At the time, I was stressed with it a lot but I also knew there was a long time before the World Championships and with my ultimate goal being the Olympics, it didn’t really matter if I didn’t make these Worlds because we’re just training for the Olympics anyway.”

Finally, I had to ask about her sisters Josie and Lucy who joined Emily on the track at Manchester in the Team Pursuit along with Alice Towers. Emily explained that it was her and her brother who got into cycling first and then Josie and Lucy followed.

“They started riding because my brother and I started to race. I remember Josie waiting and waiting until she was old enough to get onto the track when she was really young (single figures) so she was super young when she got into it and then she went to the off road. She enjoys the track though and is good enough to ride it as well.”

Emily in the stripes which due to injury, she hasn’t had the chance to wear a lot in the past 12 months. Fingers crossed she gets the chance to bring them back to Manchester  for the six day there.

The other Nelson sister, Lucy who rode the Team Pursuit with Emily and Josie along with Alice Towers was also racing before she suffered an injury which took her out of the sport for a long time and although she rode the Team Pursuit in Manchester in January, her focus is now university.

“As a kid, we joked about doing the Team Pursuit together and then we got the chance to do that last month which was quite nice.”

For Emily though, her focus now is the Worlds which is less than a week away. The track racing then continues in Hong Kong and Manchester at the six day events there as Emily continues to work on qualifying points for the Olympics in Tokyo.

Thank you to Emily for speaking to us and we wish her lots of luck in Poland at the World Championships and the races that follow.







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