Olympic gold medalist, Rebecca Romero, has told RoadCyclingUK that Great Britain’s track cycling squad will have received a huge boost to morale after topping the medal table at the test event for this summer’s Games in London.
She said the team would take ‘real confidence’ from a display at London’s new Olympic velodrome that brought five gold, one silver, and two bronze medals in front of a capacity crowd at the closing round of the UCI Track World Cup.
Romero, the reigning Olympic champion in the women’s individual pursuit, but who will not compete at the London Games after her event was dropped from the schedule and repeated injury forced her to abandon a challenge for the road time trial, said her former teammates would have gained in confidence after delivering impressive performances ahead of their planned peak for this summer’s Olympics in August.
“I’m on the outside, but I would imagine it’s a real morale booster and a real confidence boost and a real step in the right direction. If you look at Beijing, the performances six months before weren’t amazing. It was about peaking for the Games. It was only in the last few months that the performances started to ramp up. To be at the Olympic velodrome and put in those performances on the boards now is really promising and a really good sign. It will be a great morale booster and confidence builder going forwards,” she said.
Great Britain’s experienced athletes would help the team bare the weight of expectation placed upon them by success in Beijing, she added. “You have got some great, great athletes: great champions and known performers who will be able to handle it. The team has the experience of years gone by. Many of the athletes who have been on the team a long time have set the gold standard and will lift the youngsters coming through.”
The message from British Cycling’s performance director, Dave Brailsford, ahead to the World Cup was one designed to reduce expectation. Victoria Pendleton spoke of her dislike of competing before her scheduled peak, but won gold and set a new world record in the women’s team sprint with teammate, Jess Varnish.
Romero, who in 2008 became world champion in the individual and team pursuit events just months ahead of her Olympic triumph, said: “It’s really hard to manage pressure and expectation, especially when you have been there and done it. You think: ‘It’s not the big one, it doesn’t matter; it’s just one stepping stone towards the goal’. When you relax, and realise it’s part of the bigger picture, sometimes you can deliver your best performances.”
She admitted that she missed being part of the Great Britain team, but said the administrate changes that saw the individual pursuit event dropped to create an equal number of events for men and women were beyond her control. Past successes and future challenges would allow her to enjoy the London Games “like anyone else,” she added.
“I wish I was part of it. If the process in the last few years had gone as I would have hoped, I could have been part of it. It can’t always play into your hands every year. There have been a lot of changes to the Olympic programme and to the qualifying events, one after another. I have got no control over that. It plays into the hands of some, but not others. I have been very fortunate and had good things happen in my career,” said Romero.
“What’s happened has happened. I have just got to be positive and focus on other goals. There’s positives to not being part of it. I’m quite happy now finding other pathways and doing other things.”
On June 4, Romero will participate in the Great Manchester Cycle fun ride, before taking on a new competitive challenge at the Ironman UK triathlon – a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile cycle and a marathon run – in July. Her training for the event takes place in a busy schedule that involves studying for an MSc in sports and exercise nutrition at the University of Chester.
“I wanted to focus some training towards a goal. When I left the cycling team, I was in a good place training-wise and I wanted to work towards something. I’m now taking on a massive challenge learning two different disciplines in seven months. I don’t know if it will be possible. I hope so. It’s a personal challenge. It’s not a world standard. lf I can get to the start line in good shape and cross the finish line, that will almost be the equivalent of a gold medal! I feel I’m coming full circle as an athlete. It started off as fun, then it became my job, and now it’s for personal enjoyment,” she said.
On September 9, she will set off for John O’Groats from Lands End with fellow Olympic rowing medalist, James Cracknell, and hundreds of participants in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.
Romero has recently qualified with the Retul bike fitting company, which provides the motion capture analysis used by the Garmin Barracuda and Radioshack-Nissan-Trek WorldTour teams. She plans to offer this new skill in a portfolio of coaching and nutritional advice to clients from beyond the world of elite performance.
“I’m all about the every day person who is passionate about sport and training and new challenges. I come from that background: to get stuck in and have a go. So many people have that great passion and want to know how they can perform better. I’m about encouraging the every day person to achieve their dreams or just have a go and see what might happen,” she said.