Two weeks ago was the Track Cycling World Championships. I raced two events: the team pursuit and the omnium. In the team pursuit we (me, Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker and Eleanor Dickinson) were second to Australia.
A silver medal, a wonderful thing! Just two tenths away from gold! Unfortunately, though, we were two seconds away from the ‘dress rehearsal’ efforts we’d done in training the week before (in worse conditions).
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What happened next was Laura withdrew from the omnium (with illness) and I was subbed in as the reserve. For some reason, I was not at all nervous. Which isn’t like me.
On race day I usually start physically shaking at breakfast time, am ready to vomit that breakfast on entering the velodrome and feel so hot with nerves I want to rip my own skin off as I approach the start line.
For this race, though, since the opportunity had come at the last minute and all that was expected was I give it my best shot, why should I be nervous? I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
By the end of the day I’d lost quite a lot. Speaking literally, I lost the omnium (I was seventh). Speaking figuratively, I lost the trust my team and coach had in me to perform in that event.
Speaking with a lump in my throat and a pain in my chest remembering what it was like to be told this, I lost my chance to defend mine and Emily Nelson’s Madison world title the next day.
I was officially withdrawn because of concussion from a crash in the omnium, though my chances of retaining selection had already slimmed before I’d seen the doctor. I took it pretty badly.
In 2017 I became world omnium champion. I lay awake that night thinking to myself, this will change my life forever, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
This year, in 2019, I lay awake all night again thinking to myself, this will change my life forever, and even when I got up the next day I couldn’t stop the tears. I was wrong in 2017, and I’m wrong again now. But it’s going to take me a few days to believe it.