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).
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I was officially withdrawn because of concussion from a crash in the omnium, though my chances of retaining selection had already slimmed before I’d seen the doctor.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.