When Laura Trott took omnium gold and silver medals in the points race and individual pursuit at the recent World Junior Track Championships in Italy, it was the latest and loftiest confirmation of a sparkling natural talent.
The 18 year old hasn't exactly come from the shadows: her mantelpiece is already cluttered with trophies, underlining her versatile ability. She has beaten the women's Tour of Flanders winner in a senior kermesse, been a European junior track champion and a national junior road, time trial, track and derny champion.
Level-headed and ultra-competitive, Trott is now aiming to transfer junior ability into senior success. The teenager will be the youngest cyclist in England's Commonwealth Games team and has her sights set on a place in the omnium at London 2012.
Cycling Weekly spoke to Trott during the 2010 junior track national championships.
CW: Firstly, how is everything going at the junior Nationals?
LT: My glands are swollen, I'm run down. I just won the 500 metres, beating Vicky Williamson by 0.2 of a second; it was pretty close. It's my second gold medal of the championships.
Have your World Championship results sunk in yet?
LT: Everyone at the track has been making it more real, congratulating me. I've brought my medal and rainbow jersey with me [to Newport] this week because everyone wanted to see them, but when I go home, they're getting framed.
How did you cope with nerves and pressure during the racing?
LT: My coach Darren Tudor helped me loads; he knows how nervous I get. It's more that I stress about things more than anything else. Before the 500m time trial, I was like, "What if I don't start fast enough?" But he said, "Laura, you know how to ride a 500," talked me through it and I stopped worrying.
Did it help that you only found out you'd be racing the omnium and points race a day before the championships started?
LT: Yes, otherwise I'd have been an absolute nervous wreck. But the silver in the points race was an unexpected plus, because I hadn't done a points race since the Nationals last year. Medalling in the individual was the one I was most worried about; by the omnium, I was barely nervous.
How did you start out in cycling?
LT: It was on the track at Welwyn 10 years ago. Emma and I used to swim, and my mum wanted to lose weight. She lost eight stone in 18 months, and it was all down to cycling. These people at our swimming group said, "Why don't you come down to Welwyn?" We went down there and that was it, Emma and I loved it from then on. Even now, I couldn't be without it. [Fellow ODP rider] Harriet Owen and I were talking about it in Italy - what would you do if you didn't cycle? I'd be so bored - there'd be nothing to do.
What is it like having an older sister [Emma, Academy rider] also riding for Great Britain?
LT: It's good, especially now. When we were younger, she used to hate it when I did well. I've always been fast whereas Emma always had to really train - it happened naturally for me. Now, we target different things, succeeding in what we want to succeed in. Emma's experienced what I've experienced, so I can talk to her about anything.
You've fared well in road races, time trials, kermesses and on the track. Where are you best suited?
LT: I think I'm definitely a track omnium rider. I'm good at time trials but not outstanding. There's still girls that can beat me in an omnium, but I'm closer to them than I am in a time trial
or a road race. When the pace is high, I've got that kick; you can't train it. That's why I'll be
an omnium rider.
Over the next five years, is that what you'll be aiming for - track over road?
LT: I've got to go on the road for strength, but I don't think I'll go to road Worlds - I don't even reckon I'll do the road time trial any more. I think it will just be me focusing on the track. My big goal is obviously to be Olympic champion.
You've told us before that racing at London 2012 would be a dream come true. Do you think that you can better Lizzie Armitstead, your likely rival for the omnium spot?
LT: It would be great; I'd rather only wait two years than six! I'm going to be riding track World Cups next year, so they're going to compare the two of us there, and put our results together. I've just got to focus on the longer distances now; the junior distances are shorter than the senior World and Olympic ones. I've got to get stronger to be able to compete, and then think about how I can win them.
How do you cope with the recovery needed for the omnium?
LT: It's harder than in a stage race - you've barely got any time between them. I had a really bad scratch race, I only came eighth, and couldn't stop thinking about it. Mentally, it's harder; whether you've done well or not, you've got to put it behind you and focus on the next one.
How has it been for you juggling schoolwork and training?
LT: I did a BTEC and A Level photography, which are all coursework. I got it all done by December last year, so since January I've been a full-time bike rider. My results were two distinctions in my BTEC [equivalent to an A] and a C. They came out after the Worlds and my dad was like, "Who cares? You're a world champion!"
What are your plans for the autumn?
LT: I've got a little break after the Nationals, then it's the senior Nationals and the Commonwealth Games, where I should peak again. I'll be there on the track, Emma on the road. I've got to put my world title behind me and focus now on being a senior. It's come to me quicker than I expected.
You've raced - and won - kermesses against senior pros in Belgium, and you teamed up with Nicole Cooke and the GB squad at the Gracia-Orlova stage race. What differences have you noticed?
LT: Seniors aren't afraid to let people go; it'll go and then come back. I've seen the difference
a lot at junior Nationals this week. In the scratch race, I was trying to get away, and everyone chases. It was me doing an individual pursuit against a 15-strong team pursuit!
Where does your motivation come from?
LT: I want to win, I hate not winning. I'll give everything. This sounds disgusting, but after the individual pursuit at Nationals, I threw up. In the Worlds omnium, I had a massive migraine - I thought I was going to pass out. Winning is what motivates me - the feeling at the end, that you're actually the best.
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