Emma Pooley is contemplating the end of her career as she heads in the World Championships, starting this Sunday. It is a thought that has been on her mind since mid-season, thinking about her PhD studies and wondering what life will be like without two wheels.
The British rider races in the team time trial on Sunday, the individual time trial on Tuesday and, what could be her last race, the road race on Saturday, September 22. Afterwards, she is considering taking a year off – or maybe more.
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“I’ve been thinking that it’d almost be better for me, in terms of performance, if I took a year out. I have things that are worrying me on my mind, like my study, job issues…” Pooley said in a telephone interview with Cycling Weekly.
“I think once I did [come back] I’d be all right, but it’s just that I might take a year off and actually think that a real job is in many ways much easier!”
The 29-year-old is already in the Netherlands after recently winning the Tour de l’Ardèche. Despite the win, Pooley said she “hasn’t shown [to be] the strongest” this year. In 2010, she won the Worlds time trial title in Geelong, Australia, and was a silver medallist in the Beijing Olympics.
She considers women’s racing behind in comparison to men’s racing, mostly due to its treatment by the world’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). With several races cancelled, last month she took part in a week-long cyclo-sportive, the Haute Route, to prepare for the Worlds. She had fun, but it was not ideal preparation for one of the biggest events on the calendar.
However, the sportive seems to have given her time away from racing to contemplate life beyond cycling and her geotechnical PhD studies. It is something that a male rider at an equivalent level would not need to worry about due to greater attention and contracts.
“Physically, you don’t need to retire at 29 or 30 at all. It’s not that I’ve been racing for many years, and I’m tired or bored. I didn’t start racing until I was 22,” Pooley added. “It’s more that I’m concerned to have a bit of a plan for when I do finish racing.”
As she has been thinking about her future for the last months, she said that it is not distracting her from the Worlds. After racing in the team time trial with her AA Drink-Leontien.nl trade squad, she will line up in British colours for the individual time trial and road race.
“I’m not sure how [the course] compares to Geelong. It’s definitely tougher than the courses in London. I’m not going to say it suits me down to the ground and I’m going to win, because you never know until after the race. I wouldn’t put money on myself after the kind of year I’ve had… I’ll know after the time trial if I’m in good shape.”