Pedal to the medal

Jonathan Gravelle - BBC Blast Reporter

BBC Blast reporter, Jonathan Gravelle, reflects on British cycling's Olympic success and talks to Team GB's hopes for the future.

Please be aware that this article was published in 2008 and focuses on the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games

In years to come, people may say we've entered a golden age of cycling but the next generation is as important as the last. Jonathan visited the Newport Velodrome to speak to some of the riders hoping to make their names in London in 2012.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Britain's riders were in terrific form, picking up 14 medal positions in both track and road.

Nicole Cooke showed her determination, digging deep to win gold in the women's road race. Bradley Wiggins' victory in the individual pursuit showed equal measures of precision and concentration, going on to break a world record in the team pursuit just added to the sweetness of victory.

Rebecca Romero's switch from boats to bikes definitely paid off, she won a silver medal as a rower in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games but upgraded to gold in the individual pursuit in Beijing. Vicky Pendleton very nearly won three gold medals but has had to settle for a more than impressive two.

Last but not least, Chris Hoy for Superman? The 32-year-old Scot is the first Briton in 100 years to win a golden hat trick in the Olympics and a true inspiration to today's youth.

So who can we look out for in the years leading up to the next Olympic games?

Alex Greenfield

Alex Greenfield

The 17-year-old from Barry in South Wales has been cycling since she was eight. When the torch comes to London in 2012, she'll be 21 and she's already showing a taste for victory.

In her Team GB debut in 2007, she won the points race at the National Junior Scratch Championships and won at the European Track Championships as well. Jonathan asked her what she enjoys most about the sport.

"On the track I just love racing hard and sometimes it's good to feel your legs burning; it's almost a nice feeling. I really just enjoy cycling in general. I tried other sports in school but I don't get the same thrill as I do from riding."

Alex doesn't have to look far for strong influences and role models. She was particularly inspired by Nicole Cooke's recent performance.

"She's an inspiration to me because she's from this area and she's just got a gold medal. I don't think I'd make it on the road because I'm not a strong rider like her, but if I could go to the London Olympics and try the points race then maybe I could get a medal in that. I mean, Britain has gone out and gotten so many gold medals, you can't help but be inspired by that!"

Jonathan asked Alex if she thought more people should get involved in cycling as a sport.

"I think they should. From these Olympics I think you'll notice a lot more people getting involved as they're inspired by what they've seen. We need more people because the more you have, the better we'll be. More competition makes riders faster and better."

Simon Cope, coach

Getting more young people involved in cycling is the job of British Cycling and the Olympic Development Programme, but ODP Coach Simon Cope knows that there's a major stumbling block ahead.

"We desperately need more girls in the sport. We've got a good crop at the moment, and behind these there are good riders coming up, but, unfortunately, not in the quantity that we really need. I mean if someone were to get injured or ill, then we're going to be left thin on the ground.

"I suppose one of the problems is that women's cycling doesn't have the same sort of following as the men's. Lads can watch all the big races like the Tour de France on the TV, girls haven't got that. They can't watch the top female cyclists competing."

Joanna Rowsell

Joanna Rowsell

With this in mind, you may or may not be surprised to learn that one of Britain's most promising cyclists has only been cycling competitively since 2004. Joanna Rowsell began cycling when the British cycling 'talent team' visited her school in London in the summer of 2003. After a series of tests, she officially joined the team in 2004 and hasn't looked back.

"I didn't know whether I'd enjoy it I just thought I'd give it a go. The first year was really hard, because I was a beginner but I kept going and I got better. Then I realised I was really enjoying it and was actually good at it. After that, the harder I worked the more I enjoyed it because I could see my improvement."

Such determination was sure to bring its rewards as she advanced to the Under 23's academy. In 2008, all of the hard work paid off as she and her team-mates came first in the team pursuit at the World Championships in Manchester. Joanna is surely one to watch in London, though not in her favourite event.

"My favourite event is the team pursuit, but that isn't an Olympic event for women, it's only an Olympic event for men. I won the world title in it in March 2008 so that's my favourite event. Out of the Olympic events, the only one I do is the individual pursuit, which Rebecca Romero has just won in Beijing so that's a high target to achieve."

Luc Jones

In the men's events, one of the names that stand out is Luc Jones. The 16-year-old sprint cyclist is an eight times schoolboy champion and is currently number one in Wales for his age group. This has subsequently led to his being named a member of the development squad for the London Olympics.

"People have told me I'm good enough, and I know in myself I'm good enough without being big-headed. I'm not saying I'm going to win in London, because I'll only be 20. I think I'll do ok, but I've got to be determined."

It's obvious that Luc isn't short of confidence, but he's not without the ability to back it up either. He says he prefers to play a tactical game in sprints rather than go for out-and-out power.

The future...

A cyclist at the World Track Championships 2008

The Beijing Olympic Games have been the most successful for Great Britain since 1908 and expectations will be very high when London hosts the event in 2012.

Our next batch of cyclists have already shown that they are willing to sacrifice their free time to commit to their sport. They are already deep in preparation so that, when their time comes, hopefully they will perform as admirably as those before them. We will be no less proud!

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