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Emma Pooley is back to Tri...
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Thursday 30th May 2013


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This weekend will see the return to triathlon of a British World Time Trial Champion and Olympic Games Silver Medallist at the BMC Ironman 70.3 Switzerland. For much of the last decade Emma Pooley has been one of Great Britain's finest road cyclists, winning stages and overall honours in some of the biggest races in cycling, including Gold and Bronze medals in the Time Trial World Championships plus that Beijing Olympic Games Silver. Sixth last year in the London 2012 Olympics, Emma is going to mix her cycling commitments with triathlon this year - and she has the pedigree to, potentially, do very well.

Before switching to professional cycling, Emma was an Age Group World Champion (20-24) in Duathlon (Geel, 2004) and won several British Age Group Championship medals - and last year ran a sub-three hour marathon. With news that the Ironman 70.3 Switzerland has a cancelled swim and will be held as a Duathlon this weekend, the Swiss-based Brit could prove to be a name to look out for in the Age Group ranks. It will certainly be interesting how her she fares against the Pro field.


It's good to speak to you Emma – and particularly interesting news that you are going to returning to your multisport roots this year. Why now?

This felt like a good year to try something a bit different and have a bit of fun! I've really missed being able / allowed to run in the cycling season the last few years. Maybe triathlon is just my excuse ;-)

The whole country went on a wave of euphoria with London 2012, but your personal disappointment at finishing sixth (having taken silver in Beijing and been a World Champion in the discipline), was clear for anyone who saw you at the finish line that day. Did that hurt last for a long time – perhaps is still there?

Emma PooleyYes, to be honest my result in the TT in London still hurts. The Olympics is as important as it gets, and only comes round every four years, so you don't get many shots at it. I know I should be grateful for even being able to take part at all, and I am! And with hindsight, I'm more philosophical about that race because I know I did my best. But I'd dared to dream I might do better, and that's why I was so disappointed.

Do you still have cycle-specific plans and racing goals for 2013 too? Despite the overall ‘up' of cycling generally in terms of media coverage and awareness, ladies road cycling does seem to be the area in something of transition status currently – some teams folding, some new additions like Wiggle-Honda – but generally not even close to the same level of parity that for example exists in track cycling. Does triathlon in a way give you an outlet where – generally – that isn't the case, and perhaps something fresh to look forward too?

I'm still doing quite a lot of cycling races this year - I'm with a small Swiss team called Bigla, which does a mixture of local races out here and international races in continental Europe. I wanted to keep my hand (or legs?!) in, if you see what I mean. Surprisingly I've even already had a couple of good results, which was nice! But you're right, the situation of women's cycling is not that great when you look at the stability and viability of teams and races, and I do get pretty frustrated about it. Triathlon is very attractive to me because of the greater parity between men and women. Try to imagine a Kona Ironman these days without a women's race... because, apparently, us women are nowhere near strong enough to finish a race like that. Well, there's no women's Tour de France. It would be unimaginable in most sports these days!

Most people will have seen now that the Swissman Xtreme Triathlon is one of your targets. That is, to put it mildy, an exceptionally tough challenge… did you think about doing something easier?!

Nope! .... well, I knew I wanted to try to do an Ironman this year. I was going to enter Nice, but it filled up before I got round to it. Then I heard about the Swissman race and it seemed like the perfect thing. I love mountains - I really think, the more mountainous the bike, the better for me. I'm not sure how I'll cope with the run. At least the swim isn't uphill!

While you have been ‘out' of triathlon for seven or eight years, you've still I believe had quite a few strong connections with the sport, both coaching wise and academically, can you tell us a little more about that – and, importantly… is that PhD. Finished yet?!!

Emma PooleyIndeed, my PhD supervisor happens to be Professor Sarah Springman. It's been a very happy coincidence for me because she's been hugely supportive as I've tried to combine the PhD with cycling. I really don't think I'd have been able to go to the Olympics, or race at anything like the level I have, with anyone else as my boss. But no, the PhD isn't finished yet. Bit of a sore point, let's move on... I should be in the office instead of doing this interview... just as I should've been in the office instead of running at six this morning, and instead of spending most of the rest of the day at a road race in the sleet...!

Outside of the Swissman event and, I believe, the 70.3 in Switzerland, do you have any other particular triathlon goals / objectives events for the rest of 2013?

The Rapperswil 70.3 and the Swissman Xtreme seemed like plenty to start with. I wanted to stay local as much as possible...  I like racing in Swiss mountains! I can't really justify the travel and expense to go a long way for a triathlon, as I'll probably be rubbish.

Looking beyond this year, is there any desire / thoughts of focussing completely on triathlon, or do you see a good fit between professional cycling and triathlon. Another World TT Champ, Karin Thürig, did pretty well balancing the two? I read that you did a sub-three marathon last year on a pretty tough course / conditions, so you must be in  a pretty good position to be competitive across the three disciplines?!

If only I were good enough in triathlon to focus on that, I'd love to... but it's unlikely. I'd say I'm an ok (but passionate!) steady runner, no speed so the longer the better. And I prefer running in mud (I was always better at cross country, and a disaster on the track) - maybe I should try the Xterra races! I've been working really hard on my swim with a coach out here, Micky Tronsch, and I think I've improved a lot, but it will still be my weakness. Combining triathlon and cycling is tricky. Cycling commits you to a team and to a whole race programme with a lot of travel and a lot of race days. It's very difficult to keep up the swim and run training when you're away at stage races, and to focus on a few events a year that are important to you. You have to find a team that's willing to be very accommodating and accept that sometimes you won't be at your best on the bike. I'll see how it goes this year.

One of your training partners and friends is Lucy Gossage. One of Lucy's medium term goals is qualifying for an racing Kona 2014… any thoughts that such a plan might fit well with Emma Pooley too?! (If not, I beat she'll start sowing that seed sooner rather than later!)

I got to know Lucy last winter when we were both on a swim training camp, getting thrashed by a load of juniors - ouch! She's so impressive, a real inspiration to me - not just her achievements in triathlon, but also her attitude and the fact that she seems to manage to make real progress on her PhD alongside training. But I doubt I can come anywhere near her level in triathlon, so I'll keep her as a friend, training buddy, and role model whilst trying to resist over-reaching myself ;-) If I thought I were good enough, I'd love to race Kona one day. But it'd be a while off. Another few hundred kilometres of swim training at least...

Anything else we should know at this stage?!

I'm glad that my cycling team along with the team's sponsors (Bigla Office and BMC) were happy to agree to my doing some triathlon this year. I'm also really lucky to have the support of some personal sponsors. Firstly X-Bionic clothing which I'm really excited about, it's such unbelievable quality. Also I've started using On running shoes which I love. And last but far from least, I've been using Rotor Q-Rings for FOUR years and I love them, and I don't plan to go back to round rings again!


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