Emma Pooley returns to cycling for Rio 2016

If you, like me, have been wondering who on earth British Cycling would get to race the ITT at the Rio Olympics, look what I just got in my inbox – a press release from Emma Pooley!


Multi-sport athlete and current long distance duathlon World Champion Emma Pooley is hoping to return to the British Cycling team for the Rio Olympics, whilst continuing her rise to success in long-distance triathlon and duathlon.

Pooley is one of Great Britain’s most respected and successful road cyclists of the past decade, winning the UCI time trial world championship as well as 5 further medals at Olympic, World Championship and Commonwealth level. She retired from cycling aged 31 in August 2014, after achieving Commonwealth silver in both the road race and time trial in Glasgow. Turning her attentions to triathlon and endurance events, just one month later Emma won the Zofingen Powerman long-course duathlon world championships, breaking the course record by 16 minutes.

Since then she’s added Alpe d’Huez, Embrunman and Zofingen again to her list of endurance victories.

“Looking back on 2015, I can honestly say I’m delighted with how my first full season of triathlon and multi-sport has gone. I am full of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had: some amazing races in beautiful locations, memorable experiences, and meeting some wonderful people.”


Pooley’s career in professional cycling spanned nine years, with Olympic success at the Beijing Games in 2008, winning silver in the time trial. Mention the words climb or hills and Emma’s eyes immediately light up, which leads to her latest challenge – to return to the British Cycling Team and win time trial gold in Rio.

“2016 is looming, and it’s an Olympic year. Because of the impressively hilly nature of the time trial course in Rio, this is a truly rare opportunity that I can’t resist. I’ve decided it’s worth a serious attempt at targeting that event.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “comeback” but 2016 will certainly be a somewhat different race programme from 2015 for me.”

Emma added; “My main focus will remain long-distance triathlon and duathlon: that’s what my sponsors Tempo-Sport bikespeed.ch and NGI support me in competing at, their support has been amazing, and I still have dreams to chase and races to try to win in triathlon! My target for the early part of the 2016 season will be the Rapperswil 70.3 half-Ironman triathlon, which is a home race for me and a for my sponsor Tempo-Sport. It’s a tough hilly course and I was second there in 2014 behind Daniela Ryf. In September I want to defend my title as world champion in long-distance duathlon at Powerman Zofingen. But from June to August, I’ll adapt my training to be more cycling-focused, and target time-trial specific adaptations.”

The 29.8km time trial course in Brazil includes Grumari, 1.2 km of 7 per cent climb with a maximum of 13 per cent, and the milder Grota Funda, 2.1 km at an average of 4.5 per cent. The course is right up Pooley’s alley, so to speak.

“If I can prove to both myself and the GB team selectors that I have the capacity to win the time trial in Rio, I’ll compete for selection for the Olympic team. There’s no guarantee of a given result in sport, obviously, but there are some incredibly clever people working at British Cycling and they have studied the challenges of the Olympic course.”

“I’m happy knowing I won’t get selected unless I really do have the potential to win. I have no desire to go to the Rio Games, and sacrifice some of the most exciting triathlon races of the season, just for the experience of another Olympics – I’m committed to aiming for gold. I’m also so grateful for the encouragement and advice of some really good coaches and scientists at British Cycling, because that helps me to believe that I might be able to achieve that dream.”

Emma’s 2015 triathlon progress seems to have developed a more contented and happier athlete; “The thing I love most about triathlon is that you get to meet and talk to athletes of all ages and abilities as you race against them. It’s a wonderfully inclusive sport. I’ve challenged myself, worked on my (many!) weaknesses, developed new skill sets, and seen performance gains. I’m really proud of my wins on epic courses such as Alpe d’Huez, Embrunman, and Zofingen.”

“I know there is still a lot of work to do, and potential to improve. In long-course triathlon, many of the greatest races are relatively flat and I will have to make significant improvements to do well on those courses. I’m still enjoying the challenge though and I’m really grateful to have such an exciting 2016 ahead.”

Finally, Emma added; “I think it’s important in sport and in life to keep an open mind. I didn’t expect to find myself ever aiming for Olympic selection again, but here I am with a wonderful opportunity on the horizon. The Olympic time trial course in Rio is an exciting prospect, but like always in sport, I have to follow the road to get there first. Roll on 2016!”


Why DID Pooley retire from bike racing in the first place? Read my interview with her on Rouleur, and listen to the podcast interview, from 2014.


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