I’ve interviewed a lot of people and you know when you’ve hit gold. Double Olympic track cycling gold-medalist Laura Trott is open, engaging, hilarious and full of vitality. Really enjoyed this chit chat.
“Go on, do it. Do it,” I urged Laura Trott at the end of the interview. The double Olympic gold medallist had merely expressed an interest
in possibly taking up horse riding come the end of her cycling career, which, it is to be noted, could still incorporate two more Olympics.
It’s possible I then got a bit carried away.
“If you do equestrian you can do that until you’re like… er…,” I stumble, trying to think of a polite way to say “old”.
“Ancient,” Trott finishes with a laugh. “Yeah, that’s true and then I could do loads and loads of Olympics.”
“How good would that be? And how many medals could you end up with?”
“If I was good enough I would actually do that,” ponders Trott.
“Do it. You’ve got to do it. You’d get so many golds and no one would ever catch you. You could overtake Redgrave and be the Queen of all Olympics… ever,” I say, going all glassy-eyed at the prospect.
“That would be good. That would take some commitment though, wouldn’t it?”
Commitment is hardly something this 21-year-old Manchester-based cyclist is keen to avoid.
Already a double Olympic champion and four-time world championship gold medalist, the immense training required to reach the pinnacle of her sport is brutal, but has brought her rewards much sooner than planned.
“It still feels unreal to me,” says Trott of her memorable omnium gold at last year’s London Olympics.
“It’s weird because I never expected to go to 2012 when I was younger. I thought that 2016 might be my first Games and I always thought I’d use [London] as experience, not to go there to win any medals, so obviously for me it is a dream come true and always will be.”
And she’s not looking to stop there, suggesting that a couple more Games are well within her scope.
“Yeah, I reckon I’ve got two Olympics left in me. Why not? Set a hard target.”
And maybe beat cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy’s six golds?
“Well, yeah, maybe, but I’ve got to hope that the events stay in there. They’re the same for Rio and I was so relieved to hear that because there was talk the omnium was going to be taken out and I would have been really disappointed if it had.”
So would the multitude of Brits who revelled in Trott’s omnium gold at the London Games following her dramatic two-day participation in the six-event series.
In second place going into the last event Trott needed an Olympic record performance to beat the American Sarah Hammer, just three days after her team pursuit gold with Jo Rowsell and Dani King.
The roles were reversed come the World Championships in Belarus six months later with Hammer taking gold in the event, ahead of the second-placed Brit, but on reflection, Trott feels that heading to the championships was probably a mistake.
Her goal is Rio
“Come Rio I’ll definitely do things different, I’m not even sure I’d do the World Championships straight after.
“I got onto the senior GB programme when I was 18 and I already had a junior world title under my belt.
“I won my first senior title as an 18-year-old and then that was it, from that day onwards we were focusing on 2012 so for two and a half years it was this big thing and it just built up and built up and built up.
“Then the next race after [the Olympics] was the Glasgow World Cup and it just wasn’t the same.
“We just rocked up because we needed to get a few points and I didn’t feel myself.
“I didn’t feel fully committed to it and I like to know I’ve gone into races committed 100% to my training and know that what I’ve got on the day is the best I could have had, and because it wasn’t built up to be huge… I don’t know, it was just hard to take it in.”
A split in the gold medal-winning team pursuit group put Trott off kilter too, with Rowsell opting to take to road racing instead.
“Joanna wasn’t in our team either, which made it even harder for me. I’m really close to her and I was like, ‘Why would you just step away from a winning team?’ but now, looking back on it, I can see why she did it and I think she made the right decision if I’m honest.”
With all the madness surrounding the athletes after the Games, perhaps Trott just went back to what she knows best – being on the bike.
“Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. Everything felt so surreal – I was getting requests thrown at me left, right and centre – do I want to come to this, do I want to come to that?
“The only thing that made me feel normal was riding my bike. But maybe I should have just rode it because I wanted to ride it not because I wanted to race again.”
Trott ended up following in her team-mate’s shoes and taking to the road, joining Rowsell and King at the Sir Bradley Wiggins-backed women’s road racing team Wiggle Honda, where Trott was more than happy to take a back seat.
“It was nice to have a different focus and not to be trying to win all the time. Two Olympics in a row [Team GB have] basically cleared up on the track so it did take the pressure off and it was nice not to be with the same people all the time, although I was with Dani and Jo, which was great.
“It’s nerve-wracking going over to another team but we got to meet new people because ours was a team of 12 and we weren’t the main riders in Wiggle Honda because we’ve got Georgie Bronzini and we were riding for her. So, yeah, it was nice to be a team player for once rather than team leader.”
Which is all very well but how did her sister Emma, a professional road cyclist, take to her renowned baby sister moving in on her turf?
“I’ve always done [road racing], I’ve always chopped and changed and I think she was just happy that she beat me in the national time trials.
“I was quite pleased she beat me, in a way, because obviously [road cycling] is not my focus and it is hers.
“I think she was just disappointed that she didn’t get selected for the worlds.
“I came third in one of the stages in the south of France, so I was really pleased to come away with that, but that was the end of that and I’m back on the track now.”
Yet she’s not dismissing the road altogether, going on to suggest that come the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 she will be attempting medals on both the track and the road.
But for now her big target – Trott’s all about the targets – is the World Cup series, which starts in Manchester on November 1 and takes in two more meetings during the season in various parts of the world.
Despite starting the season on the road, Trott opted not to take part in the World Championship Road Race in September: “It’s nice to ride in a team but I just didn’t want another big focus.
“I don’t get nervous but I get quite stressed out and I don’t want to let people down, so I didn’t want to commit to doing the team time trial and then let them down. So I just thought I’ll focus on the track and then go from there and see what happens.”
It also meant she could compete in September’s National Track Championships “with track legs rather than half-heartedly go in with road slash track legs”.
Trott was in fine form at the Manchester event, with a handful of medals including golds in the individual pursuit and the 4km team pursuit.
British Cycling have been so successful in recent years that the pressure for all the cyclists is immense but Team GB had a secret weapon in sport psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, about whom Victoria Pendleton said: “Without him I wouldn’t have gone on to win anything.”
Trott, however, was less enamoured with Peters’ Chimp Paradox theory.
“I just don’t really need it, if I’m honest. When I came on the programme I was quite young and they offer it to everyone, but I can’t take out emotion from cycling and that’s what he’s trying to say – it’s just a race, it’s just a bike race, we’re just riding around in circles, but I just find I can’t do that, it is emotional for me.
“I wouldn’t commit 100% if I didn’t want it that bad, if I didn’t see it as the be-all and end-all. I feel like it wouldn’t be me.
“I can see how it’s better (laughs), I can see why it does work, and obviously Vicky was the proof of that but I just could never get my head around it.”
Someone who did lose their head during the Olympics, which surprised Trott, was her dad, who became emotional after her wins.
“I’m a proper mummy’s girl and my sister’s a proper daddy’s little girl and it was really split in our house like you wouldn’t believe, so I just thought that for him to get that upset my sister would have had to have won. It was just weird but it was so nice to see him like that.
“I think the reason was every step of the way I’d ring him and be like, ‘I’m so stressed out’ or ‘I don’t know what to do, I’m going rubbish on the track’ and he’d always know what to say.
“So I think it meant so much to him because he was part of it, all my family were part of it, so I guess it felt like it was theirs as well as mine.”
And what of the post-Olympic madness where Britain went London 2012 crazy, Trott and her newly revealed team-mate boyfriend Jason Kenny even knocking David Beckham off the front pages after kissing at the beach volleyball.
“It was just the weirdest thing – I don’t even know how to explain that moment. That day we were walking back to the village and I got a text off my agent warning me that we’d be in the newspapers tomorrow. And I was a bit like, ‘What the hell?’.
“So I googled mine and Jason’s name and all these pictures came up and I was like, ‘Oh my god’.
“But two things made us laugh. One, we didn’t plan it – some people were like, ‘Oh that’s a publicity stunt in the making’, and it’s like, well we didn’t, and then, secondly, not many people outshine David Beckham, do they? So it was actually quite good, to be fair.”
Trott also inadvertently almost got another tabloid favourite into trouble.
“I expected Prince Harry to keep himself to himself, I guess, and obviously I know he has his moments but he was just so nice and so laid-back and so open.
There were photographers in front of us [at the beach volleyball] and I was like, ‘Do you want a drink?’ because me and Jason were drinking at the time and he was like, ‘You’re having a laugh, have you seen all of them down there? They’re just waiting to catch me out’.”
The best part of the post-Olympics period for Trott was time spent with Kenny on a trip to Dubai. “That’s the best holiday I’ve ever had. It was just the feeling of knowing we had nothing to worry about, you could do what you wanted for a week, just let your hair down. Before the Games you have to do everything right so you can’t go out and we don’t walk around that often, so it’s things like that.”
Trott was also invited to The X Factor but responded emphatically when asked whether singing was something she’d like to pursue in the future. “Oh no, no way. I can’t sing. I shatter windows I’m that bad.”
Thought for the day
After all the hobnobbing it was back to the day job, with the road training providing a counterbalance to the indoor environment.
“We do train a lot on the road for the track but you can’t ride on the track for three hours solid so we do a bit of [road training], but it’s completely different.
“I didn’t even touch the track when I was just doing the road, so from April until May we just did road rides constantly trying to build strength because on the track you need to be fast with short, sharp efforts whereas on the road it’s long days in the saddle day in, day out.”
And do you listen to music while on the road?
“I used to listen to music but recently I haven’t been taking it, I’ve just been riding on my own.
“This is going to sound stupid but I’ve got so many thoughts that run through my head, that that just keeps me amused.
“I spend the hours just thinking and thinking, things just going round and round in my head – and the next minute, three hours has gone.”
Those who have seen Trott interviewed, especially during the afterglow of another victory, can recognise the pure entertainment that must emanate from Trott’s synapses over a three-hour period.
Hugely likeable, she is naturally bubbly and Trott’s emotions remain on the surface, making her a marketer’s dream.
Passionate about her sport, she’s happy to wade into other issues, too – although she has learnt any opinion can become magnified and oft-quoted, such as her comments on the prickly subject of drivers versus cyclists.
“I never ride around towns or cities because I don’t like busy cities so it’s hard for me to comment on how bad they are but what I said got totally blown out of proportion,” she says.
“All I was getting at was that I do feel that people just need to be a bit more aware and I do think the new infrastructure that has been set out around London is going to help – that’s why places like Holland are so good, they have bike lanes absolutely everywhere and cyclists very much stick to the rules of the road, so it’s a much safer environment.
“My sister has been knocked off twice and she’s a [professional] cyclist, so it can happen to anyone.”
Some incidents can turn rather more farcical for the acclaimed Olympian. “I did a road race just with men, and during the race this cyclist turned left on me and he was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry, that would be like one of the worst people I could knock off’.
“I feel like I’m just another rider but I was thinking afterwards it would have been so bad if he had knocked me off – the organiser would have gone mental.”
As much as Trott enjoys the open road there are certain aspects to the track that appeal.
“I like the fact it’s always constant so you know it’s going to be between 25 and 30 degrees; there’s no wind, no rain, it’s predictable.
“I do get days when I go in when it’s dark and come out when it’s dark, or go in when it’s dark and come out just as the sun’s coming down and it hurts your eyes because you haven’t seen daylight all day – that’s a weird feeling.”
So after a hiatus from the track during April and May, how was it going back indoors?
“It was horrible and my coach Phil had me do the individual pursuit training and I hate it – that’s the worst bit of training.
“I’ll do team pursuit day in, day out. I love that because you’re with people but I was there on my own because I was training for the under-23 Euros at the time and I’m the only under-23 on our team and it was horrible – the track was freezing as well.
“On the road you push real big gears and you have a choice of gear but when you go back on the track, in a way, you just put on whatever gear you’ve got on your bike and just have to spin away and hope for the best.
“After two sessions, though, you forgot about that and you’re back into it again.”
And what of Kenny, do they see each other all the time in training or pass like ships in the night?
“It depends what time of the year it is – to start with, through April and May we didn’t spend that much time together because I was away racing on the road and Jason did a bit of car racing, but once it had all settled down again I had a bit of a routine.
“I was spending so much time away from home and I didn’t really like it but we see each other loads now, which is really nice.”
So do you two sit down together of an evening and watch each other win Olympic golds?
“I’ve seen it a lot (laughs), not because I’ve sat there and watched it but because it’s always on these montages and when I go to events people play it and I’m like, ‘God, I’ve seen this about a million times, I know like every second of what’s going to happen now’.”
You don’t watch TV in your onesies with gold medals around your necks, then?
“Ever since I won them medals my mum hasn’t let them out of her sight. I have no idea where they are. Seriously, she’s terrible, it’s like she doesn’t trust me. I’m like, ‘Mum, I am 21 now’.”
Yeah, ancient, Trotty, ancient.
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