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  • Journal
    Riders
    05.01.16

    Laura Trott at the Revolution Series

    From:

    The Olympic champion prepares for Rio and defence of her omnium crown

    Words
    Ian Cleverly
    Photographs
    Chris Auld
young woman, close up head shot

Laura Trott’s gleaming white skinsuit, which she took delivery of an hour earlier, is now scuffed and torn. A high-speed collision during the points race took the 2012 world and Olympic champion down and another item of kit bites the dust.

“That’s bike racing, innit,” says the irrepressible Trott, not given to dwelling on negatives. “You get used to it. And I got five laps off!”

It was a gripping points race during the afternoon session at the Revolution meeting in Manchester, with thrills and spills and no bellyaches, and the outcome undecided until the final sprint. The best woman won, but it was mighty close.

When the UCI decided in 2014 to change the order and the points scoring system for the omnium to make it easier to understand – a good thing for this potentially perplexing six-event discipline – the points race was shuffled to the final slot of the programme, making it the big decider. Trott says it’s her “weakest event, but it’s fine – it keeps it fresh.”

With 20 points now on offer for gaining a lap, the dynamic of the points race within the omnium format has changed. And on this evidence, for the better.

Trott has had to adapt her tactics accordingly: “I have always been a sprinter in the past, but that doesn’t work anymore,” she tells me during the lull before the televised evening session gets underway.

She had seemed too casual during the early stages of the race, picking up the odd point here and there, but in no great hurry to make the big move.

It turns out there was a valid, if slightly embarrassing, explanation for the slow start. The standard Olympic distance points race for women is 25km, which is 100 laps of the Manchester track. This Revolution event, the programme told us, was 20km.

“Okay, I made a bit of an error,” Trott admits. “I thought it was 100 laps, so I wasn’t going to sprint for the first 30, just follow, and I took three easy points, looked up and there were only 40 laps to go…”

Trott waited for the right moment, launched a solo attack and finally made it across to a sizable group that had been dropped by the leaders. A two-lap breather, then she pressed on again, finally latching onto the back of the bunch after 16 laps of sustained effort.

Twenty points in the bag, but the race was far from over: the aforementioned crash; leader Elinor Barker also taking a lap, leaving Trott three points adrift; drawing level on the penultimate sprint; then taking the final sprint and the whole race. An appreciative crowd knew they’d seen a fine performance.

I didn’t think Trott would gain that lap, I tell her. “Did you not?” she replies, almost in disbelief that there was ever any doubt. There wasn’t in her mind.

“I haven’t always had the confidence to do that, so that’s what we have been working on. For the omnium, that is important now, because taking a lap gets you 20 points. And it’s been giving me confidence, knowing I can actually do that, rather than just sprint.”

Following a debrief with endurance coach Paul Manning, they disappeared into the bowels of the Manchester velodrome for a video re-run. “I went and watched the race back after, and that’s how I’m learning. Paul wasn’t here for the points race, so he didn’t see whether I went down hard or not. He said you’ve got tomorrow to get over it, then we are back in training again on Monday!”

Manning’s a hard taskmaster, but with the track World Cup in Hong Kong imminent and the Olympics in Rio creeping ever closer, needs must.

Considering the amount of head-scratching and negativity surrounding the introduction of the omnium at London 2012, I wondered if Trott had ever been among the doubters? Seeing as she won it, presumably not?

“No,” she confirms. “When it was first introduced, it was five events, and I thought ‘I can do that’. I remember my sister Tweeting way back when – 2010 I think – that if this becomes a world championship, Laura Trott will win. I thought ‘maybe’ but wasn’t quite that confident. And then, when it went to six events, I got a bit worried, but it only took me a year to get used to it. In my first World Championships as a senior, I came sixteenth, and then I won the following year, so I got used to the flow of it quickly.”

We look around at the young girls warming up for their own moment in the evening spotlight; their own chance to build towards emulating Trott’s world-beating achievements on the track. She may be only 23 years-old herself but thinks she has ridden these Revolution meetings for a decade now.

“I’ve been here forever, ain’t I?” Trott says, followed by her characteristic laugh. “I started doing these when I was 13 or 14. There never used to be an age limit, so as long as you had an invite and were good enough and safe enough, you were in.”

And for any girl or boy thinking they have to win at the age of 15 to have a chance of progressing further, take some advice from a champion who excels at every discipline these youngsters compete in.

“I never won the Future Stars. I think I came third one year. So it’s not the be-all and end-all for the young ones to win it.”

As Trott leaves to prepare for the evening’s racing in her hastily-sourced replacement national champion’s skinsuit, there’s just enough time to share some pet hates.

“You know that Room 101 programme? I would love to go on that,” she says, before narrowing down the numerous available options to three annoyances: toilet-roll holders positioned too far behind the toilet; people trying to get in a lift without first letting her out; and those who approach her while she’s eating by saying: “I don’t mean to bother you but…”

Fair enough on all three counts, especially the last one. “But I don’t want to complain. It’s nice to be recognised for what you do.”

And away she goes, to do what she does so well.

Tickets for the final round of Revolution in Manchester on January 23 here

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