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Interview: Getting to know British rider Joanna Rowsell
By Imelda March
Date: 2/7/2012
Interview: Getting to know British rider Joanna Rowsell

Name: Joanna Rowsell
DOB: 05/12/1988
Place of Birth: Sutton, Surrey, UK
Height: 179 cms
Weight: 65 kgs
Team/Club: Matrix Fitness – Prendas
Cycling Disciplines: road racing, time trial, track cycling (team pursuit)
Residence: Manchester, UK


Joanna Rowsell Blog

♦ Twitter: @joannarowsell

With the United Kingdom hosting the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games, what better way for a Brit racing cyclist to spend the summer than at home? This is exactly the situation that Joanna Rowsell will experience in the next few months.

Jo Rowsell, as she is commonly known, is busy preparing to show off her skills in front of the home crowd. While others will have to travel from afar, Jo will travel a mere 20 miles/32 kilometers to the Olympic Velodrome.

No sweeter reward would be for her and her teammates to win the Olympic Women’s Team Pursuit and stand before close friends and family as their country’s flag is raised and the national anthem plays in the background.

Joanna carved out some time to speak to us about the upcoming games and her cycling career.

DP: Tell me about yourself.

Joanna Rowsell: I have a brother, Erick Rowsell, who races on the road for Team Endura, a continental bicycle racing team.

Currently, I am not enrolled in any higher education studies but have completed my A level education in the UK (similar to completing high school in North America).

This is my second year with Matrix Fitness—Prendas women’s racing team. I started racing under the current management team when it was called Global Racing Team in 2007.

On the road, I am more of a time trial (TT) rider, skilled at executing lead outs and breakaways.

I started racing in 2005 (at age 16), 1st year junior; my brother started racing six months after me. My family is not really athletic.

I am of full blown British ethnicity.

DP: You travel a great deal for competition. What has been the most exciting venue or road course you have competed at?

JR: During my travels, I enjoyed racing in Germany at the Sparkassen Giro Bochum, a UCI-sanctioned road bicycle race, which is annually held around an urban circuit in Bochum, Germany.

I enjoyed it because it has a set of punchy hills with lots of crowd support. I hope to return to that race in 2013 because I am currently concentrating my efforts for the London Olympic Games.

DP: How do you balance the life of a pro athlete with your other endeavors?

JR: As an athlete rest is very important, so it is difficult to manage other endeavors. So when I am at home I enjoy spending time with my family. It is great to be home, to be near your surroundings and one’s support system.

DP: Are you friends with any of the pro-cycling riders? If so, who are you closest to? Are any riders from the Americas among them?

JR: I am very close to Lizzie Armitstead (AA Drinks). I’ve know her since I began racing. We were junior racers together and competed at Junior Worlds as well.

DP: Who are you closest rivals/competitors?

JR: In the Team Pursuit our biggest rivals are the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders. Both China and Belarus are coming on strong on the last few years.

As far as the road is concerned, I am not going to be doing much road racing in 2012 so I am not sure who the biggest rivals will be for the team. As I said, I am concentrating on the track for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

DP: What race (s) do you dream of winning one day?

JR: The biggest one is definitely the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2013, I will like to target the TT at the UCI World Road Championships.

DP: What do you think are the pressures with being a female bicycle racer?

JR: It is difficult because there is not much media coverage on the road for the women currently. Further, with (not) any salary or minimum wages these factors further complicate matters.

So funding is an issue for the women because they have to work for a living, too.

I am fortunate to receive support from the UK Sport lottery funding which I get through British Cycling, the national governing body.

DP: Do you have any plans to race in the U.S. or Latin America in the future?

JR: I would like to race in America because everyone returns with so many positive things about racing there. I am hopeful that the opportunity will present itself after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


DP: In terms of racing, what are you looking forward most to in 2012?

JR: My parent’s house is 20 miles away from the velodrome. The current velodrome was built were I often practice on a road circuit, so it feels like home to return there to compete.

I look forward to perhaps winning, and being part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be an amazing experience in front of a home crowd. This will be my first Olympic Games.

DP: The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are about six months away. How are you feeling about your preparations? Is your training on target?

JR: Things are progressing well in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

I will be competing in the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, taking place February 17-19 at the velodrome in Olympic Park, London. Then my teammates (Wendy Houvenaghel, Dani King and Laura Trott) and I will travel to Australia for the UCI Track Cycling World Championship scheduled April 4–8.

I am focusing on myself and not to thinking about my competitors very much right now. I am excited about my current fitness and look forward to getting fitter. As a result, I will say that I am on track with my preparation for the games.

DP: What would you be doing if you were not a bicycle racer?

JR: It is difficult to tell but I would have been definitely studying at university and completing studies as a research scientist or something like that.

DP: How difficult will it be to get named to Team Great Britain for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

JR: There are only four of us trying for it. We will need three definitely for the Team Pursuit and one alternate. We are all pushing to get a spot on the team and there is no room for complacency.

DP: Who will be Team Great Britain’s closest competitors?

JR: The Chinese women have been improving and improving and could surprise a few people. The Canadians rode an awesome time at last year’s Pan-American Games so they too should not be discounted since they could be another surprise.

DP: Many countries have stepped up their games, so which countries do you/your teams do you fear the most?

JR: I don’t say I fear anyone but Canada, United States and New Zealand are strong competitors.


DP: On a personal level, how are you giving back to the cycling community? What have you done/or are doing to promote women bicycle racing in the UK or elsewhere?

JR: Last summer, I visited schools in London that were doing a cycling sports day. I got to provide advice and pass on skills about cycling to young children between the ages of 11-15 years. They were mainly boys present at these lessons.

I hope to visit more schools after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


DP: On a personal level, are you in a relationship? Does he/she participate in sports as well?

JR: I have a boyfriend, Dan—he used to race in Belgium. Dan raced for four years, but despite not being a racer anymore he still kicks my butt while out training on the roads. DP: What are your Sundays like? What do you do when you are not racing/when you are off the bike? JR: I don’t get time to do much. Since I would love to build my own house one day I like to look at home design magazines. I would like to have it built with energy efficiency standards.

DP: What would we be surprised to learn about you?

JR: I cannot think of anything at this moment.

DP: What music is in your play list?

JR: All sorts of things are on my play list. Among my favorite artists are Rihanna and Beyonce.

Also, I really like the Spice Girls but I do like a bit of everything.

When I am warming up for my races, I prefer dance music or any other music with fast beats.

DP: Do you train with a power meter? If so, how long have you been using it? What immediate results have you discovered by using this tool?

JR: I am currently using a PowerTap and I have been using it for the three years. I definitely do like it but I can train without it as well. I don’t think it is essential.

I used to train with a heart rate monitor before and the power meter is another tool for training.

I ride to the effort, then evaluate after each training ride and make adjustments thereafter.

DP: You have been dealing with alopecia on and off and certain individuals with it may experience stress, social phobia, anxiety, and depression. Have you experienced any of these and how did you deal with it?

JR: When I was younger it used to upset me a lot; currently I don’t worry about something I cannot change. A sport is a great therapy because I can focus on my training and racing and that keeps me occupied. There is no cure for alopecia currently and there are worse things that could happen.

DP: What off the bike activities you do to supplement your training?

JR: Other than bicycle racing preparations, I supplement my training with core work two to three times per week.


DP: There’s lots of chatter online about women’s bicycle racing. What is your position about the UCI as it pertains to implementing minimum wages for women racers? JR: I think it is a difficult one and if there were such implementations it could affect many teams since so many of them are managed with such low string budgets. And, if we were to implement minimum wages, we could see a negative effect on the women’s side of cycling.

I watched both the Fleche Wallone and Tour of Flanders on television here in the UK and, to be honest, the men’s segment of the Fleche Wallone was pretty boring. But at the same time the women’s race was ending and the media never covered that race which was a shame.

The way to get more money for the women’s races is to get more television coverage, especially when the cameras are already there; such is the case with Fleche Wallone and Tour of Flanders.

DP: Recently Emma Pooley sent out a message stating that Women Riders should unite – what do you think about that idea?

JR: I think it is up to women as a whole to race well so that sponsors become more involved in investing more into the sport. It is up to the women to make the races more exciting for it to become part of sports programming and be shown on television.

No other riders are talking about the matter, so since Emma is an elite and world champion she can be more vocal.

In 2008, when Nicole Cooke won the UCI World Championships, that was an exciting race. The 2011 race was not a real good example of a women’s race that viewers experienced.

Photo Credit: British Cycling


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About the author: About the author: An experienced racer, Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling news and general peloton ramblings. She also holds an MBA, is a marketing strategy expert, and is a social media team member/contributor to the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association.

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