Emma Pooley to come out of retirement in pursuit of Olympic Gold

by Anne-Marije Rook


Tempted by the “rare” hilly time trial course at the Rio Olympics, former world champion time trialist Emma Pooley has announced she hopes to join the British Cycling team in Rio and make a bid for gold.

The 33-year-old Brit retired from road racing in 2014 to return to her original love: triathlon.

Pooley’s nine-year career in professional was highly successful, winning a silver medal in the time trial at the Beijing Olympics, a UCI world champion title in that same discipline as well as several additional medals at the world, Commonwealth and national championships.  During that time she established herself as one of the best hill climbers of the peloton and gained a lot of respect off the bike for being a well-spoken advocate for women’s cycling.

As the current long distance duathlon World Champion, Pooley has no intention to return to road cycling fulltime but the hilly courses in Rio were too enticing to ignore.

Emma_Pooley
Pooley in the 2012 London Olympics

“My main focus will remain long-distance triathlon and duathlon…In September I want to defend my title as world champion in long-distance duathlon. Because of the 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 different race programme for me,” Pooley said in a press release.

The 29.8km Olympic time trial course in Rio includes Grumari, a 1.2 km climb with an average incline of 7 percent and a maximum grade of 13 percent. This is followed by a milder 2.1km climb called the Grota Funda, which has an average of 4.5 percent. A course like that plays to Pooley’s strengths.

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While it was British Cycling who initially asked her to consider a return, Pooley’s selection is not guaranteed. She, like everyone else, has to earn her selection first.

“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,” Pooley stated.

Outside of the time trial, Pooley would be a great asset to world road racing champion, Lizzie Armitstead, who’s aiming for Olympic glory in the road race, which is looking to be a very tough race.

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“I’m really pleased that Emma is back with us, as that enhances our medal opportunities in the time trial, and it will also enhance Lizzie’s opportunity to win if we can have a pure mountain climber like Emma with her in the road race…The field will fall away from behind, but I don’t see Emma falling behind so I would like to see her in the road race supporting Lizzie,” British Cycling’s technical director Shane Sutton told the Guardian.

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