Rio 2016: Laura Trott shrugs off Zika fears and focuses on double gold

Laura Trott

Laura Trott is not easily fazed by the occupational hazards presented by a working life spent cycling around in circles.

Suffering from a condition that often causes her to throw up after races and particularly intense training sessions, she has spoken of how much she relishes the physical pain and distress that comes with being an elite bike racer. Having first come to public attention when caught on camera vomiting into a bucket during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, she could scarcely sound more relaxed as she prepares to defend, in less ignominious circumstances, the two Olympic titles that made her name.

“I don’t think they did test events at Beijing either,” shrugs the good humoured 24-year-old, upon being asked if she is concerned by news the velodrome in Rio will not throw its doors open to the public until the first day of track cycling competition next week, before swatting away concerns about the Zika virus in the fairly unfussed manner of somebody semi-distracted by a mosquito.

“The BOA have given us all the information we could possibly have and we’re going to take all the precautions that we can,” she says. “I mean, our sport is an inside sport. Obviously we’ll be walking around the village, but we’ll have to make sure to wear long sleeves and use the sprays and stuff. For me personally, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t want a baby in the next year. All I want is to win another medal.”

In what has been an uncharacteristically chaotic few months for British cycling, Trott remains the sport’s poster girl and is the star attraction as she holds court alongside her fellow London 2012 team pursuit veteran Joanna Roswell-Shand and comparatively new team-mates Elinor Barker, Ciara Horne and Katie Archibald. Following a lengthy lay-off through serious injury, Dani King was unceremoniously jettisoned from the team that won gold four years ago in what was then a three-woman discipline, while a change in competition rules now means each round of this year’s competition will be contested by four riders picked from squads of five.

For so long an unbeatable force in their discipline, the Team GB pursuit team had a surprise wake-up call during this year’s world championships staged in London, finishing third behind the USA and Canada. However, they are quick to point out this was not because they are pedalling more slowly.

“I don’t think [it’s fair to say] we’re not the team we used to be because we broke a national record to get that bronze,” says Barker. “We went faster than we’d ever gone before, it’s just that other teams are catching up and going faster or doing the same kind of speeds as us. It’s not that we’re getting slower, definitely not. It’s just that other people are getting into the same kind of territory now.”

There is general agreement among the five women that it will take a world record to win gold in Rio, while Trott insists the fact they will be competing on foreign soil and well away from the public spotlight which enveloped Team GB’s riders four years ago will not affect their efforts to set one.

“It’s still another bike race,” she says. “It could be anywhere in the world and we’d still prepare for it in exactly the same way. Whether it’s all over the TV or not, for us as athletes to be at the top of our game and be Olympic champions, we put in 100% every day regardless of what’s going on in the outside world. I think personally, because it’s a foreign Games it is completely different and that’s why it’s going to be so exciting for me.”

Trott will also ride solo to defend her omnium title in Rio, while her fiance, Jason Kenny, will be aiming to double the tally of three golds he has already accumulated through competing at the Beijing and London Games. Should he do so, he would equal the Olympic gold medal haul of Sir Chris Hoy, the most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time and an athlete Trott reveres as “the god of cycling”.

On the subject of her boyfriend, Trott is considerably less gushing. “He’s not God, we’re on a level,” she laughs, when questioned about Kenny’s chances of emulating Hoy. “Obviously this time he can win three. The fact he can be level with Sir Chris’s record is just insane. I obviously hope he gets it. Also I want him to become Sir [Jason Kenny] so I become Lady Laura.”

Powered by article was written by Barry Glendenning, for The Guardian on Monday 1st August 2016 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010