I want to start this latest blog by paying a quick tribute to the one and only Joanna Rowsell Shand who’s announced her retirement since I last posted on here.
I really can’t speak highly enough of Jo, obviously in terms of her athletic achievement but, more importantly, as a friend and an inspiration to thousands of young girls and women.
Two gold medals and numerous world records at the last two Olympics is an amazing sporting achievement but, for me, Jo’s greatest achievement has been the way she has carried herself and represented the sport and her country around the world. A lot is made about women’s sport, about opportunities and role models for women today and, in my view, Jo is up there with female athletes like Laura Kenny and Jessica Ennis as one of the most inspirational stars this country has ever produced. I know if I ever have a daughter, I could do worse than tell her to look at Jo as an inspiration, whether in sport or in life.
I’ll miss our chats at the Velodrome and on various trips with GB to World Cups and World Championships but I’m also really happy for her because she is retiring on her terms, when the time is right for her, and I know she has lots of exciting new chapters to come.
I think I read that Jo has five track world titles to her name as well which brings me on to our latest attempt to land some rainbow jerseys in Hong Kong in a couple of weeks.
We’ve returned to the track properly this week after a long camp in Mallorca and we’ll know better in the next day or two where we’re at in terms of general form and our hopes of getting a medal, both in the team pursuit and the individual pursuit, which I’m riding.
It’s not been a perfect preparation for me, mostly because of a virus I had earlier in the year, but having said that, I don’t think I could have prepared any differently or any better. I reckon I’ve got myself in the best shape possible and that’s all you can ask for.
It’s going to be a very young team out there in Hong Kong - apart from yours truly! - so the medal haul won’t be as impressive as it possibly has been in the past but that’s the way it often is in the years after an Olympic Games when there has been the odd retirement or a rider taking some time off the track.
But it’s also an exciting chance to have a look at the next crop of talent coming through. I think we’ve all known for some time that the women’s team pursuit are producing an incredible conveyor belt of talent - which is just as well with Jo retiring and Laura taking time out to have a baby with Jason.
And the men’s team sprint might surprise a few people out in Hong Kong. Ryan Owens went to Rio as a reserve for the team sprint of Jason, Phil Hindes and Callum Skinner and, by all accounts, is an amazing prospect. And he’s not the only one. If I were a betting man, I’d have a look at the odds for the men’s team sprint out in Hong Kong.
Other than training, resting and trying to stay healthy, there has not been a lot to report recently.
I spent an enjoyable morning at Staffordshire University as a favour for a friend, being interviewed by a bunch of their journalism students. They were pretty good and gave me a real grilling, asking some awkward questions - I’m sure you can guess what about!
But aside from that - and keeping two in-heat dogs apart at our house (but that's another story)! - it’s all about the World Champs at the moment.
I’ll try and write again before they start but, in the meantime, wish me luck.