I didn’t set out to be an Olympic medallist, who does? Cycling started for me at the age of 14 when my dad bought me a bike and told me to get out of the car instead of just watching my brother racing. From then on, I rode a bike nearly every day with friends for fun, or as a means of transport just to get to school. It was 1984, and whilst we didn’t know it then, that moment of my dad buying me that bike put me on the pathway to win my Olympic medals.
That sixteen years from 1984, to winning my first medal in 2000 was a period of discovery. I began to understand that cycling isn’t just about going fast or competing at the highest level, but cycling is a lifestyle. I was a young person enjoying my freedom but along the way I met so many people who used cycling in so many different ways; whether it was a means of staying active, or for meeting new people and it appealed to people of all ages.
The sport has changed considerably since 2000 when I won my first Olympic medal; the success of the British Cycling team has revitalised things and there has been a massive boom in the sport. However, some things are just as they were when I was 14 – cycling is a lifestyle; whatever your size, age, fitness or how fast you would like to go, cycling provides the freedom to enjoy the fresh air under your own steam, on your own or with others. Within cycling there is something for everyone.
After my fourth Olympic games, winning my silver medal and with over 20 years of intensive training and competition, I was given the best advice I had ever had. I was advised I should take time away from the sport and when I fell back in love with it, I would be back. At the time cycling was a job and I had fallen out of love with the one thing that made me, but after a few years I was back riding my bike falling in love with the lifestyle once more.
I know I won’t be going that fast again, however I still try to ride my bike every day and my mission is to make sure that the millions of people riding a bike each year have the same opportunity of falling in love with the only sport that is for everyone.