Emma Pooley could make a comeback to cycling as she bids for a medal on the road at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The Briton retired after an emotional ride at the Commonwealth Games in August 2014 and has since been competing as a triathlete. The climbers’ course in Rio has made her reconsider as she looks to take Olympic gold in the time trial.
“I love triathlon but hilly courses don’t come around that often. If I thought I could prove to myself that I have the capacity to get a medal then I would put my name in the hat,” Pooley told the Times newspaper.
The Rio time trial course will feature a 1.2-kilometre climb up Grumari Road, while the road race sees the riders take on the same climb plus two other ascents including the 8.9-kilometre Vista Chinesa.
Pooley made a brief return to the cycling world with an appearance at the Chrono des Nations in October. The 33-year-old finished sixth on the 43.5-kilometre course, 56 seconds down on the winner Tatiana Antoshina.
Pooley was a silver medallist in the time trial at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and is also a former world champion in the discipline, beating off strong competition to take the rainbow jersey in 2010 in Geelong. However, the flatter course at the 2012 Olympic Games in London didn’t suit her and she missed out on a medal, finishing sixth.
Pooley said that she is ready to make the sacrifices she needs to get to Rio 2016 but is not motivated by simply competing at the Olympics. “I don’t want to just go to the Olympics. I didn’t find them as much fun as some people. I go for the race and not for an Olympic Village experience,” said Pooley. “I don’t want to put myself through it again, especially sacrificing some triathlon races that I enjoy, without being completely committed to going for gold.”
According to the Times article, Pooley’s decision to return was not just down to an attractive course but some gentle persuasion from former Great Britain teammates Lizzie Armitstead and others. Pooley would not only be a key rider for the time trial but her strength in climbing and aggressive riding style could make her an important support rider for Armistead and a second potential option for the GB squad.
Pooley’s participation is by no means a foregone conclusion, but British Cycling’s technical director Shane Sutton is confident that she can put a strong case forward.
“It’s definitely realistic. Now that Emma has looked at the course, she’s keen to be involved. We are keen to drive it forward now so we’re helping with some coaching from Brian Stephens,” he said. “It’s all on track. She’s a definite candidate. She’s a silver medal-winner in time-trial at the Olympics and the course with its climbing suits her perfectly. It gives her a great opportunity to do that and adds strength to the road-race team.”
The women’s road race will be the second road cycling event in Rio, taking place on Sunday 7 August, with the time trial on the following day.