Primarily a track rider, Rowsell Shand formed an integral part of the British women's team pursuit squad that pushed the discipline to new heights, helping to stretch the world record time and again. That benchmark now stands at 4:10.236 – the ride that won the gold in Rio this summer – while the gold medal ride from London 2012 set the final world record for the 3km distance, before it was increased to four kilometres in 2013.
"Having been part of the GB Cycling Team for over 10 years, travelling around the world racing my bike, today I am announcing my retirement from international cycling competition," said Rowsell Shand in a statement Tuesday morning.
"I have enjoyed this fabulous career and the decision to step away has been the hardest I've ever had to make, but now is the time for me to move on. I believe I have more to offer the world and I'm now looking forward to the next phase of my life and new challenges."
Rowsell Shand was spotted by British Cycling's talent programme at the age of 15 and, after taking junior national titles on the track in 2005 and 2006, she stepped up to senior level in 2007 at the age of 18. In 2008 she won her first elite gold medal, forming part of a triumphant women's team pursuit quartet at the World Championships – her first major international competition. She backed that up the following year, but then suffered a string of illness and injury setbacks between 2010 and 2011, including knocking her teeth out and breaking an elbow in crashes, and succumbing to glandular fever. She battled back to return to full fitness in time for the all-important Olympic year in 2012, and won the team pursuit world title again before claiming Olympic gold in London at her first Games.
2014 was a glittering year despite not being an Olympic one, as she won the team pursuit title at the Worlds for a fourth time, before winning her first and only elite individual titles – at the Worlds and then the Commonwealth Games. Last year, having faltered on home soil at the World Championships, there was pressure on the team pursuit squad going into the Rio Olympics, but it didn't show as they won gold and broke the world record, providing a fitting end to Rowsell Shand's career.
"I have achieved everything I've ever wanted to in cycling including 5 World Titles, 4 European Titles, Commonwealth Gold and 2 Olympic Golds as well as countless World Cup and National Championship medals across both team and individual events. But more valuable than any of these are the special friends for life, amazing memories made, and the transformation from shy school girl to confident woman," she said.
"I want to thank the amazing team at British Cycling; from the world class team behind the team who work tirelessly to ensure we have the best preparation for events, to the very first youth coaches who talent spotted me back when I was 15. I couldn't have done it without you! Thank you to all my team mates past and present, the cycling clubs and teams I have been a part of, my brilliant sponsors, the amazing fans for their fantastic encouragement, and to my family for their incredible support throughout my career."
Rowsell Shand's immediate plans for retirement revolve around coaching work.
"I won't be stepping away from the cycling world completely and I’m enjoying doing some coaching work including setting up my own company, Rowsell Shand Coaching, and I'm also training for L'Etape du Tour in July which will be my longest bike ride ever! Being more accustomed to racing for 4km, the challenge of riding 180km in mountainous terrain will be a long way from what I am used to but I am never one for shying away from a tough target," she said.