Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

 

Friendships get suspended when you're on the track I'm friends with [fellow British cyclists and Olympic and World champions] Laura Trott and Dani King, but when we're competing against each other, even in training, there is a big rivalry that comes alive between us. Then, once we're off the track, we can go back to being friends again.

There's been a huge increase in women's participation in cycling since the Olympics The profile of women's cycling has risen massively; we've all got a lot more people following our progress and wanting to see us race. It's a big deal that there's going to be a women's race before the final stage of the Tour de France, on the same loop the men do, around Paris.

There's no days left in the week to cycle for fun I have a seven-day exercise plan, so it's all training for me right now. But when I retire, I'll ride to the shops or go for more leisurely rides around. I'll stick with the same bike, though.

You can't worry about things you can't control We used to have a team psychiatrist and one of the first things he drilled into me was to focus only on myself in a race, as you can't affect how fast others ride. It's natural to compare yourself with others, but if you do that all the time, you'll go insane. And I think that's spilt over into my general life and with my alopecia [Rowsell has had the hair-loss condition for 15 years]: there's no point worrying about something if I can't change it.

Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles – I have three of the same one. My boyfriend is actually not bothered whether I wear one or not.

I now get why collecting my Olympic medal without a wig was a big deal Initially I found the response from people quite overwhelming. And I was surprised that it was such a big deal for others with the condition, as I've always thought there's a lot worse things to have. But I've realised it affects some people psychologically a lot more than it does others.

I cycle so I can enjoy nice food I love going out for an Italian, and never ban myself from eating dessert; at least when I go for a chocolate bar, I can always burn it off afterwards. The Tour de France guys have to be stricter with their diet, as they have to climb mountains, so [their discipline] is very much more about their power to weight ratio.

Accidents will always happen in cycling I broke my collarbone last year during the Ride London race; it was excruciating. It had broken in half and been displaced and it felt like the bone was sticking out of the skin. I also had a crash in 2010 where I landed on my face and knocked two front teeth out. It's only natural to be nervous after something like that, but you can't wrap yourself up in cotton wool and spend your life trying to avoid it. You have to accept that it might just happen again.

Some motorists make me really cross They think that they have an entitlement to be on the road over me on my bike. When I'm out cycling, some motorists wind down the window and shout, "You shouldn't be on the road, as you don't pay road tax." Well, first, I own a car too, so I do pay road tax; and second [Vehicle Excise Duty] is actually a pollution tax. It's really not big or clever to insult me then whizz off.

Joanna Rowsell , 25, is an Olympic and World Champion cyclist, and a world-record holder in the women's team pursuit; she will be competing in the women's single pursuit at this year's Commonwealth Games. She is also an ambassador for iron supplement Spatone Apple (spatone.co.uk)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot