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)

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