Commonwealth Games 2014: ‘Worst time to be leaving,’ but Emma Pooley is ready to concentrate on triathlon

The 31-year-old won last year's Lausanne marathon


Emma Pooley, a former world time-trial champion and Olympic medallist, is to retire from cycling and return to her first love, competing in triathlon and marathons. Pooley will go for one last medal in tomorrow’s Games time trial and then try to propel Lizzie Armitstead to English gold in the road race on Sunday before switching sports.

The 31-year-old has been one of the foremost campaigners for women’s cycling but believes she has achieved all she can within the sport and wants to give herself enough time to compete at a high level in triathlon and marathon. She has been juggling the different disciplines – last year she won the Lausanne marathon – before returning her focus to the road for one last season.

“I’ve been mulling it over for a while,” said Pooley at the athletes’ village in Glasgow. “I came to the decision to stop cycling in favour of triathlon in June.

“It’s a really great time in women’s cycling – it’s growing like never before. To be honest, it’s the worst time to be leaving but I don’t feel it’s fair to try and combine [sports]. It is too much of a compromise to do both and I want to give triathlon a good chance. I’ve had some all right results so far and if I concentrate on it I can definitely do better. I want to see how far I can go. It is very much a positive decision – I want to go to a different sport.”

Her first target will be the long-distance duathlon (running and cycling) world championships in Zofingen in Switzerland next month. She has no ambitions to compete in the triathlon at Olympic level as she believes she is not suited to shorter distances.

Pooley won a silver medal in the time trial in Beijing and was part of the road team that gave Nicole Cooke the launch pad to secure Britain’s first gold medal of the 2008 Olympics. Two years later she became the world time-trial champion but she has made almost as much impact off her bike as a leading campaigner for women’s cycling.

“It is massively on the crest of a wave,” said Pooley. “It is a sustainable improvement now because it is backed by participation and that equates to people buying cycling kits, which equates to sponsors, which equates to people wanting to fund and sponsor teams and races. None of it’s for free – the dirty reality is that someone has to pay for the races. It is improving but it will take a while to see a women’s Tour de France.”

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