Another shock in store as Armitstead set to get the nod over golden girl

Only one can grab glory in the road race – and Lizzie looks to have overtaken Beijing champion Cooke

This morning in Manchester four men will settle around a table and begin the forensic process of choosing the riders to compete for Great Britain at next month’s Olympic Games. Selection is the Olympic issue of the moment and when it comes to cycling competition for places is, as should be expected in what has become Britain’s blue ribband Games event, fiercer than ever.

There are some extraordinarily tight calls to be made. Will it be Chris Hoy or Jason Kenny in the men’s sprint? Who will be named in the men’s and women’s pursuit teams, a selection that promises to come with a golden lining? Will David Millar, freed for selection by the lifting of the lifetime drug Olympic ban, return to support Mark Cavendish in the men’s road race? But the decision that may delay Dave Brailsford, the man behind British cycling’s success, and his three wise men the longest is over who will take the lead in the women’s road race

It is a straight choice. On one hand there is Nicole Cooke, who swept through the rain in Beijing to win a dramatic first British gold four years ago. On the other there is Lizzie Armitstead, the former track world champion long identified by British Cycling as a star in the making having first being spotted at school as part of a talent identification programme.

What makes the choice all the more intriguing is that both will be chosen in the team but it is a curiosity of cycling that it is only the leader, the one who crosses the line first, that is rewarded with a medal. And what makes it more intriguing still is that Cooke and Armitstead have history. Last year Armitstead was chosen as lead rider for the world championships in Denmark, but the race did not go according to plan and afterwards Armitstead accused Cooke of riding for herself. The team ethic in cycling is all and to accuse someone of breaking it inevitably caused a storm.

“It’s something I’ve learnt from,” says Armitstead of what happened in Copenhagan and how she reacted.  “It’s something I wouldn’t do again, but I stand by what I said. I said it because I believe we will be a stronger team in London for it. I’m confident that on the day we will be able to work for each other.”

The decision on who will lead could be left on ice until the chosen team assemble in their Surrey hotel before the Games, but Armitstead’s case is a strong one. She is the form rider. “Form can change so quickly and you’ve got to be in form to win the Olympics,” says Armitstead. “You’ve got younger people coming up all the time who should be given the chance if they’re good enough.

“Every person gets their day. As a cyclist you’re always striving to improve, like any athlete, but you believe that one day you will get your chance. On that day you get your chance you know that you’ve worked for other people and so you will get the same support back. Because I’m still relatively young in the sport, I’ve been happy to work for other people in the past and felt that one day I’d develop into a leader and then get the support. It’s the culture of cycling – if you believe somebody else has a better chance of winning then you support them.”

Armitstead helped Cooke to win the world title four years ago and the unspoken suggestion is that it is vice versa time.

It is in Armitstead’s favour that she rides for the Dutch road team, AA Drink-leontein.nl, alongside fellow Britons Emma Pooley, Lucy Martin and Sharon Laws, who are all in contention for Olympic places. This season she has claimed two prestigious victories in Belgium, the Omloop can het Hageland and, notably, the first women’s Gent-Wevelgem road race over a course that has been compared to the one through London and Surrey over which the Olympics will be raced.

There is a purposeful singularity to Armitstead. She is quietly spoken, her accent revealing her Yorkshire roots, roots the 23-year-old has left behind to benefit her road ambitions. She is now based on her own in Nice, having decided to concentrate fully on the road at the expense of a track career that had seen her claim a world title as part of the team pursuit.

“I’ve always been quite an individual rider anyway,” she says. “I do quite a lot of my coaching. We [her and GB coach Chris Newton] discuss it but you have to be self-motivated. [For] the track guys it’s a kind of big brother life around the velodrome in Manchester, but the road riders generally look after themselves. I like the independence.”

On the hills and roads around Nice she relentlessly pedals out mile after mile, day after day.  “I find Britain too distracting, the lifestyle, the traffic, it’s always so busy,” she says. “In Europe it’s so more relaxed in comparison. It’s much easier to focus on what I’m doing. I’ve got a good relationship with British cycling. It has to be a personal approach to peaking at the Games. I want to peak at the right time for me not when someone else tells me.”

Lizzie Armitstead is supported by BP, the official oil and gas partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. To find out how BP is supporting Lizzie, go to bp.com/london2012

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing