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An interview with Shanaze Reade, April 27, 2007
Dream debut on track
One of the biggest surprises at this year's track worlds was the performance of the prodigious Great Britain youngster Shanaze Reade. Cyclingnews Shane Stokes talked to the 18 year-old talent about her success as she prepares for a BMX gold medal attempt at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The recent world track championships were a major success for the Great Britain team, with the riders securing a total of seven gold medals. Together with the two silver and two bronze medals they also gained, the GB squad were by far the top team in Majorca.
Aside from that haul, though, there was another reason to celebrate. Several promising young riders were amongst the medallists, proving that the long term future for British Cycling should also be a good one. And no-one was more of a revelation than Shanaze Reade.
The 18 year-old is a proven winner, being a three time world champion, eight time European champion and five time national champion in BMX. However despite that history of two-wheeled success, she is a real newcomer to the track, making a her team sprint debut with Victoria Pendleton and then riding the 500 metre time trial for the first time ever there in Majorca.
For the first of those, Reade took the place of Anna Blythe in the Palma Arena velodrome, pairing up with Pendleton. They proved the perfect combination. Reade is known for her lighting speed over a lap and so led out her more experienced team-mate, who then hit the gas for the second 250 metres of the event. It worked to devastating effect and in the final they went 0.34" quicker than rivals Yvonne Hijgenaar and Willy Kanis and scooping gold.
Pendleton's ability has been known for quite a while, having won the individual sprint in 2005. However, remarkably, it was only Reade's second ever time racing at international track level, with the recent Manchester World Cup marking her debut.
It's not surprising that she was herself stunned to take a rainbow jersey. "What Vicky and I have achieved really hasn't sank in yet," she admitted at the time.
"I have been doing BMX for eight years and have been on the track for four months now, but really properly for two months," she said. "Manchester was my first ever race. I only got into this because of the fact that BMX is now in the Olympics, and so I train with British Cycling.
"This has just all happened so fast. I just trained with the guys in the gym, and then I went on the track for cross-over training. My times started getting better and better and here I am at the world championships."
If her team sprint victory surprised people, her 500 metre time trial effort really made stirs. She didn't win, but it was a truly remarkable performance; whilst she finished outside the medals in fifth, she led for most of the session, only being passed by the very top favourites at the end.
Reade could be very proud of what she achieved. The reason? Not her age, although that gives huge room for improvement. Rather, the fact that this was her first go at the event. Ever.
"That is my first ever 500, I haven't even done one in training," she said afterwards. "I am really happy with it, there is no disappointment there at all. Okay, it was hard to see people go faster [after leading for so long], but to get top five against Olympic champions and world champions is just unreal, really.
"It motivates me to get a bit fitter, and see how much further I can go, just do a few more," she added. "I really don't know what the future holds for me right now. I am just going to try my best, keep going back. Next year maybe see if I can make Beijing, I don't know now."
Reade stressed that she intends to remain involved with BMX. However her experience at the worlds has shown her that she has a strong future in this wing of the sport too, should she chose to pursue it further.
When asked what she is likely to do in the years ahead with regard to track racing, she said that much has yet to be decided. "I don't know," she explained. "I never even thought that I would go to the world championships so I will sit down when I get back and see where I go from there."
Reade said that the two wings of the sport are quite distinct. "It is different, because this is indoors and everything is so tight and close," she explained. "BMX is outdoors and everything is so spread out, there is just a different atmosphere. Both of them have good qualities. This is very tight and there is so much noise created, it gives me a massive adrenaline rush.
"I was just taken back by it all. I have just had so much fun," added the youngster. "The qualifier for the team sprint got me so nervous and I felt sick, but then after that I couldn't wait to race the final. And to race the 500, I was really excited about that because there was no expectation on me, no pressure, whereas with BMX there is so much more. Not put on me by others, but just because I win quite a lot of races I always feel the pressure from myself. So to come into an event like this and have no expectation on me has been really, really good, I enjoyed it a lot."
Part of the reason for British Cycling's success is because there is considerable funding in place from the national lottery, which in turn has been used to create a very professional support structure. When asked what helped her to do such good performances, she suggested this hands-on backing was part of the reason.
"I think it is a little bit of everything. The crowds here are great," she started. "And we get so much support from British Cycling, that boosts the riders' morale. I think it is a combination of everything which kind of makes you believe in yourself. Even if you don't feel like you're going to do anything, they make you believe in yourself."
Reade got into BMX at ten years of age and quickly showed her ability. "My uncle has two children who race and he got me involved. I went to a local regional event and they hired bikes out there. I got one too and entered the local fun race that was on. In my first year I got national number two and then I went on from there. Now here I am today [at the track worlds] it is like a roller coaster, I guess!"
As BMX is an Olympic sport, it receives assistance from British Cycling. This meant that Reade was a supported athlete and while it was not intentional, it ended up bringing her into track racing.
"The gym training is exactly the same," she said, when asked about the fact that she was working out alongside the GB track riders. "I have not changed my gym programme coming into this event. Everything has been the same. I have kept everything as simple as possible things have been pretty much as before, I have just done a little on the track."
How little? "I haven't been on it that much, actually - if I am lucky I get on once or twice a week," she answered. "So yes, I am really, really happy with how things have turned out. I would like to say a big thank you to Jamie Staff [her coach] and also to Jeremy Hayes as well - he has played a massive, massive part in getting me here. Even though he hasn't helped me on the track, he has helped me with the BMX. So, a massive thank you to him, and to Jamie and to everybody else who has given me support and helped me believe in myself."
Reade is clearly happy with her worlds campaign, and justifiably so. Eighteen years of age, a novice to the boards, and plenty of time to develop further: if she chooses, she has the potential to go on and take many more medals in the velodrome.
Her competitors know she is a rider for the future. Pendleton was certainly impressed by what she saw as was Anna Meares, who beat her to take gold in the 500 metre time trial.
"I knew Shanaze would have a quick first lap," said the Australian. "I was kind of keen to see if she would die a thousand deaths on the last lap though, because that is always fun, when you see a sprinter blow up. But she did really, really well. For the first time out, she did fantastically."