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  Emily Tillett Blog: Stepping Up From Junior To Elite  
  August 8th 2018 By Emily Tillett  
  Emily Tillett on the podium after winning 2017 British Junior IP National Title. Photo: Supplied  
  After being on the GB Junior Academy the natural step up from junior to elite would be to make it onto Senior Academy. Throughout 2017 I always knew this was going to be a tough jump and after missing out on selection for the Junior European Track Championships due to a focus more on the bunch races now, I turned my focus to the National Junior Individual Pursuit. A race that has little to no other influencing factors other than you putting in the hard work and showing your strength on the day. I was now even more motivated than ever and determined to prove myself as I knew I was going well enough to have been selected had the focus been slightly different with only five riders able to go. I worked hard and was delighted to take the win in an event I knew I could do well in. The training that went alongside aiming for the IP meant I also had some good form going into the bunch races. My confidence was rising and rising after just winning a national title, I raced better than I had before. Deep down knowing that I did deserve my place on Academy and I was fighting to win.

I felt 2017 was one of the best years for me as I progressed so much mentally, tactically and physically from the previous year even though in 2016 I did make selection for the European and World Junior Track Championships. After racing in Apeldoorn at an international track meet at the start of the year I was coming top five in all the bunch races and was so proud of where I had come after being told I needed to strengthen my bunch riding. It was a disappointment for me not getting selected for Senior Academy but looking back on it now I know I can be proud of what I achieved throughout the year and should be happy with how I progressed.

With some strong road results the potential is there to ride for a road team but with my focus being more towards track that year I was in a bit of a tricky situation. My aim was to have a good winter training on track with Welsh Cycling and then target the track season, so Revolution, National Track Champs and National Omnium Champs. Unfortunately I crashed at the first Revolution meeting of the year in London resulting in concussion. I had a month off over Christmas resulting in my preparation not being enough for Nationals with both my fitness and confidence levels in bunch racing taking a battering. With my motivation struggling the crash in a way forced me to have a break away from it all which I so desperately needed.

Feeling like you'd gone back to where you were before with things like my confidence racing bunch races was so hard for me to overcome as I knew after my year last year that I was capable of being up there and more than capable of being at the front. It was made even harder by the thoughts that people were watching knowing that they had made the right decision.

Not making the step up to Senior Academy came with many challenges. Due to finding out late in the year spaces for road teams had filled up and I had already had to turn University offers down. Watching my friends from both cycling and school either move onto University or the Senior Academy made for a lonely few months feeling like I no longer had shared experiences with people. Another major challenge for me was having to find a part time job. I worked in a restaurant close to my house, but it meant I had to be much more focussed with my training as days off, where I was working were no longer rest days as I was stood up for six hours on my feet at a time.

I found being outside the pathway difficult with respect to coaching as when I was in it, it makes you feel comfortable in the fact that what you're doing is the right thing as you are within a system. Of course there is not only one way that suits everyone or one way to win, but from the outside it makes it so much easier to question whether you are doing the right thing which takes a lot of strength mentally. Going from an environment where you could regularly compare yourself to others around you to being one of the only girls training by myself or with boys made it a lot harder for me to gauge if I was progressing at the right rate or not.

Feeling bad every time I went out training and asking myself why I was even doing it mid efforts in the rain meant I was definitely in need of a break. I was struggling so much with the fact that I felt I had sacrificed so much of my time to no end result was how it felt. After a couple of months completely off the bike coming to terms mentally with the fact that I hadn't failed and whilst having one of my best years on the bike I also obtained four good A levels and a national champions jersey in the individual pursuit.

I felt I was now ready to come back into it and am approaching my training in a much more positive way. I can see the break was definitely needed and am now looking forward to the rest of the season and the winter on the road and track alongside studying Sports Science at University.
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