Peloton Watch
  Dannielle Khan makes the switch from track sprinter to endurance rider  
  November 26th 2015  
  Dannielle Khan started her sporting career on the ice as a short track speed skater but a love of riding her bike lead her to the 2011 British Cycling National Youth Track Championships, where she claimed gold in the under 16 sprint and 500m time trial.

After a trial with British Cycling's Olympic Development Programme Khan was offered a full time place at the same time she was offered a place on the GB Short track team but would have to give up riding. Khan made the decision to move to track cycling full time and since then has emerged as one of the rising stars of the sport.

Junior World titles in the sprint and 500 metre time trial in 2013 in Glasgow further elevated Khan's talent in to the spotlight. Since stepping up to the senior ranks Khan was won two British titles in the team sprint and competed in more than a dozen UCI competitions. On the international stage Khan claimed a bronze medal at the Guadalajara Track World Cup in January 2014. Before returning to Glasgow, the location of the Junior World Championship success for the Commonwealth Games last year finishing sixth in the 500m time trial and seventh in the sprint.

After a busy racing program during the middle of the year with a month spent in the United States before two third place finishes at the Revolution series, Khan has been kept off the bike with a back injury the past three months. Missing both the National Championships and the European Championships.

Despite her talent as a sprinter Khan will switch focus to developing as an endurance rider as part of British Cycling's Senior Academy. "Switching to endurance was something that has always been at the back of my mind and something I have always wanted to give a go," said Khan. "I kind of fell down the sprint pathway after having some success in the U16 sprint events in 2011 and unlike most people I haven't had the chance to explore the other cycling disciplines.

"It was never a question of switching from sprint to endurance it was always a case of when and although the opportunity presented itself a little earlier than I had thought it would, I feel it was a good time for me to make the switch."

PelotonWatch: Started as a short track speed skater. What made you switch to cycling?

Dannielle Khan: I switched across from short track speed skating purely for the fact that I just loved riding my bike and everything than goes with it! After winning the U16 sprint & 500m time trial national titles in 2011 I applied for a place on British Cycling's ODP Sprint programme (Olympic Development Programme). After guesting for three months and juggling both sports, I was offered a full time place but only on condition of focusing on cycling full time. At the same time I was offered a full time place on the GB short track team. The thought of putting my bike down and not being able to ride it if I was to move and skate full time in Nottingham was a horrible feeling. A feeling that made the final decision to stop skating and switch to cycling.

PW: Short to attention winning gold in the 500m TT and sprint at the 2013 Junior Track World Championships. Looking back what does that success mean to you?

DK: For me winning two gold medals and a silver was just the best feeling in the world and to do it in your home country with a home crowd cheering for you was just a huge bonus! It meant such a lot to me in many ways. It was obviously great to stand on the top step of the podium and pull on a rainbow jersey but more than anything it was a great reward not only for my hard work but for a number of other people around me. Who had worked closely with me in the build up to the Worlds and had supported me every step of the way which allowed me to go out in Glasgow and perform to my best and to come away with two world titles and a silver medal was just the icing on the cake. Although it was fantastic to take the titles I saw it as a great stepping stone/starting point to go on to racing in the senior ranks.

PW: The step up from junior to senior is often challenging how did you find it?

DK: Shortly after winning in Glasgow I moved up to live and train full time in Manchester in October 2013 as I was accepted on to the Olympic Academy programme. For a track sprinter the majority of the time is spent in the gym with the aim to develop strength and power with the goal of this then being transferred onto the bike. Over the last two years I have picked up a few different injuries which have been huge challenges in themselves to overcome, with the rehab programmes becoming a very frequent and time consuming part of my weeks. Aside from that when I have raced on the senior circuit at Revolutions, World Cups and Senior National Championships I've always felt relaxed. Being the youngest member of the sprint squad seemed to take the pressure off me.

PW: Spent June racing in the US with Rosie Blount. You were there on your own without the support used to getting at major events. How did the racing go and what was the experience like?

DK: The experience was just fantastic and it was by far my favourite trip I have been on in the past two years as a sprinter. Obviously I absolutely loved travelling to World cups and to Majorca training camps but the set up, the people, the training and the racing out in America was just great and I found I got so much out of it not only from a physical point of view but also having to look after myself and think for myself on a race day. It showed me that I could rely a bit more on myself rather than having someone always telling you what you need to do. For example at a World Cup the only thing you have to think about is riding your bike where as in America we had to organise lifts to and from the track as well as planning the amount of food/drinks we needed, who to go to if our bikes had a mechanical issue. All things that automatically get taken care of when you are away as a team. Another huge bonus was that Rosie and I got to make so many friends and meet new people with the same interests as you. Some of the other teams that were out there at the same time were the Canadians, Kiwis and Dutch. Teams that were made up of world class athletes with huge successes. We stayed in Kutztown University so socialising off the bike with the Dutch and Kiwis was great fun and made the trip that bit more special. It felt really relaxed from that point of view as when you go away with the whole GB team you kind of just keep your selves to your self so this provided a great opportunity for us to integrate with athletes on a social level as the only time we ever meet is at World Cup events.

PW: Going forward you are switching from sprint to endurance. What was behind the decision?

DK: Switching to endurance was something that has always been at the back of my mind and something I have always wanted to give a go. I kind of fell down the sprint pathway after having some success in the U16 sprint events in 2011 and unlike most people I haven't had the chance to explore the other cycling disciplines. I feel that with the skills and techniques I have learnt on and off the bike on the sprint programme they will set me up well going forwards on the endurance programme and I feel that I have the potential there to do well.

PW: Having had the success in sprint events as a junior was switching to endurance a difficult decision to make?

DK: It was never a question of switching from sprint to endurance it was always a case of when and although the opportunity presented itself a little earlier than I had thought it would, I feel it was a good time for me to make the switch and I only reflect on the decision positively. Although I still felt I had a lot of unfinished business in the sprint world, the door of opportunity opened and I decided to step through. I felt like I still had a lot to prove and show as a sprinter on the world stage but my aims and goals will remain the same only I will try and achieve them on the endurance side of things. I am really looking forward to another challenge and part of my journey.

PW: Third in the keirin and sixth in the sprint at Revolution in August, in what was your last event as a sprinter. What is your best memory of your time as a sprinter?

DK: I love the Revolutions! There such great events and allow you gain valuable experience racing Olympic events in front of a home crowd. It was great to get to race on Derby and I was really happy picking up two third place finishes and a sixth, which actually turned out to be my last event as a sprinter. For me I cant single out just one memory as I have made so many great ones in the last few years its too hard to pick just one!

PW: Have been kept out of racing the past two months with injury and have missed racing in Europe and the National Championships. How difficult has it been to miss events you had been targeting?

DK: Obviously not racing the Nationals was a real shame as I felt after the Derby Revolution I was coming into some really good form and was excited for the nationals but as an athlete you always have a plan and something to focus on be it a race or a training goal. This time it was rehabbing this injury and getting back to training in the shortest but safest time possible so over the past three months my focus has just changed to that.

PW: How is the recovery going?

DK: Recovery is going really well; because of the type of injury it is the main healer is time! Which as an athlete who can be a bit impatient at times is very frustrating but I'm making good progress each week and cant wait to be back to full fitness and getting stuck in to some training and racing again!

PW: What are you most looking forward to about returning to the track as an endurance rider?

DK: For me I am mostly looking forward to the amount of races that are on the calendar as well as the road training camps abroad. I love training camps purely for the fact that you can just focus on the job you are doing. Riding your bike and then recovering without having to focus on anything else! For a sprinter there isn't a huge amount of races out there for you to do so it can become quite hard having to keep up a specific focus when just training but now I will potentially be racing almost once a week be it on the track or on the road when the racing season kicks off which I am really excited for.

PW: What do you see as the biggest challenge going from sprint to endurance?

DK: For me the biggest challenge I see will be adapting to the different training and some of the road races. Obviously as a sprinter I spent a lot of the time in the gym and on the track with the road just being used mainly as a recovery tool. Now there is going to be less gym, a lot more track and definitely a lot more road in my programme but I'm very excited as its a passion of mine I have always wanted to pursue. Maybe now next time I do a flying 200 it wont seem so long?!

PW: What will you miss most about being a sprinter?

DK: I think the thing I will miss the most about being a sprinter will be the people I trained with! I have made so many lovely friends who have helped and supported me over the last two years. Its like I have been part of a close family. You see these people daily, you train with them, socialise with them away from the bike, you race with them, go on training and racing camps and make so many great memories. Obviously it will be the same with endurance but with different people, which will soon become another close nit family no doubt! It is very exciting getting to know some new faces.

PW: Going forward what are your goals for the 2015/16 track season and beyond?

DK: I think looking ahead for me personally I would like to be in a condition fit and healthy enough to race next year not only on the track but on the road which will be something very alien for me but I am very excited at the prospect and cannot wait to get stuck in and learn as much as possible!
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