Peloton Watch
  Holly Takos ready for next stage of development with US racing block  
  May 22nd 2016  
  Holly Takos in action at the Austral Carnival - December 2016. © PelotonWatch  
  Holly Takos has her sights set on developing in to one the top track sprinters as she heads to race her first UCI C1 competition outside Australia, in the United States at the start of June.

After just missing the Australian team for the Junior World Championships in 2013, Takos switched focus to become a tandem pilot and represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games and Para-cycling Track World Championships in 2014.

Now back on the single seater bike she came close to medals at the Australian and Oceania Championships in calendar 2015. With fourth place finishes in the sprint at the 2016 Oceania Championships and 500m time trial at the 2015 Australian Championships. A breakthrough result came last December, where Takos won both the sprint and keirin at the Austral Carnival, beating former junior world champion Courtney Field in the process.

The next stop for Takos is Trexlertown, for more UCI C1 racing before heading to Melbourne for the International Track Series at the end of June.

How did you first start cycling and how old were you?

I began cycling at the age of 14 after being identified by the SASI Talent Identification Program in 2010. The program visited schools around Adelaide running tests on our physical and physiological characteristics, and thus matching us with sports we were best suited to potentially perform well in. From here I was invited to join the cycling squad. The ironic thing was that I initially vowed I would never be a track rider and loved the road, oh how things change! This was before I really discovered how exciting the track is and my passion for it.

Raced as a tandem pilot for a couple of years after stepping up from juniors how did that opportunity come about?

My coach, Jason Niblett, approached me after I had had a successful national titles in my last year of juniors but narrowly missed out on junior worlds. He presented the opportunity to me as chance to get exposure to international racing at a world class level and as travelling as part of the Australian Team.

Competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 as a tandem pilot what was the experience like?

The experience was one I will never forget. It was full of ups and downs and I learnt more that I could have ever imagined. The whole experience of being part of the Australian Team was so special. I found myself in awe of the talent and amazing people standing next to me and I couldn't believe that I was on the same team as them!

I had a lot of set backs when we moved into the village. I was diagnosed with Glandular Fever a day before racing started and I was devastated. I had worked so hard and here I was bed ridden with tonsils so inflamed I could barely talk. However, I was determined to race and be part of history, as this was the first time Tandem was an event at the Commonwealth Games. I worked closely with the team doctor to get me up and going for the race days and I can't thank the medical team enough for the support they gave myself and my stoker, Felicity.

I was proud of how I handled myself and we were still able to claim two fourths in racing which was a huge improvement for us. The experience at the Commonwealth Games was the most amazing thing I've ever been apart of and despite sickness, the memories drive me everyday to get back there and be able to call myself a member of the Australian Team again.

Have now switched back to the individual sprint what made you decide to move back?

I had never planned to stay on the tandem. When I started I had agreed to dedicate myself until Glasgow, but after that I was always to return to my single bike, as this is where my dreams and goals lay. The tandem was a great opportunity for me to develop skills for my single bike but even better it was an opportunity for me to give something back to the sport that has done so much for me.

We have seen Stephanie Morton go from being a tandem pilot to now a world class sprinter how do you think the experience as a tandem pilot will help you in the future?

My experience in the tandem program made me a more mentally tough athlete and taught me to never stop fighting or believing in myself. I believe since leaving the program that I am a more resilient and able to cope with the pressures of performance and criticism. I was also quite young when I took on the role as a pilot, having only just turned 17, so I was forced to grow up quickly which helped fast track me in to the pressures of the senior ranks. As well as this I was under lots of pressure as I was completing year 12, so I learnt how to manage stress and time constraints which I draw on today with balancing my training and university commitments.

I was exposed to the pressures of competing at a world class level and this experience I draw on today at competition. When I find myself feeling nervous before a race I often think back to the Commonwealth Games, and I remind myself that I’ve been able to perform under pressure before and from that I draw confidence. I learnt invaluable lessons and had experiences, good and bad, that other people my age had not and these were things that I know have moulded me into the rider and person I am today and that I will carry with me throughout my career.

Claimed your first UCI C1 sprint win in December at the Austral Carnival can you take confidence from that?

The Austral wins were special for me as this was the first time I had really proved to myself that I was on the right track, after a rough lead into the 2015 season due to sickness. I had a successful Oceania Track Championships a few months earlier, riding a personal best qualifying time and making my first major final, so I knew I was in good form. I was still nervous coming into the race as my goal was to win and I was proud to go out there and execute each race.

Attended the 2020 Development Camp last week in Adelaide how important was it for your development?

The 2020 camp was a great way for us athletes to get a taste of what could potentially be our futures. We were able to identify our strengths and also our weaknesses, which we now can go away and work on improving. It was exciting to experience what the day to day life of the athletes within the HPU program is like and what is expected of each athlete. The camp was also a good opportunity for the development athletes to bond as teammates and as friends. The week gave me a lot of motivation to continue working hard and showed me lots of ways to better my training and racing.

Racing in the US at the start of June what are you most looking forward to about racing overseas?

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to race overseas against a fresh bunch of riders. I haven't had much international race experience so I only get to race to the Australian girls most of the time. I can't wait to race and learn as much as I can from the experience and from the other athletes. I'm also looking forward to being part of the exciting event and just to be mixing it up a bit in terms of the training environment. Although I am going over there to race and train, its hard not to get excited about going to the US in general as I have never been there before and I love travelling to new places.

Always strong fields at Trexlertown what do you think the biggest challenge will be?

I haven't seen a start list yet but I'm sure there will be some tough opponents lining up on race day. I'm looking forward to racing against some very experienced riders it's another opportunity to learn and better myself. I will be focusing on sticking to my own plan and processes to make sure I’'m executing each race the best I can. Other than that, another challenge for me will most likely be the track itself, as I have never raced on a 333m track or an outdoor track. But this will just mean I have to adjust my tactics slightly and take weather conditions in to account. With help from my coach Nibbo who has also raced this event and Perko, I'm sure ill get my head around it in the week of training before hand.

Heading over with Tom Clarke, Derek Radzikiewicz and Shane Perkins how much of a benefit do you think it will be having Perkins' experience on the trip?

I am very excited to be heading over with Shane and so grateful for the opportunity he has created for us. We have been extremely lucky to have him as part of our training group this year as he teaches the team something new everyday and I look up to him as a role model. He is really friendly and supportive, so being able to go away with him and experience how he handles racing and training, especially when overseas, will be great for all three of us. I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can from him!

At the end of your racing in the US what would you be happy having achieved (not just in terms of results but experience/development gained)?

I will be aiming to gain as many UCI points as possible and I would love to podium in both races! But I will also be extremely happy if I come back from the US having learnt more about myself as a rider and having further improved my bike skills and tactics.

Looking further ahead what are goals for the rest of 2016?

This season my main goal is to get a spot on a world cup team and represent Australia. Other goals are to perform well at key events such as ITS Melbourne and the Oceania Track Championships and to keep improving in everyway possible.
 © 2016