Peloton Watch
  Josie Talbot back on the bike following a break after Junior Worlds  
  July 2nd 2015  
  Josie Talbot is a World, Oceania and Australian Champion, the path to get there has been full of triumphs but not everything has been easy for Talbot who started cycling as an under 15. Her first serious race was the New South Wales state championship road race. It is a race that Talbot would win and a spot in the state road team followed.

Since then Talbot has won numerous Australian and Oceania titles on the track and road as well as claiming her first World Championship success in 2014 in the team pursuit. Despite the success it was not an easy time for Talbot who had been struggling all year to enjoy riding her bike.

Talbot got her start in triathlons before moving to cycling. "I really hated swimming training; I hated the early mornings. I had a natural talent for the sport at the get go, which I am so grateful for. I also followed my brother into the sport as he'd started racing as a junior as well.

The social aspect is another thing that Talbot loved. "To be honest I made friends really easily with my competitors, which is always going to sway a child to something. I purely enjoyed going away for junior tours and coming home with a bit of pocket money every now and then."

Despite the success as one of Australia's top junior cyclists Talbot stopped enjoying the sport. "I can't pinpoint the exact moment I thought 'hey I don't like riding my bike anymore' but it encroached on me every day," revealed Talbot. "Making new friends and discovering a bit of a social life for the first time, after my family and I had moved down to Gods country Wollongong really changed my view.

"Having a bad first experience at junior worlds in Glasgow a year before made me a bit more open to having a social life and not devoting all of my time into training. I'd had enough of it!"

With a successful start to the 2014 season including winning the under 19 omnium for the second year in a row Talbot was in a hard place. Not enjoying it and not knowing what to do about it. "Last year was a hard year for myself. Imagine being selected to represent your country, an opportunity that a million other boys and girls would give their right arm for, and wanting so badly to say no. That's what I was battling with the whole year.

"I felt so guilty and arrogant for what I was feeling but junior worlds in Korea was the last place I wanted to go," Despite not wanting to be there, another thought kept Talbot from saying no. "At the same time though I couldn't let myself go without a rainbow jersey.

"So I forced the urge and hated every session of training I'd completed that year. I commend my coach at the time, Mick Kejda, for having to deal with me. I would ring him up and tell him that I only wanted to do one track session today instead of the two that were on my program and wouldn't back down until I'd persuaded him to agree. I was a totally different person."

The reason why was a combination of things. "Self doubt and doubt in others, turning 18, and being in my HSC year," said Talbot as she reflected on what was a difficult year.

Despite the battle of not wanting to be there and not enjoying it Talbot's time in Korea allowed her to obtain the one thing that stopped her from giving up. A world title. "To be honest, and I think I could speak on behalf of some of the other girls on the team, it was a big relief and weight off our shoulders to pull on the rainbow jersey," said Talbot. "Not getting the jersey the year before was a massive shock so we went out there purely to redeem ourselves."

At the time Talbot was unsure of what it meant. "For me personally, at the time it was hard to comprehend because of the battle I went through in the lead up to the event." Almost a year on and the uncertainty is behind her. "I look at the jersey on the wall now and I'm so proud of myself but at the time, my attitude wasn't in the right place to really appreciate what the jersey meant."

August nine, the date of the team pursuit final was a day of double celebration. Not only did Australia take home the gold but also it was Talbot's birthday. With it came a present that money cannot buy - a world title on your birthday. "My teammates and friends definitely made me feel special over there in Korea. My room was full of balloons; I wore a birthday hat all day and even ate cake after racing! So yeah it was quite a day!

"It was good because my mind was too busy to worry about over thinking the racing or getting nervous so the celebrations helped to balance out emotions."

A quick turn of speed and strong tactics in the bunch allowed Talbot to come home with three medals, having won bronze in both the points and scratch races. For Talbot who is always chasing success bronze was not quite what she had hoped. "I went to Korea to win and coming home with bronze medals meant that I was unsuccessful. People may think I sound arrogant but everyone sets themselves goals and that's what I had done and I didn't achieve those goals.

"Again, when I look at the medals today I appreciate them so much, but I really wanted that second rainbow jersey."

After Junior World Championships it was decision time, as it is for a lot of riders who are about to move to the elite level. The question of what next? For Talbot after more than a year of not enjoying racing it was time for a break. "It was very important decision to take a break. I learnt a lot about myself, and what my values as a person truly are," explained Talbot. "I am very proud of the person I am today and I know taking that time away helped to shape the real me.

"As a whole my junior worlds campaign, both years was a negative experience through my eyes so removing myself from that environment was the best thing I could have done for myself."

Much has been written about the experience of the Junior World Championships. The pressure. The importance. Opinions vary. "Junior worlds is such a controversial experience because as youngsters, it is the pinnacle of our career," explains Talbot who now has a different take on it to the one she had before. "Unfortunately we don't realise until after we've had the experience that it's not the most important thing, and in reality it's really a tiny blimp in our careers.

"I think I definitely learnt that the hard way and put way too much pressure on the situation at the start," added a reflective Talbot. "Taking a break was well needed and I would tell any junior cyclist aspiring to go to junior worlds to just remember that enjoying what you're doing and having fun is way more important than any rainbow jersey."

For a teenager who has spent much of their teenage years competing and pushing themselves there will inevitably be challenges. "This is a hard one," reveals Talbot on her biggest challenge before adding "I think the biggest challenge in my career so far has been to keep everything in perspective and enjoy the present.

"Sport is hard to be involved in because you're constantly striving for goals in the future." Which for Talbot has been difficult but her time off the bike has allowed her to reflect and find a balance. "Sometimes you need to take the time to think about every pedal revolution and ask yourself why you enjoy turning them so much.

"Stop and have a coffee with friends or look at the view on top of the mountain. I used to only think about the competition and goals that I was training for, which made cycling a very difficult task to complete every single day.

When asked the question of what made her get back on the bike it is a combination of reasons. "Boredom. No school and only casual work equates to lots of spare time.

"I did miss riding my bike everyday though. I missed travelling and racing and being fit."

With nearly a year off her track bike following the 2014 Junior World Championships, Talbot made her first appearance as a senior at the International Track Series in Adelaide at the end of May. "Heading in I definitely wasn't expecting too much," said Talbot. "I had to keep reminding myself where I was and what I've been doing with myself for the last half a year. I was there to race and find my feet again.

"It was hard because being in under 19's I was used to being at the top, so throwing myself straight into an elite race against the best in the world (literally), after having half a year off the track was difficult. I don't like being the little fish."

Despite her break Talbot improved as the racing went on including picking up a third place finish in one of the omnium scratch races. When asked if she was happy with how she went. "Yes and no," was the answer. "I definitely got more comfortable as the week went on and I came away with some good results and a lot of things to work on which was expected.

"I'm very hard on myself though so you'll never hear me say that I'm happy with a 10th place finish in any circumstance," explained Talbot with a bit of a laugh."

With the 2015-16 track season fast approaching Talbot is looking forward to new challenges. "I guess I need put my stamp back on the page.

"Having my break caused me to miss some great opportunities like World Cups and my first nationals as an elite so I'm in a position where I have to prove myself, wave my hand in the air to remind everybody that I'm back on my bike and here to race."
 © 2016