Peloton Watch
  Kirstie James furthers her development at the Cali Track World Cup  
  February 2nd 2015  
  Former rower Kirstie James is one of a number of rising stars of the New Zealand women's track endurance cycling. Since making the switch to cycling in 2012 James has continued to make progress on her way to Rio 2016 Olympics. "The Olympics has always been my dream, ever since I was a kid," said James. "Even though I'm new to cycling, my goal is to fast track my way to Rio, and following that, race at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Tokyo Olympics in 2020."

The 2014/15 track season is the first season since London 2012 Olympics that New Zealand has sent a women's team to a World Cup. In the biggest moment of her short career to date James was selected for the final round in Cali, 16-18 January 2015. Under the new format qualifying the top eight teams ride the finals. "My best moment so far was the finals ride of team pursuit in the Colombia Track World Cup," added James.

Below James talks coming in to the sport, Tasmanian Christmas carnivals and the experience of her first UCI Track World Cup.

PelotonWatch: You started out as a rower why the switch to cycling?

Kirstie James: My last rowing campaign was in Kazan, Russia at the World University Rowing Championships where we placed 5th in the coxless four. Unfortunately for my team and I, this result was not even close to what we were aiming for, and there on the finish line of that race I came to a turning point in my career.

Leading up to Russia, a few doors had already closed in the rowing scene and I was advised by a few people to give track cycling a go. So in the months before my last rowing campaign, I had some testing done on a cycling ergometer and came out with promising results. So I thought I might just take the risk and switch codes.

I had done a little homework on this topic, and found that the physical demands of rowing and track cycling have some crossover, but I didn't own a track bike, nor did I have any idea that the required equipment goes well beyond just a bike! Nor did I really have any idea about cycling full stop, but I was hopeful that something would work out and determined to give it a shot.

So I sold what I could from my flat in Dunedin and moved to what was at the time, the centre of track cycling in New Zealand, Invercargill. Home of the SIT Zero Fees indoor velodrome, and many of the best cyclists and coaches in the country, and I think it was a move in the right direction. Since then, the Cycling New Zealand base has shifted north to the Avantidrome in Cambridge where I am now living.

PW: You have been riding on the track since 2012 what would you pick as your best moment so far?

KJ: My best moment so far was the finals ride of team pursuit in the Colombia Track World Cup. We had qualified 8th fastest and so we were presented with the opportunity to better our placing and our time. The atmosphere in the velodrome with the Colombian crowd and the wind is electric, it makes for really exciting racing. For our last race we made some small adjustments to our schedule and went out hard, even though we did not win that round, our team rode really well together and bettered our time. We came off the track satisfied at how well we rode as a team in our first World Cup.

PW: And the biggest challenge you have faced?

KJ: It's hard to pinpoint a single challenge as the biggest, it's more a whole lot of small challenges that added up that made things testing for me. Those small challenges are mostly due to learning the endless components of the sport and also balancing riding with studying my masters and trying to earn enough income to be able to ride through work and sponsorship.

PW: What sacrifices have you had to make to pursue your track career?

KJ: Sacrifice is a big word to me. Personally it's all about priorities and if I can get those right, at the right time I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything. When I changed to track, I took a big risk, but backed it with full commitment and I believe that committing to something fully definitely pays off. Other than that, there have been some big job offers that I've had to decline, but I think those types of jobs will still be around when I'm finished riding.

PW: You raced the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals after you were told about them during a flight for Oceania Track Championships in October is that right?

KJ: Yes funnily enough! When I found out about the carnivals it sounded great so I headed over. The carnivals were fantastic. There is great support for the women's races and the girls that I met there were all friendly and helpful. I stayed with a host family who sponsored one of the larger races and they were every hospitable. I highly recommend this event!

PW: What did you think of the carnival series? Has it given you a good preparation heading in to the final part of the 2014/15 track season?

KJ: The carnival series was great preparation as it gave me some extra time on the track. The velodrome here is closed during that time of year so it was great to be able to ride on the track leading into the World Cup competition. It was also very windy racing outdoors in Tasmania and I think that helped me prepare for the windy track in Cali.

PW: You have just finished your first Track World Cup in Cali what was the experience like?

KJ: Cali was amazing. As soon as I started cycling my first goal was to get selected for the NZ Elite team. I wasn't sure how long this would take and I was delighted to be selected for this World Cup. We had five riders for this event, so I didn't ride the qualifying round. I counted on my teammates to qualify us top eight so that I would get to ride in the first round and subsequently the final round. The girls got us through and even though we couldn't quite better our placing up from 8th we had two very solid rides, stayed together and achieved our goal of going faster each ride. This was a great experience for all of us and we learnt a lot.

PW: You had the opportunity to ride round one and the final of the team pursuit in Cali. How important was riding at a major international event for your development?

KJ: I felt as thought this World Cup could be a major stepping stone for me in my track cycling career. It was an honour to be back in the NZ uniform - the silver fern, and to work with such a great team of riders and staff. It was great to learn how Cycling New Zealand operates, how the International races are formatted and to gain knowledge from the whole experience.

PW: The Cali track is covered but open at the sides how did you find the conditions?

KJ: The Cali track is like nothing I've ridden on before. It feels like a mixture of indoor and outdoor tracks as the boards are wooden but the wind (and sometimes rain) comes in. The track itself is also a different shape than what I'm used to; it has really long straights and tight corners with a slight dip in one of them. At first it felt strange but as soon as we were used to the track I really enjoyed it. The wind also meant that the equipment we used was different. Usually in a team pursuit we would ride with a front disk, but with the variable conditions in Cali it was wiser to run five spoke Mavic IOs instead for added stability. Also the wind was a lot stronger during training than it was during racing, so we were prepared for the worst, but raced with really good conditions. I felt that the weather added an exciting factor, the thunder, rain, wind and huge roar of the passionate Colombian crowd made for really exciting racing to partake in and also to watch.
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