Peloton Watch
  Lauren Perry back on track with eye on long term development  
  September 5th 2017  
  Lauren Perry celebrates winning the 2015 Australian scratch race title. Photo: John Veage  
  In 2013 and 2014 Lauren Perry was on top of the world. A dual junior world champion with rainbow jerseys in the individual and team pursuits among a four-medal haul across the two years.

The step up from junior to elite often presents a challenge, though Perry stepped up achieving immediate success. An Oceania title, Australian title and World Cup gold in 2015 set Perry up as the next rising star of Australian cycling.

Suffering from fatigue and her health taking a toll on her motivation Perry was faced with a difficult decision. Continue or take a step back from the bike and put her Olympic dream on hold. While difficult she elected for the latter and took some time off the bike. Missing the 2016 and 2017 track seasons.

After watching friends and competitors race, Perry was sick of not being able to race herself and decided to slowly return to racing. Her two years away from top level competition have seen her return with a different mindset and maturity.

While the Olympic dream remains Perry isn't in a rush and is focused on enjoying the sport and not on making the Olympics above all else.

A return to international competition came at the International Track Series Melbourne in July in what Perry admits was a challenge. Though gave her a starting point to build on going forward. As she looks towards the 2018 Oceania Track Championships in November and the Australian Championships across December and February.

After your final year as a junior you immediately stepped up to elite winning an Oceania title, World Cup gold and Australian title how did it feel having this continued success early in your elite career?

For me it was an almost perfect start to my elite career. As a junior I always had high expectations going into racing because I knew what I had achieved in the past and that I could do it again, so to go into the elite ranks and have that kind of start was pretty dreamy. I felt like I was on a steady upward path.

Had some time away from the bike with illness suffering from fatigue and lack of an immune system. After having focused on riding your bike how hard was it to deal with?

It was pretty tough for me having to take time away from the bike. All I had ever wanted to do since I was about 10 years old was go to the Olympics. I was only going down hill (form and health wise) and after some shocking racing over the 2015/16 Tassie carnival season I decided the only way I was going to improve was to have a break from the bike and focus on my health, because you cannot achieve anything when you aren't in good health.

That was one of the hardest decisions I had made in my cycling career at that point in time, as I was in the team to go to Hong Kong for the World Cup, so to miss that was really disappointing. Coming out the other end however, I do believe it was the right thing to do.

You lost your motivation for the sport what happened? Was there a point where you thought I just don't want to do it anymore or was it more gradual?

I lost motivation as a result of my fatigue. It was a snowball effect really. I was constantly sick which meant I was taking training easy, or when I did have a hard session it wasn't as good quality as it had been previously. For example my pursuit efforts all felt identical, but when battling fatigue they would be almost 10 seconds slower for the same amount of effort. This is why it was so head cracking, I was putting in the work but my body wasn't responding.

This played on my mind a lot and resulted in loss of motivation, which saw my form plateau. I felt like everyone else was improving and I was going backwards. This was really tough for me mentally as that Olympic dream seemed a fantasy that would never eventuate. I got really down about it because achieving my cycling dreams was all I really wanted in life. I tried so hard for a while to hang in there and be patient, but it got to a point I just wanted to hang the bike up and never look at it or see anything to do with cycling ever again.

Found your passion again and made a fulltime return to the bike how did you come to that decision? What made you want to come back?

After being sidelined for the last track season and missing nationals, Oceania Championships, World Cups and even the Tassie Christmas Carnivals, I got sick of watching everyone else race and not being out there myself. I realised how much I was missing racing and even the people I've met along the way. My mindset is totally different now. I still have that Olympic dream in the back of my mind, but I'm just enjoying riding and racing my bike again.

It's been a very slow and steady return for me but I also know that I need to keep on top of this fatigue. I'm not in such a rush to achieve everything now. It will happen when it happens and if I keep putting in the hard work rewards will come. There is no better feeling than standing on the podium or racing for the fastest time around the track with your teammates and that's what I'm looking forward to again. I'm more focussed on the pathway now and achieving small things along the way, rather than being set on making the Olympics and nothing else.

Having had that time away from the bike dealing with injury and lack of motivation do you think you have come back mentally stronger and better prepared to continue your career?

I think so for sure! Before I always doubted myself and when I was struggling with fatigue that really got on top of me. Now I am more focussed on giving it a good crack and doing it because I want to see how far I can go. I still doubt my ability somewhat, but my mindset is now more focussed on enjoying the racing and the journey I'm on, rather than being dissatisfied with not achieving goals. This sport is so much easier when you're genuinely enjoying it. My whole outlook is so much more positive.

Looking back on what you have achieved, with the rainbow jersey, World Cup and Australian jerseys hanging in your room does it give you motivation?

The jerseys behind my bedroom door certainly motivate me! There's something special about pulling on a winners jersey, they each have their own memory associated with them. I hope to add to my collection in the future, starting with the green and gold in the team pursuit at nationals.

First major competition back was ITS Melbourne at the end of July heading in what were your goals?

My goals were to target the scratch races in the omniums and to have a good Madison. Unfortunately I didn't achieve the goals I set for the scratch races, but it was my first race back and you've got to start somewhere! I had never ridden an omnium in that format before so it was a massive learning curve for me. I had no idea how to tackle a tempo race and I was much more unfit than the other girls I was racing.

The Madison, however went almost perfectly to plan, I partnered with Ruby Roseman-Gannon and she set us up from the beginning, winning the first sprint, I was very happy with our second place. At the end of the week I knew where I stood and what I need to do to move forward so I certainly didn't waste my time going to the ITS.

A Madison and two omniums over five days how did you find getting back to racing at that level? What did you find challenging, learn and what did you enjoy?

Most of all I realised how unfit I was - I found it a challenge to keep backing up, race after race. I really enjoyed being back at that level of racing, but I didn't enjoy being smashed so much. First and foremost I went to ITS to learn, and that's exactly what I did. It was a great starting point for me and I look forward on building on my form from here on out.

In to a training block now what are your goals going forward?

My goals from here moving forward are starting small. Firstly I want to have a decent Oceania Championships. I'm not going there expecting to win, but I am going there to learn and to get some really solid racing in. I don't have any pressure on myself for this track season. I want to see what I can do and continue to work on that for potential selection into future World Cups and World Championships teams or whatever comes my way.

I do want to have a good Madison in December for our national championships, and I certainly do want to take back the Australian title in the team pursuit with the other Tasmanian girls. I'll never give up on the Olympic dream I had as a child, so that's the big one, but for now I'm focussed on the pathway and the process.

Commonwealth Games next year come a bit early for you? Tokyo 2020 Olympics something you have your eyes set on?

I dreamt of going to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as an under 19, at that time it seemed as though it might be possible, right now however, I don't think I have enough time to prepare and make the team. I haven't been back on the bike very long and I have a lot of improving to do.

Tokyo is on the horizon, but I'm trying not to get as caught up in that goal as I have been previously. I think I stress less when I think of the smaller things coming up. Next year I would like to go to America to race again, so maybe that's where my focus will lie. It's hard to say at the moment.

Lot of depth in Australia and with a couple of years away what do you think the biggest challenge will be?

There is incredible depth in Australia's track cycling program. It is good because it keeps our athletes honest. It does make it challenging to be selected for teams because of the depth. There are always a lot of people who could potentially fill spots to race for Australia so it means you have to get good and consistent results to be considered for a team.

My results at ITS weren't really what would catch the eye of a selector, so my biggest challenge will probably be getting back to that level where they might consider taking me away again. After all that is what I want to do most now I am back on my bike, I just want to pull on the green and gold and race for Australia again.
 © 2016