Peloton Watch
  Penny Rowson on retirement and her career  
  August 26th 2015  
  Former British under 23 silver medallist Penny Rowson announced her decision to retire earlier this month after competing in the RideLondon criterium.

For Rowson who has been a regular on the British national scene for a number of years, 2015 marked a step forward in her career turning professional. With the Matrix Fitness team moving to a UCI team, Rowson round herself with the chance to compete in some of the biggest races in the world.

Reflecting on her career. "My best memory has to be when I came second in the under 23 national championships in Yorkshire. I trained really hard that year but in a fun way so when my head happy my legs were fast.

"I rode a really aggressive race attacking up the climbs and just hanging in the middle between the pro tour rides and the UK domestic scene knowing this was my opportunity I had to give my all."

Something Rowson wont miss is the difficulty of life on the road. "I guess having to live in places you don't want to be," explained Rowson on the hardest part of life as a cyclist.

A few weeks in to retirement Rowson opens up on her career, decision to retire and what is next.

PeloronWatch: How and why did you first start cycling?

Penny Rowson: I first started cycling as soon as I was big enough to pin a number on the back of my jersey, I must of just instantly had a love and passion for cycling as I remember jumping on my bike every morning before school to see if I could reach the pedals of my first road bike Santa had brought me. It was a race between me and my bro to get the stabilisers off and since then I've been trying to keep up with the boys ever since! My dad was national cross champ and took us to a few Yorkshire series races and mtb events as a family day out where I was just happy to pedal as fast as I could and win a goody bag of chocolate at the end of the day! It's definitely a good bribe to get kids into the sport!

PW: After RideLondon you announced on social media your decision to retire. What was behind the decision?

PR: I think there are numerous reasons, which have built up over a period of time. But the simple answer is cycling's a tough sport psychically and mentally and the financial struggles didn't make life any easier. If you can't do it for the money then do it because you love it, but its almost as though you're being exploited as its a full-time non paid job where you can't really switch off out of the usual hours of 9-5, you constantly have to be professional on social media for example, you can't just have a day off from training because someone out there is pushing themselves more to win, you can't decide you no longer want to watch your diet or all those marginal gains are lost. Every little thing is so important and I simply asked myself where does the fun come in? At races, the team and people supporting were incredible and the feeling of racing was enjoyable but it made up only 20% for me, the rest is behind the scenes and I no longer enjoyed training and if you're not happy there's no point sacrificing. I decided I don't want to sacrifice my time in this repetitive way and now look for new challenges where the positives outweigh the negatives and I can invest my time wisely into something I'm passionate about which in turn will make me happier.

PW: Was making the decision to retire a difficult one?

PR: It really wasn't at all, if something is not right stick it out, if it's still not right then change it. There's that saying by Einstein: "Insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Just getting round races because its comfortable isn't right to me, I absolutely love adapting to change, new situations and meeting new people so the thought of doing something else excites me. I have every confidence in myself in what I want in life ill achieve and unfortunately I just didn't wake up everyday wanting to be a pro anymore so I knew it was the right decision.

PW: Your career took a step forward with Matrix moving to a UCI team in 2015. What were the expectations like at the start of the year and how did you find racing at this level?

PR: I knew it would be a huge step up and a make or break year offcourse. I also had my final year exams so prioritising was a must. I didn't feel as though in our first year we had many expectations other than to give 100%. I did just that, I was grateful of every opportunity and never held back but realistically at times it felt as though I was just making up the numbers.

PW: You had the opportunity to ride a World Cup this year at La Fleche Wallonne what was the experience like?

PR: It was an unforgettable experience. The crowds were phenomenal. The atmosphere was buzzing fuelling my adrenaline going up the Mur de Huy. I was really proud of that race in particular because I gave myself the best possible chance, my legs weren't as strong as they needed to be, but I rode positively, my positioning was at its best so I could drop back on the climbs, and then as I moved up straight away I could then contribute to the teams performance by pushing riders up the peloton with me.

PW: What is the most important thing you can take away from your time as a cyclist?

PR: I think there's a lot of experiences you can't buy that ill be forever grateful of. Cycling has shaped who I am, on those cold wet windy rides where I've had to man up and call it character building. It's placed me into random situations where I've had to learn and adapt. Being part of a team is one of the best skills to learn as it enables you to be aware of others feelings, and generally be more kind and respectful when living in such tight spaces. I've been able to meet such diverse groups of people and make long lasting friendships with people I would have never imagined. A lot of the most beautiful views I've witness are due to cycling up mountains. It's taught me to do what I love, have confidence in achieving goals and not exactly follow the most conventional route of life because that's what others want you to do. There are so many positives to take away, I wouldn't change anything for the world and feel as though I've had the best journey to a professional cycling career for sure.

PW: When you first started did you think you would get to achieve and experience what you have in becoming a professional cyclist and racing some of the biggest races in the world?

PR: Its crazy to think I was sat in a classroom as a four year old and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered a professional cyclist and to actually achieve that dream is pretty special. I remember riding home from school and kids would genuinely throw stones and kick footballs at me because back then cycling wasn't cool, but it didn't stop me. I applied for Stef's team and got rejected one year and then accepted the next it was a dream come true. From there onwards to make it to here, something I've been aiming for as long as I can remember is truly incredible, just the amount of knowledge I have and experiences gained is impressive.

PW: Looking back what has been you best memory or biggest achievement as a cyclist?

PR: My best memory has to be when I came second in the U23 national championships in Yorkshire. I trained really hard that year but in a fun way so when my heads happy my legs were fast. I rode a really aggressive race attacking up the climbs and just hanging in the middle between the pro tour rides and the UK domestic scene knowing this was my opportunity I had to give my all. I remember looking at my mate Annie and giving her the nod, I initiated the move and we got our heads down and never looked back fighting all the way to the line. Simo shouts, "Are you sure were on the podium" and I remember replying "Ahhhh yeahhhh" with a huge grin! I think we were the happiest girls ever to finish off the podium behind world TTT champ Katie Colclough, to share that moment with her was pretty special.

PW: Favourite race you competed in and why?

PR: My favourite races are definitely stage races, it really brings the team together during the race and after there's a lot of banter. Also there's a lot more tactics to take into account which I love. For example you have to take into consideration conserving energy more, there's a lot more involved with QOM and sprints points during the race along with feed zones etc different teams decide which moves they consider dangerous, what combination is correct to make the break, I love how complicated it can be.

PW: What are you going to miss most and what wont you miss at all?

PR: I'm going to miss the ducking and diving, being inches off a wheel, the feeling of sprinting out of a corner, leaning over on the drops, ducking and diving, attacking, you cant simulate this on a training ride and I love the thrill of it all, the team briefings where we get given tactics and roles I'll miss that side of things.

PW: If you could and knowing and experiencing what you have what would you tell yourself when you first started out?

PR: As I say there’s not much I would change, I guess just to live in the moment and give 100% because hard work does pay off.

PW: There is still a long way to go but there have been a number of improvements in women's cycling the past couple of years what do you see as the most important thing to have happened?

PR: There's definitely a long way to go but the highlight, which stood out for me, was the Women's Tour. A challenging few days racing against the best in the world, with TV coverage and decent prize money was a show case for the potential in women's cycling and really set a high standard for how all races should be run. I was proud to be from Britain and honoured to compete in front of huge home crowds, who'd specifically come to watch women's racing,

PW: Now for life after cycling. What is next for Penny Rowson?

PR: Well after seeing my friends pin numbers on their jerseys at the Enduro world series and XC national series I was itching to jump in the race. I get back off my mtb rides and I'm the happiest ever so I'd like to go back to my old routes and give the off-road side of things a go without any pressure just re-live the fun days where you race for chocolate! I'm a simple girl who wants to travel the world and ride my bike. Whatever lies ahead will be eventful that's for sure.
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