Peloton Watch
  Sophie Capewell: British Champion and a junior sprinter on the rise  
  August 11th 2015  
  Sixteen year old Sophie Capewell is a name followers of track cycling will be hearing a lot more of in the years to come. Even before her arrival on the junior scene the young talent had claimed three sprint and two 500m time trial national titles at the youth level in Great Britain. Plus gold in both the sprint and time trial at the School Games at the end of 2014.

At just 16 Capewell has already spent much of her life riding a bike. "I learnt to ride a bike when I was very young and my parents were involved in cycling," said Capewell. "My dad was coaching at my club and so we went along to watch a race. My sister said that she wanted to have a number on her back like the others did and so my parents said she could if she raced.

"When I saw my sister racing I said I wanted to do it," added Capewell. "I think that could have been my competitive side, wanting to beat her! I was racing by the age of 6 and I have always loved it!"

With racing at a high level limited for junior riders Capewell has made the most of the opportunities presented her in 2015. Two days of racing at the GP von Deutschland im Sprint in Germany saw her finish with second in the keirin and third in the sprint against several of the worlds best.

Capewell a member of British Cycling's Olympic Junior Academy Programme made her GB debut in July at the European Junior Track Championships in Athens. Making the finals in both the sprint and keirin finishing a close fourth in the sprint and fifth in the keirin. It was fifth place again in both the 500m time trial and team sprint.

Despite coming home empty handed in terms of medals from the European Championships, Capewell is aware that the experience will be more important for her continued development.

It was a quick turn around with the British National Championships just two weeks later. A storming Capewell set personal bests in the 200m flying lap and 500m time trial, plus victory in the keirin on route to three national titles.

With Great Britain not sending a team to the UCI Junior Track World Championships Capewell's first year as a junior is at a close but she is already looking forward to 2016. Below Capewell talks about her results this year and how she has found the challenge of stepping up to a new level.

PelotonWatch: In June you raced GP von Deutschland at Cottbus in Germany and picked up two podiums. How important was it to get some high level racing in your legs?

Sophie Capewell: It was very important. At the moment there aren't very many junior girls riding sprint at a competitive level in Britain and so, in my opinion, you can only do so much preparation training on your own, without racing. I think that there is a difference between being fit and in good form to race and being race ready. The difference is the fact that by racing you become more switched on! I learnt a lot from riding at the GP, especially looking at tactics. It was the first big event of the year and I could tell the difference in how I rode and approached this GP compared to at the European Championships where I felt a lot more ready having already had some high level racing in my legs.

PW: European Championships were your first major international competition heading in what were your ambitions?

SC: Having raced at GP von Deutschland at Cottbus I thought I was in a good position heading into the Championships as I knew that I was racing against some of the top competition that were going to be at the there, for example, Emma Hinze. I took confidence from my podium and thought that I could replicate this performance at the European championships, and possibly get on the podium.

PW: You made the bronze final in the sprint just missing out in the decider. Must have been happy to make it to the final but disappointing at the same time to just miss a medal?

SC: Yes I was happy to make it to the final but it was a tricky road to get there. My qualifying, 11.799, was a PB but I wasn't overly pleased with it because I thought that I could do better and go faster. But it was still a decent time, enough to qualify sixth. I won my first round and the quarters after going to three rides. I took Pauline [Grabosch] to three rides in the semi-finals, and was frustrated with myself as I ended up making the mistake of trying to ride a similar race from man two when she was fighting for man one. And so I ended up in the bronze medal ride off, I beat the other girl in two rides but got relegated in the first for straying from my line; I think it was out of tiredness having taken all my rides to three so far! And then I lost the decider. I was very disappointed in myself afterwards, as I knew that I could have ridden better. But as a first year all I can take is positives as I learnt so much in those two days and can use all of that as building blocks leading into future competitions. I finished higher than I qualified which is great especially moving from sixth to fourth!

PW: Fourth in the sprint and fifth in the keirin and the 500m TT. Close to a medal in all three individual sprint events happy with your performances and how important was the racing for your development?

SC: I was a bit frustrated at first with all my performances as I believed that I didn't perform to the best of my ability but, looking back, I think that my results were good and only being a first year means that I can take them and improve on them. We haven't had many opportunities to race this year due to different circumstances but the fact that we had the opportunity to race this high calibre event means that we can progress again, and this is vital to our development. For me, personally, it was one of two opportunities I have had this year of racing against girls who qualified faster than me. This racing was very important for my development as I have not really done much racing this year and we learn the most from actually racing and that includes making mistakes. "You can learn a lot from losing but the trick is not to make a habit of it!"

PW: Big PB in the 200 on day one at Nationals on route to sprint win. Were you happy with such an internationally competitive time of 11.549 in qualifying?

SC: Yes I was happy with my time, but I feel like it is just the start. I have been at a bit of a standstill the past few years, with my times never really matching my form, but now I think I am making a breakthrough. I know that I can go quicker and I know this puts me in even better stead when racing in big competitions. The way I see it I am happy with this being the start of my qualifying times improving.

PW: What does it mean to be national junior sprint champion?

SC: To me, it means that I am getting better; this could be the first step in what could be a career in cycling. It shows that I am good at what I love to do and that is riding my bike. And that is an amazing feeling. It is also a confidence boost.

PW: Backed up the second day with another gold and a PB in the 500m TT of 35.943. Happy with your ride and that time?

SC: I was happy with the fact that I got a PB however my start wasn't as good as I am capable of. But this is a huge bonus because it means that I can go even faster which is an amazing feeling; it is just a matter of time now when everything will fall into place.

PW: You made it a sprint, 500m TT and keirin triple on day three. How much confidence can you take away from these wins?

SC: I have taken away confidence in the way I ride and my tactics. It shows that I was being consistent and this gives me more confidence going forward. This is a huge thing for me as I think that this can affect my racing. The more I race the more confident I become in my own ability and so these races and titles are now in the bank.

PW: With the form you are in is it disappointing not to be heading to Junior Worlds later this month?

SC: I suppose it is disappointing not to be able to go to Junior Worlds, but I am only a first year. I have total trust in my coaches and the British Cycling programme, and although we are not going this year, hopefully I will have the opportunity to go next year when I will hopefully be better, faster and stronger and will be able to 'hit it hard!'

PW: 2015 has been your first year as a junior. How have you found the challenge of stepping up out of the youth ranks?

SC: It has been different but I am still enjoying riding my bike, possibly even more than before. I like the freedom to explore different gears and grow as an athlete. The one thing that I find frustrating is the lack of races available for junior women sprinters but hopefully next year we will have other opportunity to race more before big competitions. I think that that was one of the biggest differences, as I did feel a difference between how I felt last year coming into a competition and how I felt this year, especially with confidence and being switched on coming into an event. But the races are bigger and better, like at the European Championships and that is very exciting.
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