Peloton Watch
  Annasley Park looking to continue track development after joining British Cycling Academy  
  December 29th 2015  
  Annasley Park's sporting career started out in athletics but consistent shin and hip injuries forced her to take a break. During the enforced break, not willing to sit around Park took up cycling to work on her cardio. Soon after she was hooked and following a difficult call to her running coach Park made the switch to cycling.

A consistent first half of 2014 season including a number of 10 finishes in the Tour Series set Park up for a strong second half of the year. A crash in the final round however forced an early end to her season with surgery to repair a torn ACL.

The injury though hasn't set back Park's development with 2015 proving to be another step forward. A number of top 10 finishes including three in rounds of the Matrix Fitness GP series, a win at the Otley Grand Prix and fifth at the National Circuit Race Championships confirmed Park as one of the rising stars in Great Britain, despite only starting competing three years ago.

Having earned selection for British Cycling's Senior Academy, Park is now looking to develop on the track. Park's track debut came at round two of the Revolution series finishing in or around the top 10 in scratch, points and elimination races, in a field that included World and Olympic Champions.

Less than a month later Park again lined up at the Revolution series finishing fifth in the elimination race and seventh in the points and scratch races.

With track now an important aspect of her cycling career Park will continue her development at round five of the Revolution Series in Manchester. Chasing her ambition of representing Great Britain at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

PelotonWatch: You were a runner before being forced to stop with injury what happened and what made you take up cycling?

Annasley Park: I started running from a very young age. I trained six times a week after school. I would go training in Cheltenham/Bristol with my brother and a few older boys on Tuesday night. I had no choice but to keep up and that was what I loved. However, I started getting injury after injury with my shins and hips. My coach was brilliant with giving me the time to get better and start training again. Then I got another hip injury in 2010, which took me out for six months. I'm not the kind of person to just sit around and give up, so I decided to spend my savings on my first road bike (Yellow and Black Giant Defy 3). This kept my cardio going without having that impact and stress on my joints. I would go out on the roads with my dad, climbing the black mountain passes and going fast down the hills. I would hear my dad telling me to slow down behind me, but I didn't care I just wanted to go fast. It soon came to my attention that cycling was what I wanted to pursue. It was tough ringing my running coach and telling him my feelings, but he fully understood and he has supported me ever since.

PW: Selected for the British Cycling Senior Academy for the coming year. Important step in your career? What does joining the academy mean to you?

AP: Well, sport has always been in my life. I tried very hard in my academic studies, but I knew that the only way I could prove myself was to be the best in what I am passionate about. So, to be part of the British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme is a huge step in the right direction for me. However, I know that this is only the first hurdle to getting somewhere close to my dream. To be given the opportunity to pull on a GB jersey every morning is not only a privilege but also inspiring. When I see the likes of Lizzie Armitstead, Mark Cavendish, Laura Trott and many other athletes that have gone through this programme, it makes me want to get to the top and push new boundaries. I am being provided with the best coaching, nutritional guidance, physiotherapy and many other resources, so I know that I have no excuses but to work hard and achieve.

PW: Had a two week boot camp in October and by all accounts it was a tough experience how did you find it?

AP: When I saw the word 'boot camp' it scared me, I am not going to lie. I thought it was going to be tough and I wasn't wrong. A typical day would consist of riding to the track and being ready for lessons at 9am. Lessons were till approximately 12pm. We were then onto the track from 1-4pm and then another lesson 4-5pm, before riding back to the house. Finally, we sometimes had a social night, so we would finish at about 10pm. Due to the early starts and late nights, we quickly had to get on top of our admin. Bags were packed the night before, lots of prep cooking was done ready for the week ahead, making sure we had clean kit/equipment for the next day and getting the foam rolling/stretching in when we had spare time. The lessons were really good and informative. We had workshops on topics including anti doping, nutrition and social media. My favourite workshop was the social media. We got to meet Martyn Ashton (Former British and World MTB champion). He gave us lots of tips on how to promote ourselves as well as giving people an insight to what it's like being a full time athlete. I really liked the social nights too. I think the best night was when we did the Escape Rooms. We had to try and find clues in the room to get us out before the time was up (one hour). It allowed us to work with people that we didn't know and get to know each other's personality a bit more.

I think the boot camp was tough, but definitely needed. It was a good way of shocking us and making us realise that it is more than just riding a bike that makes you get to the top of your game.

PW: Have started riding on the track is this a result of joining the Academy?

AP: Riding the track has always been a compulsory aspect if you want to be part of the British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme. Although I am predominately a road rider, I wanted to open myself up to new areas within cycling. I thought the track would definitely help with the leg speed and I thrive off working in a team, hence practicing team pursuit.

PW: How have you found riding on the track so far and what has been the biggest challenge?

AP: Well, I am very new to the track. I only started riding competitively three years ago and that's only on the road. I touched the track a little bit, but that was just to open my eyes a bit more to what else there was. Being given the opportunity to ride both track and road with the British Cycling Academy was something I wasn't going to turn down. I knew I would be the only track newbie in my squad and I would have to learn the track pretty quickly. I love nothing more than a challenge. I think the biggest challenge for me so far has been to just relax and feel the pace. I am very much a perfectionist, which can be my enemy at times. For the first couple of weeks I was thinking about getting all the smaller details right. Thinking about holding pace, holding the wheel and getting my delivery right. This made me really tense on the bike and it took the focus off just riding my bike as hard as I could. I decided to just think about getting the effort out and that is when I started to feel the pace and things have slowly started to come into place. I feel I have made a huge jump from where I was in September, but I know I have so much more to learn. My coach and teammates have helped me a lot and they are great to work with.

PW: Competed in round 2 of the Revolution series in October how did you find the racing? What was good, what was challenging and what did you learn?

AP: I loved racing the second round of the Revolution Series. It was my first time of racing in a big bunch on the track and being up against Olympic medallists. I think being chucked in the deep end is an understatement, but I had to start somewhere. The first race of the night was the points race. I thought it would have started faster, but that doesn't take away how hard the race was. I think that this race was the best race. I made a few moves and missed a few moves, but I learnt how to move in the bunch as well as look for any possible threatening moves. In contrast to this, I feel the most challenging race was the elimination race. I didn't quite have the tactical knowledge or experience, but I was excited to get stuck in and give it a go. I think my mistake was my positioning. I was too far back, which meant I couldn't get over the top and had to go underneath. This didn't allow me to go anywhere apart from being blocked, which meant I came out third time round. I was pretty happy with how I did, but knew I had a lot of work to do in terms of positioning, being more aggressive and looking for the right moves. This all comes with time and confidence though.

PW: Raced round 3 in November were you able to see improvements in your racing?

AP: I feel that I had improved from the last revolutions. My coach (Chris Newton) gave me a few things to think about before each race. I think the best race of the night was the scratch race at the end. I attacked over the top and was on my own for 6 laps (hoping someone would bridge across and help me). I nearly gained a lap, but I just couldn't quite get there on my own. The crowds were cheering me on which was quite cool.

However, I think my worst race of the night was the scratch elimination. I was fourth out and was really annoyed with myself. I had the elimination race next, so I had a few things to think about and take into the elimination. I decided to stay high every time and although it was harder, it meant I wasn't getting blocked in. I managed to come fourth, which was a huge improvement from my last race. I was happy with the racing that night and I took some positives away.

PW: You will be racing round 5 in Manchester at the start of January what are your goals for the event?

AP: I am very much looking forward to racing again at round five. I have personal targets that I would like to achieve. However, my goals will be dependent on how the team wants to play each race.

PW: Looking further ahead what are your ambitions on the track?

AP: To be taken onto the Academy in an Olympic year is very motivating. I would love to be in with a chance to represent my country in Tokyo 2020.

PW: Turning to the road you won the Otley Grand Prix, finished fifth at the National Circuit Race Championships and took a number of other top 10 finishes happy with your year?

AP: I am very happy with my year. I had a fantastic time racing with Giordana Triton and all the girls in my team worked hard. I was happy to have consistent results in most of the Tour Series rounds, as these types of races are fast, technical and dangerous if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I found that out last year in Woking. I separated my ACL joint and had to undergo surgery. This took me out for a while, but I learnt to 'like' the turbo only with the help of loud music or watching movies. Otley was a great race for me. My job was to mark Sarah Storey and help Nikki Juniper (series leader) maintain the overall lead. Sarah attacked on the climb and I went with her and we stayed away for most of the race. I don't have much of a sprint, but I managed to get the win. I know that I have many positives to take away from this year, which I hope to carry into next year.

PW: You raced the Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic in July how did you find it? Big step up from racing in the UK?

AP: The Tour de Feminin was a great race. It was unbelievably tough and I didn't realise how much climbing there was going to be! Each stage had its pros and cons. On the first stage I missed a break as I was too far back. The roads were quite narrow so there wasn't much room for error. I did manage to cover attacks and move through the bunch better towards the middle and end of the week. I love racing in the UK, but doing races such as the Tour de Feminin really allows you to be challenged and know how to manage your bike within a group on both narrow roads and roads with furniture. I think my favourite part of the stage was the last day. It was the toughest day, as we had to go up this climb four times. With really tired legs, the last thing I needed was to be faced with a difficult climb, but I love climbing and knew I had to use my strength to the best of my ability. I finished as the first British Rider and 26th on GC.
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