Peloton Watch
  Sarah Kent looks back on career, Australian TP World Record and coaching  
  March 12th 2015  
  Over the course of her career Sarah Kent was one of the top track endurance riders in the world. National titles across both track and road, and it was in 2004 as an under 15 Kent claimed her first national title winning under 15 national road race.

2007 saw Kent step up to the under 19 ranks claiming a silver medal at the Junior World Championships in the individual pursuit. A year later Kent won the individual pursuit at the National Championships before picking up a second silver at the World Championships. It was the team pursuit where Kent claimed her first rainbow jersey. 2008 was the first time the event was held with Kent claiming the first title with Ashlee Ankudinoff and Megan Dunn.

Just a year later bronze in the team pursuit at the senior World Championships, but it was 2010 that Kent put herself in the history books. After claiming the senior national title in the individual pursuit, a second World Championship selection followed. Having won the first two editions Great Britain were favourites to make it three in a row in the team pursuit. Kent teamed up with fellow Junior World Champion Ashlee Ankudinoff and West Australian teammate Josie Tomic to claim gold and become the first person with Ankudinoff to have won the team pursuit at a Junior and Senior World Championship.

After missing selection for the 2012 Olympics, Kent faced a tough decision. Continue on or find a new path. It was a difficult decision with Kent ultimately deciding to take some time off the bike. "It was incredibly hard. I still remember sitting in Gary Sutton's living room and breaking the news," said Kent. "I don't even think I said anything concise, he just knew."

Despite the decision it has proved to be the right one for Kent. "For me, I had a lot of internal battles to deal with. Depression was a big issue," revealed Kent. "Perhaps that was ultimately the root cause in missing Olympic selection for the effect it had on me over the years.

"The decision was based around my happiness - I couldn't face myself in the mirror when I was a bike rider, and interestingly enough that all changed when I retired," added Kent.

Kent's new path took her to Africa on a 1600km charity ride. "It was life changing. Like I said, I didn't like the person I was as an athlete. I was selfish, I didn't treat friends and family right and I couldn't see the big picture in life.

"Africa taught me how lucky we are to be doing what we do and how unfair it is for those who are not born into such blessed conditions. So from there on in my search for humanity and the root causes of global development issues has begun at Uni and hopefully in my future career!"

While Kent might have stepped away from competing she remains involved in the sport in a number of ways. The partner of Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jack Bauer. Kent also put her experience to good use at the recent Australian Junior Track Championships as a coach for the West Australian team. Below Kent talks about the world record performance of the Australian women's team pursuit squad at the Track World Championships, her best memories, coaching and one of the future talents of Australian track cycling Jade Haines.

PelotonWatch: Team Pursuit World Champion in 2010. Five years on what does it mean to you?

Sarah Kent: It means more to me now then back then I think. After Australia really struggled to get back on that top of the podium since 2010, I realised it was a far bigger achievement that I gave it credit for at the time. We were so young when we did it, only 20, and I remember at the time, the shock of what had actually happened outweighed the amount of belief I had in myself. It felt like a fluke, but I'm so glad we did it as I can always reflect on that when I get the occasional feeling of regret of retiring.

PW: Until this year it was the only time GB had been beaten at the World Championships. You know all the girls well what did you make of the performance and the world record time?

SK: It was incredible. I had this odd elated feeling inside of me for a good 24 hours after the girls did that, even back here in humble old Perth. It restored my faith in all the training they (and I) did for all those years. The girls work so hard, year round, as do the entire staff at Cycling Australia yet for so long we couldn't touch GB. But as soon as you realise that GB are human, just as you are, you know you can do it. They got a sniff in the qualifying by going fastest, and that sets you up for the rest of the rounds, because you back yourself, your teammates and the support staff around you. I was so proud of them. They have worked so hard and been the bridesmaids for so long and they didn't just win, they smashed it. They really deserved it after staying so gracious for those past 4 years.

PW: You have been there before and it was a long time coming how much confidence can the team take away from the win and heading towards Rio 2016 what is the most important thing now for the riders?

SK: I think the best thing the girls can learn from our win in 2010, is that now is the time to go another level again and not get complacent or give in to injury and psychological issues. I can visualise the debrief at the end of the world championships, and I know the HP managers would be stressing the same thing. The GB girls will be fired up and be coming out absolutely firing. But I have 100% faith in our girls. They are a good group, they push each other and most importantly they back each other in a fight!

PW: Teams moved to four riders from three ahead of the 2014 World Championships an important step in equality on the track?

SK: Definitely. I think incorporating the team pursuit in the first place is what helped put women's track racing on the map, especially for endurance. When we won in 2010, I feel it was a bit underrated, and perhaps that is because it was new and only three riders, but now we are on equal terms as the men with 4 riders over 4km and people really get behind it. To win a women's title on the track is incredibly prestigious! Anna Meares has of course really helped put women's track cycling on the map in Australia too! I would love to see the women's team sprint go to three, because I feel the depth is there as well. Big call?

PW: You made a brief comeback was there a feeling there were still things left you wanted to achieve?

SK: I'm not sure what the comeback was all about - at the time I still had regrets and I still felt I had retained some fitness so it was a trial to see how I felt about it and if I thought I could get back to that level. However, for me, like 99% of athletes, it's all or nothing. And the same problems started to resurface, so I let it go.

PW: Is there any chance of seeing Sarah Kent competing on the bike again?

SK: I don't think so! I'm enjoying sleep ins way too much these days. My partner Jack is a sleep-in lover and I think he has been wearing off on me. At the end of the day, I'm happy not being an athlete, and that's how I want it to stay. I'm pretty happy letting Jack do the racing for us these days… he looks better in lycra.

PW: Over your career what is your best memory?

SK: Of course our win at the World Champs in 2010 with Josie Tomic and Ash Ankudinoff takes the cake. I will never forget it, having my mum on the sidelines. However, I'll also never forget my first national title in the road race as an U15 in 2004. I took a chance in that race and it paid off and that's when I learnt you always have to take risks to succeed.

PW: Part of the West Australian coaching staff at the Junior Track National Championships last month how did you find the experience?

SK: Coaching is a whole different experience. It's really hard work. I actually called Sutto after the week and apologised for all the times I had complained or been a down right pain in the bum cause I finally understood! It was great though, I met 16 fantastic juniors who took being team players to a whole new level. I also learnt a lot thanks to Andrew Jackson. His experience and advice was invaluable. I got quite emotional after a few of the kids PB's too... clearly I still love it!

PW: Is coaching something you will look to do more of?

SK: I would love to. I got a real buzz out of coaching the team pursuit girls. They were a really young development team between 12-14 years old, and I had only had time to take them through two short efforts before race day, but I worked with them like it was a world championship. And they responded! They were so keen and eager to learn! Unfortunately my lifestyle of living in Europe with Jack doesn't allow that at the moment, so I will take small opportunities like the last one when I can for now! I have a distant dream of setting something up with young kids from orphanages or difficult upbringings and running some Talent ID's to get them racing on bikes. I've seen how bikes can change a life in Africa, so I feel that there is something in that in our own backyard. Who knows!

PW: Jade Haines claimed five gold medals what do you think we will be seeing from her over the next few years?

SK: Jade is an exceptional talent and almost soothing to watch. She looks effortless and has a beautiful pedalling style that when she steps up in gears and unrestricted equipment, she should excel again. I think you will see big things from this girl, as long as she keeps two feet on the ground, stays patient and handles pressure well. From what I've seen she can do all these things - that's exciting!
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