Although you may not have heard of her a few weeks back, Shanaze Reade is now a household name after her bold attempt to bag a podium spot in the BMX event at the Beijing Olympics. Now back on British soil, we catch up with Shanaze to reflect on her performance and find out the feisty northerner has her sights firmly set on a 2012 medal…
How did you feel when you heard BMX was becoming an Olympic sport?
It was announced as an Olympic Sport at the same time that I was choosing my options for my GCSEs at school – I chose BMX!!
Were you excited to make the team?
It was a dream of mine – I could finally say I am an Olympian! But due to the way it works, it was a very drawn out affair for me to make the team. I hadn’t done enough World Cup races to get the necessary points as I was concentrating on training, so I had to qualify for the semi finals at the World Champs in July to make the team. As it turned out I won the World Champs so it was all good, but it was a lot of pressure going into the event.
How did you train in the run-up to the event?
I did my usual season plan which is endurance in the winter, track work after Christmas finishing in the world track champs in April, then back onto BMX for the summer. British Cycling and Manchester City Council built a replica of the start ramp, 1st and 2nd straights and turn one so I could practice on the next best thing to the real thing and that was awesome.
How did you find the actual course?
I won the test event there in September 2007 and at that point it was an awesome course and one of the best I’d ever ridden. After my fall in the first time trial run, it was a lot more difficult because I then took the first turn a bit more cautiously and found it hard to carry my speed from the start ramp through the turn. When I crashed in the first semi on the step up / step down going into turn one, that just made it even harder.
Were you disappointed not to make the medals?
I trained really hard and focused all my energy on getting a Gold medal and when I went behind in the final I was still wanting to cross that line first and win gold – and I thought I could which is why I dived up the inside on the last bend. Unfortunately I was carrying too much speed going in, drifted out and caught Anne-Caroline’s back wheel and went down, along with my medal chances. I trained so, so hard for that race and wanted to give everything I could to win gold but it didn’t work out and it wasn’t my time to be Olympic champion. I gave it my all and I have to be happy with that.
Are you now gearing up for 2012?
Yeah, 2012 will be awesome. Once I’m over my injuries I’ll get back on my bike and start to focus on 2012. Hopefully there might be a change in the program on the velodrome and I might be able to double up – but we’ll wait and see.
Have you always loved being outdoors?
I’m OCD for sport! I love it! I started out my sporting career as a 100m sprinter but then I found BMX / biking and have never looked back.
How did you get into biking?
My uncle took me down to the local BMX track in Crewe when I was ten and we rented a bike. It was chucking it down with rain and I hated it cause my new trainers got dirty!!! I went back though and it was a sunny day and I won the race I entered and it has all gone from there…
When did you decide to commit yourself to BMX full-time?
I kinda grew into racing as it became obvious I had a talent and wasn’t losing too many races. There was a guy in Crewe called ‘Black Bob’ who ran the BMX club and we used to get 50-100 riders a night turn up and it was just great fun and it went from there.
Did you find it pretty hard to break into a male-dominated sport?
I race the guys in the UK when I do race and they treat me with a lot of respect and I’m just one of the gang. BMX racing is so friendly as it caters for both sexes from the age of five right through to Masters (40+) and I can honestly say that the people are awesome and the atmosphere at races is just one big happy family.
Can you give us a run down of your average day?
Wake up (takes a while!), breakfast then either gym / bike session for about 2 -3 hours. I travel to a load of different BMX tracks in the North West so I have to factor in travel time. Then on the gym days I’ll probably have an easy ride and on the bike days get a massage.
And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
Always include riding my bike, chilling with friends, oh and a bit of shopping too (I love shopping!!).
What’s your favourite place to ride?
I love anywhere as long as I’m on my bike – I guess I feel most at home on the track at Crewe cause I know home is only five minutes away and a load of my mates will be there too.
Do you still get nervous before a big contest?
I get focused rather than nervous. I know I’ve trained hard, I know I’ve learnt the track and the way to ride and I just need to get ‘in the zone’ and let my body do what it is capable of.
What is the atmosphere like behind the scenes?
Relaxed, joking and fun until you get close to the race and then I just keep myself to myself – but we’re all good friends and when the racing is over we all get along fine.
What are your suitcase essentials when you’re on the road?
A picture of my family, my iPhone for tunes and to keep in touch with everyone – and of course my bike!!!
What have been your biggest career setbacks?
It’s funny cause I don’t see ‘setbacks’ as that – I try to learn from all my experiences and take something positive from everything. I’m only 19 and hopefully I can race and enjoy my sport for a long time to come. The setbacks make me stronger.
What have your greatest achievements been so far?
Winning the Elite Worlds for the first time will always be a favourite, but then also winning a world title on the track in a world record time just six weeks after I first sat on a track bike is pretty cool.
Who or what are your inspirations?
My mum and grandparents have been a massive influence on me – they’ve had it tough from when I was born, I’ve always been a handful but they’ve always been there for me and I take so much strength from them.
What affect does your career have on your personal life?
I love my career and it is a huge part of my life that I would never change but when I’m in heavy training / racing it obviously means I can’t head out so much. But then again if I really want to do something I normally will!!
How do you relax when you get the chance?
Chill with friends and spend time with my boyfriend.
What’s up next for you?
I need to get over the injuries I picked up in Beijing and get back out on my bike – never happier than when I’m on my bike!!
Photos by: Larry Hickmott, British Cycling