Joanna Rowsell is undoubtedly one of Britain's superstar cyclists. European, Commonwealth, World and Olympic champion on the track, she is also an incredibly down-to-earth and approachable person. Everybody loves Joanna!
So we were absolutely delighted when she agreed to spend a Saturday afternoon with 5 young competition winners at the National Cycling Centre velodrome in Manchester.
Accompanied by a British Cycling coach, the kids all got to grips with their lightweight Frog track bikes. Some had never cycled on the boards before, but all were keen club cyclists, and very eager to get started, watched by their family and friends in the "d".
Joanna got stuck in immediately, and even helped them with their pedals! How many other global sports stars would you spot doing that?!
The first few laps were taken very carefully, following Joanna and getting used to the feel of the bikes on the slippery surface. Then the riders' confidence started to grow and they began to test out the banks ("surprisingly steep" was the verdict).
At this point, the adrenaline clearly kicked in and a decidedly competitive streak was evident around the track! Frog bikes co-founder Jerry clearly couldn't resist having a go, and squeezed his 6'4" frame onto the 24" track bike.
Lap times for a 250m "flying lap" were captured for all the kids, to see how they fared against an Olympic champion. Joanna clocked 18.07, Jack 22.41, Erin 22.69, Oliver 22.71, James 25.57 and Esther 28.51 (Jerry was by no means the fastest visitor at 25.05!) Joanna was very encouraging of the children, and later said that they are far better cyclists than she was at their age!
One of the high points of the day for the kids was the chance to see Joanna's beautiful Olympic gold medal up close, and pose for photographs! They also had their kit signed as a wonderful momento of their day.
To find out more about Joanna's amazing career, go to her website: http://www.joannarowsell.com
Thank you to Chris Meads for all the photographs! http://chrismeadsphotography.zenfolio.com