KENILWORTH speedster Ciara Horne claims she has never been in better shape ahead of the biggest race of her young cycling career.
Horne will team up with Olympic champions Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell Shand, as well as fellow Olympic debutants Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald, in the Team GB pursuit squad heading to Rio in just a few weeks time.
Trott and Rowsell Shand were part of the trio that won team pursuit gold at London 2012 and Horne is confident the current squad are capable of helping the reigning champions defend their crown.
“Personally, I am the strongest I have ever been on the bike, and that’s quite a place to be, three weeks out from the Olympic Games, that’s pretty awesome,” said the 26-year-old, who grew up in Kenilworth. Most athletes would love to be in that position.
“There are a lot of athletes who suffer illness or injury right before the games and I really feel for them, so for us to be in such good form is pretty awesome.”
Horne was part of the squad that won European gold last October, but experienced disappointment at March’s home World Championships after a ragged qualification ride left them out of gold medal contention.
The team bounced back though, claiming the bronze medal in a time would have won them gold, should they have qualified for the final showdown.
That was Horne’s first medal on the world stage and the Wales international rider said that result has given them belief heading into next month’s Olympic Games.
“We’re the British record holders now, plus it showed our strength of character,” she added.
“We were all really disappointed because we knew we are so much better than that bad performance.
“Every time we go onto the start line it’s about being the best we can be and then as a team, what can we do together.
“For us it was disappointing because we knew we could go a lot quicker than that first round, and keep the team together, as we demonstrated in the bronze-winning ride.”
Horne is the only female member of the Rio-bound Team GB track squad that attended university and the University of Birmingham graduate said her BUCS experiences have helped her to become the rider she is today.
Over 60 per cent of gold medallists since 1992 have participated in BUCS sport, with 56 members of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics competing for Great Britain at the World University Games.
Horne is hopeful of adding to that percentage in Rio and after breaking the British University individual pursuit record, the national team pursuit champion credited university life as making her a more rounded athlete.
“I really enjoyed the BUCS competitions, it was really friendly, fun, relaxed atmospheres where people could crack on with their races and get some good results,” said Horne, who graduated with a first class degree in physiotherapy.
“It is race experience so the more races you have, the better you will deal with the pressure and nerves on race day, so it has definitely helped.
“The entire university system also helped me through that entire process too, making life a lot easier with extending placements and what have you.”
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, representing more than 150 institutions. Covering 52 sports, BUCS aids grass roots participation through to supporting aspiring elite athletes en route to Commonwealth or Olympic Games www.bucs.org.uk