Bourton cyclist hopes that form counts over promise
SHARON LAWS admits she was ‘almost cracking up’ when the cycling authorities put back the announcement of the GB Olympic team by ten days, writes Danny Hall.
She had been on tenterhooks all year waiting for the June 7 deadline when she was due to find out whether she had been selected for a second Olympics.
“There have been a number of womens’ races cancelled this year and I guess they wanted more time to weigh things up,” said Sharon. “We will all know this weekend (June 17).”
Laws (pictured) is convinced that three of the four places are already earmarked for Britain’s Beijing gold medallist Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and GB’s likely No.1 Lizzie Armitstead.
That leaves Laws to fight out the final place with Lucy Martin and Katie Colclough, the only other names on the Games short list.
Laws results have been better than her rivals’. She turned her season around with a third place finish at the Gracia Orlova in the Czech Republic at the end of April – with Colclough back in 29th place – and then only last week she had a spectacular result in Northern Spain to come sixth in the four-day Emakumeen Euskal Bira – with Pooley, Armitstead and Cooke well behind.
But Laws, originally from Bourton-on-the-Water but now living in a community of professional cyclists in Girona, Spain, will be 38 next month, whereas Martin and Colclough are both 22. And there’s the rub.
In Team GB’s official cycling selection criteria, there is a passage which says account will be taken of ‘Young exceptional athletes who will benefit from an Olympic experience and are considered to be competitive in 2012 and medal prospects for 2016.’ Laws admitted: “My fear is that the selectors will go for youth over experience. But I really can’t have done any more.” Followers of cycling will know that a year in the life of Sharon Laws rarely comes without setbacks and injuries, and the build-up to London 2012 has been no different.
Last year hadn’t ended before Laws and several other top British cyclists were left in a state of limbo after their Spanish team Garmin-Cervelo pulled the plug on its investment in women’ cycling.
Laws, Pooley, Armitstead and Martin were among those cut adrift with precious little help from their national federation until Dutch team AA Drink-Leontien came to the rescue and took them on board.
Then a change of coach – to Ian Rogers in South Africa – meant Laws changing her annual winter training base in Australia She did not get off to the best of starts, either, breaking her fibula in a crash, and when she did come back for the early-season World Cup races, she performed below par, feeling unwell.
Fortunately, in recent weeks, she has hit her peak at just the right time – if the selectors choose to see it that way.
Don’t expect Laws to be picking up an individual medal, however. Her job, as one of the so-called ‘domestiques’ of her sport, is to ride the hard miles and soften up the opposition so that the team leader (and best sprinter) can come through late to grab the glory.
“In the Czech Republic, I had the other girls working on my behalf and showed what I can do with a podium finish,” she said. “But normally I am ‘working’ for someone else and that way it is difficult to get results.
“I so desperately want to be picked again. I have had another look at the London road race course and it is harder than people think. I know I can make things tough for the other teams and do a good job for mine.”