Emma Pooley prepares to pull brakes on cycling career

Emma Pooly, turning her attention to her Ph.D. studies, looks set to take a break — if not retire — after her worlds disappointment

MILAN (VN) — Emma Pooley is preparing to pull the brakes on her cycling career to focus on her Ph.D. studies. The top British cyclist stopped short of announcing her break last month, but the wind appears to be gone from her sails.

This season ended with a disappointing ride at the Olympic Games in London and the world championships in the Netherlands. After an Olympic silver medal in Beijing in the time trial, she had hoped to go one better in London. She managed 40th in the road race and sixth in the time trial. In the Valkenburg worlds, she narrowly missed the podium in the time trial, and in the road race, saw an escape group ride free with Dutch winner Marianne Vos.

Understandably, she was upset after the road race, potentially her last pro race. Journalists near to her asked what was next, but she appeared far away and gave short answers. “It’s the end of the season,” she said, “so I won’t be riding for a while. Yep.”

Pooley raced with Specialized, Cervélo TestTeam, Garmin and AA over the last six years. In 2010, CQ Ranking placed her fifth in the world thanks to her wins in the worlds time trial, the one-day classics of Flèche Wallonne and GP Plouay, and stage races Giro del Trentino and the Tour de l’Aude.

Pooley, 30 years old today, is ranked 11th this season thanks in part to her overall win in the Tour de l’Ardèche stage race.

From London onwards, however, she seemed tired of cycling. She spoke out against the UCI for not helping promote women’s racing, complained about pay and worried about her future.

She explained her frustrations to VeloNews before the worlds, saying, “It’s not that you can just retire and live off your winnings. Physically, you don’t need to retire at 29 or 30 at all… I’m concerned to have a bit of a plan for when I do finish racing, when I totally finish racing.”

The rider from Norfolk, England, plans to complete her Ph.D. in geo-technical engineering at Zurich University in Switzerland. British Cycling’s head coach, Shane Sutton, said today that time away might be a good idea.

“If you listen to Emma’s interviews she seems quite bitter towards the sport at the minute. So maybe it is better that she takes some time away from the sport and reflects on why she got involved in the first place,” Sutton told local newspaper, the Norwich Evening News.

“Seeing all the success going on around her [in London], and after a great Games in Beijing, it must have been hard, so maybe a break would do her good,” Sutton added.

Pooley told VeloNews her break may involve some races next year, but that she has not decided at what level. Her studies and a possible less-demanding job, however, may see her wave good-bye. Given those opportunities, she said, “the is whether I’d want to come back.”