Emma Finucane is trying to ignore her new status as sprint world champion as she sets her sights on achieving Olympic glory in Paris next summer.
The 20-year-old Welshwoman shocked herself when she took the women’s individual sprint title in Glasgow in August, beating Germany’s favoured Lea Friedrich in the final.
Finucane donned the rainbow jersey for the first time in competition at the UCI Track Champions League opening round in Mallorca this weekend, but while the distinctive striped jersey means she can no longer keep herself inconspicuous, she does not want it to change her approach.
“People will look at me now,” Finucane told the PA news agency. “Last year I was kind of the underdog and I just came through so now I am wearing the stripes. I hope that doesn’t really change anything.
“I’m just trying to ignore it and just race my bike, but there is some external pressure. I’m not just Emma at the back of the field anymore.”
The rainbow jersey can do different things for different riders. While many take it as a confidence boost, for others the stripes have worn heavily. Finucane said she had spoken to several Great Britain team-mates about how to deal with it.
“I don’t want to look at it (as giving me a psychological edge) because if I lose, then what?” she said. “And I will get beaten, and that’s fine. I just need to take it as it comes.
“Half of it is the mental battle of putting it on and people looking at you and having that pressure, but I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy it because you don’t know if it will happen again.
“Beth Shriever is a really good friend of mine and she’s been the BMX world and Olympic champion. She said she didn’t have the best year in the rainbow jersey because she put too much pressure on herself and she overthought it.
“I’ve spoken to Evie (Richards, 2021 mountain bike world champion) and Katie Archibald (a five-time world champion on the track) and I’m lucky we have so many inspiring women in the Great Britain team. It’s great I can learn from them but ultimately I will only learn from myself and how I deal with it.”
And Finucane believes the Champions League – the made-for-TV track cycling series which is in its third season – is the ideal place to do much of that learning, providing some top-level competition without the stresses and pressures that come elsewhere.
“The next event I’ll do in the rainbows is the Euros (in January) which is when everything is serious,” she said. “I’m not saying this isn’t serious, but it’s a nice place to be free to fail. You can try new things.”
Saturday’s racing in Palma saw Finucane finish second in the sprint, beaten by Germany’s Alessa-Catriona Propster, before failing to make the keirin final through some tired legs. But it was just the sort of experience she was looking for when it came to dealing with her new status.
Finucane will wear the stripes into an Olympic year but despite her status is taking nothing, not even squad selection, for granted.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” she said. “I’d love to go and I’m really pushing myself but I need to take each race as it comes. If I just think about Paris and everything else goes wrong I’ll not be going.
“But it’s in the back of my mind because since I was 10 years old I’ve wanted to ride the Olympics.
“As the GB sprint team we’ll not just be going there to ride but we’re looking for medals and I fully believe we have the potential to win. It’s super exciting but also super scary.”