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Cycling's Eleanor Corkhill: Sir Chris Hoy, "He is a fantastic guy."

With the Scottish Cycling team still to be decided in May, and plenty of athletes in the running for a place, I caught up with former Scotland Under 17 rider Eleanor Corkhill.

Eleanor Corkhill
Eleanor Corkhill

I asked about her experiences of track cycling from an early age, tarmac velodromes, races in England, training camps in Wales and her thoughts about the upcoming games, and of course qualification for the Scotland team.

Eleanor began cycling at the tender age of 12. Training at Caird Park in Dundee on a tarmac velodrome. She showed much promise in her early years on the bike, breaking the Under 12 east of Scotland 1500m pursuit record.

From there she began to take her cycling more seriously, training three times a week with the Discovery Junior Cycling Club, as well as following a strict regime set out by her coach. This meant she was riding between five and six times per week.

Eleanor then went to Sprint School, a programme set up for those riders who had not made it onto talent teams throughout the country: "Many successful cyclists would come along and encourage us. Jamie Staff, Craig McLean and Chris Hoy are some of the few who turned up.

"So with this, I obviously had no social life as cycling took up most of my time, but at this time I was still enjoying it."

Eleanor spoke about numerous crashes she had while competing. On incident during the Keirin at Edinburgh velodrome stood out: "Coming into the finishing straight I decided to rush a gap and fit through which was way too small for me to get through and therefore crashed. I went to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and I needed laughing gas to take the pain away. I've got many bad scars from that crash among with others.

"Crashes were always hard as you of course had to get back on the track and it would shake your confidence."

Eleanor said she could always turn to her fellow cyclists for support in those times:"Any rider would help you regain that confidence as they know exactly how you feel.

Sadly, Eleanor didn't quite make the talent team, which did cause her some problems after working so hard to get in. However, in spite of this setback she did make her presence felt at Sprint School: "I was chosen as most improved and dedicated rider at Sprint School by Chris Hoy himself and the other coaches."

Eleanor also won the Highland Spring Young Sports Person as the leading Under 16 female track cyclist in Scotland due to numerous successes in the Scottish track championships.

Since then, Eleanor chose to focus more on her education than cycling, moving away from the serious side of the sport when she moved into 4th year of secondary school.

Cycling in Scotland is certainly on an upswing, Eleanor explains: "Before the 2012 Olympics, I think cycling wasn't the sport to watch, most events I went to the stands were half empty, but now tickets sell out unbelievably quickly." This she says is a major advantage to British cycling in terms of encouraging new riders.

The surge in interest in cycling Eleanor attributes to the success at London 2012: "We dominated that sport and were very successful compared to other sports. Chris Hoy becoming a Sir, too, he is a fantastic guy.

"I think people are now interested in how track cycling works, as they see our country winning medals and have no idea what's going on, watching the events helps give an in depth understanding."

The Scotland team has yet to be announced, with qualification to take place in May, and Eleanor gives her insight into what the hopeful athletes will be experiencing: "For me, cycling has a lot to do with the mental capacity of the person. As it turned out my mental capacity was weak, and therefore I could only progress so far, but for these athletes who are determined and have spent years preparing for an event like this I imagine they would be focused and obviously a little nervous, but in a positive way.

"Qualification is just the stepping stone for the real thing, and they are prepared so perhaps they will be relaxed and just pumped up ready for it all."

Eleanor gave her opinion's about the potential qualifiers for a ride in the Games. On track for the boys she mentions Callum Skinner, whom she used to ride with a lot in her years on the bike, and John Paul, who she says is an "extremely talented" rider and "super quick". Both of these riders are track sprinters.

For the ladies on the road, Eleanor encourages us to keep an eye out for Eileen Roe and another old training buddy, Kayleigh Brogan.

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