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Canny Eileen Roe ready to step up a gear

WHEN the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series rolls into Edinburgh tomorrow evening, Eileen Roe would be forgiven for choosing her words carefully.

Eileen Roe will be pushing hard for precious points ahead of Scotland's Glasgow 2014 team announcement
Eileen Roe will be pushing hard for precious points ahead of Scotland's Glasgow 2014 team announcement

She has taken some gentle ribbing among cycling circles following her post-victory interview in Peterborough last week. "I changed my accent which a few people have commented on," she laughed. "I was trying to pronounce my words properly and wanted to avoid saying things like: 'I dinnae ken'. So it sounded a wee bit weird."

Hailing from just across the water in Fife, Roe is poised to be the darling of the home crowd as she dons the red and white leader's jersey when the third-round action gets under way on the cobbled streets of the Grassmarket. The Starley Primal Pro Cycling rider currently leads the series rankings ahead of compatriot Charline Joiner.

Roe's success in Peterborough came on the back of another stellar ride in the opening round in Stoke-on-Trent earlier this month which saw her hold-off 11-time Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey to claim second place behind Scottish cycling's golden girl Katie Archibald.

"To be turning up in Edinburgh with the leader's jersey feels surreal," said Roe. "Hopefully I can put on a good show for everyone."

This week is shaping up to be monumental in more ways than one. Tomorrow, Team Scotland will announce their cycling contingent for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It is Roe's hope to secure a berth for the points and scratch races on the track as well the women's road race.

With world and European team pursuit champion Archibald having definitively stamped her dominance on an international stage in recent months, that left Roe alongside Joiner and Kayleigh Brogan effectively battling it out for two remaining places in the track endurance side.

"It was hard training together, trying to get the qualification time but knowing there were only two places available," she said. "But we're such good friends and we're always cheering each other on."

Glasgow would mark a second successive Commonwealths for Roe, who rode in support of Scotland's Kate Cullen in the road race in Delhi four years ago.

She is regularly extolled by her team-mates for being a master tactician, possessing a canny knack for reading a race-winning move. It is a skill Roe hopes to put to good use if selected with the possibility of her taking on a role similar to the one David Millar carried out for Mark Cavendish in Britain's successful World Championship Road Race campaign in 2011.

"I think that is one of the abilities I can bring to the Games," she said. "I would hope that if they are selecting a leader or captain they would think of me. I'd be honoured and proud to take on that role."

Roe started cycling aged 10 on the Highland grass tracks after her father coaxed her to make up the numbers in a youth race. After getting her first race licence at 13, she honed her skills at Meadowbank Velodrome in Edinburgh and has been a regular in the Scottish national squad at junior and senior level over the past decade.

She has long been unabashedly vocal on the issues surrounding gender inequality within cycling, not least the thorny issue of salaries. Roe, who receives some support from sportscotland institute of sport, alongside grants from the Braveheart Cycling Fund and Mary Leishman Foundation, works part-time in an Edinburgh bike shop channelling every spare penny into pursuing her sporting ambitions. "Things are changing but I don't think I will see us being equal to the men during my cycling career," she said.

She lives with her father Brendan in the former mining village of High Valleyfield in Fife, a stone's throw from Dunfermline where her "bestie" and fellow cyclist Joiner is based. The pair have forged a tight bond and Roe recalls her horror when news filtered through from Spain at the start of the year that Joiner had suffered a training crash which left her with a broken back.

"Seeing her lying in that hospital bed barely able to move was the worst experience of my life," recalled Roe. "Charline sent me a text saying I would probably cry when I saw her and not to. I couldn't help it. As soon as I stepped into the room, the tears started falling down my face. But she is the most positive person I've ever met. Being around someone that determined every day is infectious."

While Joiner's injuries are still fresh in both their minds, Roe insists it won't alter her own preparations for Glasgow 2014. "If I didn't race for fear of being injured, I could lose that competitive edge. Crashes are all part of the sport."

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