PA Sport

Rachel James aims to achieve her gold medal dream alongside sister Becky

Rachel James aims to achieve her gold medal dream alongside sister Becky
By PA Sport

18/10/2016 at 10:11Updated 18/10/2016 at 10:23

Keeping up with the James' could be a thing of the future for British and Welsh cycling.

Keeping up with the James' could be a thing of the future for British and Welsh cycling.

With Becky James taking a break after winning her first Olympic medals, her elder sister Rachel has been selected in the British team for this week's European Track Championships in Paris, which begin on Wednesday.

"I live with Becky in Manchester and it sometimes feels like I'm the younger one, which is a bit odd," the 28-year-old Rachel said.

"She's been supportive and helped me out a lot over the past few years.

"Baking cakes, looking after me, giving me some advice, because I've come into it later."

It was Becky, a two-time junior world champion in 2009, two-time senior world champion four years later and double Olympic silver medallist in Rio in August, who persuaded Rachel to become a cyclist.

The original plan had been to represent Wales in the two-woman, two-lap team sprint at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

But when that event was removed from the programme - it has been restored for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia's Gold Coast - Rachel became a tandem pilot for the para-cycling team.

Representing Wales alongside Becky is a big reason for Rachel to switch disciplines.

Rachel added: "That was why I got into cycling in the first place. It was Becky's suggestion. She didn't have anyone to ride team sprint with.

"She said 'come and give it a go'. Unfortunately it was taken out of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

"Now it's been put back in for Gold Coast. That's going to be a really good opportunity.

"Considering it was the reason I started cycling, it would be quite a big deal for us to go out racing together.

"I really enjoy the team sprint. Racing with Becky would be a bit of a dream."

Rachel won gold medals, with Sophie Thornhill, in the one-kilometre time-trial and sprint at the 2014 Para-cycling World Championships, but missed out for selection for the Rio Paralympics.

She added: "I don't really see it as a gamble. I feel like my tandem time had come to its natural end.

"Sophie and I were world champions in 2014. And the year afterwards Helen (Scott) was selected for worlds and for Rio.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to get back on to my solo bike and go back to that."

Becky missed out on selection for London 2012, but finished the following season at the Track World Championships in Minsk as a four-time medallist, two of them gold.

Rachel had been training as a reserve for the Paralympics, so her Paris selection may have come ahead of schedule. But she believes the year post-Games offers a good opportunity.

"I did have an inkling there was a chance I could go to it (the European Championships), but I didn't expect too much," she added.

"I think the year after an Olympics is a good opportunity for riders.

"With London for Becky she didn't make selection and it was a good opportunity for her to push through.

"Europeans is a good opportunity and there are World Cups and nationals in January."

Rachel has left her boyfriend and house behind in Wales to live in Manchester and compete as a cyclist.

She is adamant her life is not on hold and that her late entry to the sport offers perspective.

"Coming into cycling now it makes you realise what a massive opportunity it is to ride a bike for a living and do something you love," she added.

"Cycling is one of those things you can't do forever and it's a great experience while you're doing it. I'll make the most of it while it lasts."