Katy Marchant may be one of the fastest women in the world on two wheels but she has spent much of lockdown trundling along in a tractor.
As Great Britain riders look forward to a return to the velodrome in Manchester, Marchant has been working out in a make-shift gym in the corner of a barn, and helping out on her fiance’s farm in Barwick-in-Elmet outside Leeds.
The Olympic bronze medallist might be used to approaching speeds of 70 kilometres an hour on a bike, but though she was raised a country girl, Marchant admitted finding the relatively sedate pace of a tractor much more hair-raising.
“It’s a lot more complicated,” she told the PA news agency. “It’s really weird to be in something so large and feel so out of control, but I think I’m nailing it now. I’ve passed the test, anyway.”
Though her goal of peaking for the Tokyo Olympics has been shunted back by 12 months due to the postponement of the Games, Marchant is making the most of some rare time at home during lockdown.
“It’s been nice to do something different,” the 27-year-old said. “I think everyone feels a little bit more refreshed when you get a change.”
As it was for so many athletes, news of the Olympic postponement came as a major blow for Marchant, who had looked in strong form as she used the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in early March to secure qualification for Tokyo.
But having spent much of the last 18 months flogging herself on an intense World Cup schedule chasing those qualification points, Marchant is hoping the delay offers an opportunity.
“I can’t deny I was absolutely gutted to hear the Olympics had been postponed,” she said. “I really felt in the form of my life at the World Championships and I was really excited for the next four months, but it was obviously the right decision.
“Going into the World Championships there were enormous stresses just over qualifying. Now I’ve got 14 months to make sure we’re in the best possible place without having to be in form for this race or that race along the way. It’s an extra year to get faster, fitter, stronger and better.”
And while the velodrome has been shut, Marchant has been finding some novel ways to do just that – in between helping fiance Robert and his father run the farm.
To construct a makeshift gym, they cleared space in a barn and built a squat rack out of scaffolding.
“It’s very different, but it’s something,” Marchant said. “We don’t have medicine balls so I’ve been flipping tyres, but that’s my background, it’s where I’m most comfortable.
“I really enjoy being able to be a bit more creative with the sessions I’m doing. I’m doing my pull-ups on the diggers, but stuff like that just adds an element of fun to it.”
And it is not just the farm that has kept Marchant busy when she is not flipping tyres. Marchant is also finding more time for her bespoke cake business which she launched last year, as the self-taught baker creates modern designs for weddings, birthdays and other events.
“Throughout lockdown I’ve been able to still keep doing some,” she said. “Everyone loves a slice of cake, so we’ve been able to cheer a few people up.”