(Australian Associated Press)
Retired cycling great Anna Meares has found a new passion for “coffee shop rides” since retiring from the sport.
Meares, 33, found it tough to say goodbye to professional cycling last year after a glimmering career that included two Olympic gold medals and 11 world championship titles.
She says since her retirement, she has grown to appreciate the recreational side of cycling in a way she could not as a champion sprinter.
“I hated road riding before because I think I was just tired and sore from all the gym and track training I was doing,” she said on Tuesday in Adelaide.
“So now that I’m not doing that, I’m actually more capable of doing the kilometres.
“I probably throw my leg over once a weekend now. I really enjoy coffee shop rides.”
Meares said it had been difficult to bid farewell to the velodrome and the competition on which she had thrived over her 22-year career.
“It has been challenging – I’m not going to lie,” she said of the retirement.
“I do miss it. I miss going to training every day with my team.”
Meares is an ambassador for this year’s Tour Down Under, which will be held in Adelaide later this month with some of the world’s top riders vying for the title.
Fans will get a chance to ride alongside her through the Adelaide Hills on January 20 when she takes part in the Bupa Challenge.
This stage of the event is open to the public and Meares will ride the 58km stretch from Mt Pleasant to Campbelltown.
“I’m hoping that not too many people want to race me in the Bupa Challenge because I’m a track sprinter,” she said.
“I normally ride 500 metres so it’s quite an extension from what I’m used to.”
But she warned the lycra warriors that she wouldn’t go easy on them.
“You can have a crack up the hills, guys, but as soon as it gets on the flat, it’s my terrain.”
Meares backed Slovakian world champion Peter Sagan, known for his big personality and flamboyant celebrations, to take out the Tour Down Under.
“I love colour and I love rainbows – I’ve had 11 of them myself – so I’m certainly going to go with Peter Sagan,” she said.