Decorated Team GB cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand has announced her retirement from international competition. The double Olympic gold medalist says she has "achieved everything I've ever wanted" during a successful career that helped transform her from "shy schoolgirl to confident woman".
With her potential first identified by the British Cycling Apprentice Programme, Rowsell Shand enjoyed success at junior and U23 level before setting two new world records en route to collecting team pursuit gold alongside Dani King and Laura Kenny (nee Trott) at London 2012. Rowsell Shand, Kenny, Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker smashed the record three more times to successfully defend their title in Rio de Janeiro last summer.
Such success was not merely confined to the Olympics, with the 28-year-old, an ambassador for Alopecia UK who was awarded an MBE in 2013, also winning four world championship golds, two silvers and one bronze in the team pursuit.
She claimed individual pursuit gold at the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Cali and at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Rowsell Shand is also a four-time European Champion.
"I have enjoyed this fabulous career and the decision to step away has been the hardest I've ever had to make, but now is the time for me to move on," she announced via her official website. "I believe I have more to offer the world and I'm now looking forward to the next phase of my life and new challenges.
"I want to thank the amazing team at British Cycling; from the world-class team behind the team who work tirelessly to ensure we have the best preparation for events, to the very first youth coaches who talent spotted me back when I was 15. I couldn't have done it without you. Thank you to all my teammates past and present, the cycling clubs and teams I have been a part of, my brilliant sponsors, the amazing fans for their fantastic encouragement, and to my family for their incredible support throughout my career."
Revealing her plans for the future, Rowsell Shand added: "I won't be stepping away from the cycling world completely and I'm enjoying doing some coaching work including setting up my own company, Rowsell Shand Coaching, and I'm also training for L'Etape du Tour in July which will be my longest bike ride ever. Being more accustomed to racing for 4km, the challenge of riding 180km in mountainous terrain will be a long way from what I am used to but I am never one for shying away from a tough target.
"I want to finish by wishing the Great Britain Cycling Team the very best of luck for this Olympic cycle."