Flying laps with Willmott Dixon

Willmott Dixon visits the Lee Valley VeloPark

Flying laps with Willmott Dixon

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dani Rowe (nee King) welcomed 13 friends and clients of Willmott Dixon to the Lee Valley VeloPark for a track session and lunch today (19 October).

Given a trackside briefing and 20 minutes of warm-up laps, the property riders got used to the techniques of track cycling (don't stop pedalling!) before each took a "flying lap", with times recorded. Gardiner and Theobald partner Richard Applin took first place with a swift 17:00 second 250m lap. Velocity's Toby Fox was second at 17:27 and Chris Tredget, Willmott Dixon's managing director construction North London and Home Counties came in third in 17:98.

To put that in perspective, the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning women's pursuit team lapped in just over 15 seconds. On average. For 12 laps.

The riding was followed by a buffet lunch and revealing Q&A with the entertaining and candid Dani Rowe, Olympic world record holder in the team pursuit, multiple track gold-medallist and now professional road racer.

Rowe explained how she had peaked as a swimmer when British Cycling visited her school to recruit young cyclists. "I was in maths class and I would have done anything to get out out of that," she said. So she volunteered for testing and joined the young talent team. But she described a series of knockbacks and illnesses that made for a gruelling path to Olympic glory.

Asked how she would have coped if she had not made the grade, Rowe responded that her attitude was always to do her best so that, whatever level she reached, she could be happy with her achievements. "But I would have been absolutely gutted if I hadn't made the [Olympic] team. It would have been awful. The mental side of elite sport is the hardest thing about it."

Applin asked: "We heard a lot after the 2012 Olympics about the obsession with marginal gains - what was the silliest marginal gain you were asked to make?"

Rowe described how each athlete was given a Fitbit watch to record their activity all day - but with the intention of ensuring they did nothing. "We weren't allowed to walk anywhere - my husband had to do all the shopping, everything around the house. We  just had to lie about all the time."

Finally, asked by Willmott Dixon new business director for north London and Northern Home Counties, Richard Davidson, how she felt about women's races being shorter than men's, Rowe predicted that men's races would be shortened to match women's events, rather than the other way around. Men's races can be pretty boring compared to women's races, she said. "It's 'let the breakaway go, sit up, catch the breakaway, bunch sprint'," she said. A lot of people can't be bothered to watch the middle chunk of most big races - no one can race those distances full gas. "I see a lot of men's power ratings posted after long days and they've used less power than women do - that's over longer distances and they're bigger than us, so that can't be right. Women's races are more unpredictable because over the shorter distance anything can happen and that's more exciting.

"Half the women's peloton are riding for nothing, whereas men get a minimum of 40,000 euros and that's for the neo-riders, the youngest. To improve women's cycling we need better coverage, which brings more sponsors and means more girls can afford to race."