Jennifer Valente 2022 Interview
Team USA

Olympic Champion Jennifer Valente Leads New Track Programs at Track Worlds

By: Jim Rusnak  October 11, 2022

Jennifer Valente hasn’t been on the track much since the Olympics, but it’s all part of the plan. This Track Worlds will be a bit of a test event for the track programs to see what works and what doesn’t, as they prepare for the Paris and LA Olympic cycles.

After winning gold in the women’s Omnium at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2022 has been a transition season for track cyclist Jennifer Valente.

She’s concentrated a little more on road and criterium racing this year and then hit the second and third legs of the UCI Nations Cup, helping the U.S. finish third in the Team Pursuit in Milton, Canada, in May and then winning three medals in July in Cali, Colombia.

She also competed in the USA Cycling National Championships in July in Breinigsville, Pa., where she won gold in seven disciplines, including the Omnium.

That’s pretty much been the extent of her time on the track this year, but Valente thinks it’s been enough to keep her sharp for the 2022 UCI Track World Championships, October 12-16 in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France. There, the four-time world champion will be riding in the Team Pursuit, Omnium, Points Race, and Elimination Race looking for that elusive first individual world title.

Valente recently took time to talk about how her year has been going and what she hopes to accomplish at the upcoming track World Championships.

Can you tell us a little bit about your motivation for taking a step back from track this year and doing a little more road racing?

Valente: The thought was just to keep riding my bike without the same stresses and pressures that had been very much in the forefront in the entire lead-up to the Olympics. It’s still a bike race, but it’s a completely different event—different sport entirely. At the end of the day, I’m a track rider, and it’s good training. You can take a lot from those races and apply it to what I’m trying to do.

Even with some time away from the track, you managed to perform well at a couple of the Nations Cups, including a bronze in the team pursuit. Was that any indication of what the U.S. team can expect at Worlds?

Valente: That was the only team pursuit we did the whole year. Going into Worlds, we’ll have a little bit of a different team. There wasn’t a super heavy focus on that aspect this whole year, but we’re just trying to build our program back up again after the Olympics.

In a year like this when there’s no Olympic qualifying points on the line, it’s an opportunity to try some different things. Pretty significantly, we’re riding some new riders. We have a new team, a fresh team. We’re riding some new equipment, which is very exciting. We’re definitely just kind of looking to the future. Anything we want to try that we didn’t try during the Olympics, we’re going to do this year before we go into Olympic qualifying next year.

What are some of the different things you and the team want to try at Worlds?

Valente: I’m riding some individual events at Worlds. In the past, team pursuit would definitely be a priority. This year, I have a little bit of an opportunity to see what I can do individually, as well, and make that a higher priority. Same with the other girls – there are a couple other riders riding mass start races, which is new. We’re throwing new people into the mix to see where that leads us going into next season.

What would define success for you at Worlds this year?

Valente: In my mind, success has always been more than a result at a particular race. There’s always something you’re aiming for—whether that’s a medal, or a gold, or a certain place—but a successful event is much more than that. It’s much more about the team; it’s much more about your preparation and your decision making, and how you approach each event. I think in this year, success would be showing that USA Cycling can be prepared [for the Olympics] with men’s and women’s sprints and endurance teams. [Looking forward to LA 2028], it would be huge to have a home Olympic Games with all four programs running and competitive.

What are your personal goals for Worlds?

Valente: I think for me, I’m trying to see how cycling fits into my life right now and how I can continue to be the best athlete I can possibly be. I don’t think I’ve done that yet. I won the Olympics, but I don’t think I have achieved the best that I can be. I think at the end of the day, the only person that’s ever going to know that for sure is me.

What are you looking forward to most about competing at Worlds?

Valente: I’m really looking forward to being at a World Championship event with a super large team. We’re bringing men and women sprinters. We’re bringing a men’s endurance team. For so long, it’s been women’s team pursuit, plus maybe one guy or one sprinter.

It’s been a very tight-knit group. I think there’s so much more we can offer—we can affect competition and really contribute to good racing. It changes the trip entirely. We had a pre-worlds camp, and it kind of allowed everyone to get to know each other, train together, vocalize everyone’s goals and what we’re trying to accomplish at a World Championships.

It’s also really fun to watch other Americans race when you’re there in the moment. You can watch from the infield most of the time, which I enjoy a lot more than watching on some app or on the internet.