To say Emma Pooley burst on the scene this time four years ago wouldn’t be entirely fair – mainly because it took another couple of weeks.

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A gruelling pace through the steep climbs of Beijing’s road race course, led by the former Norwich High School for Girls pupil, was the perfect set-up for Nicole Cooke to blow the field away at the line to take a brilliant gold. Cooke’s debt and that of Team GB’s medal table notch sat at Pooley’s feet.

That was supposed to be good enough after Pooley’s surprise inclusion in the original squad – but the ex-Cambridge University student had other ideas, instead claiming a wonderful silver in the women’s road time-trial. The surprise on her face during the podium celebrations said it all.

Four years have passed since then – and Pooley is a different rider.

More than that. She is a proven rider. As good as this country has produced.

Overall victory in the 2009 Grande Boucle Féminine – the women’s Tour de France – was followed by an impressive 2010 double of the Tour de L’Aude and a brilliant World Time-trial Championship title. Not bad debuts as a professional.

She has also finished second at the Giro d’Italia behind Marianne Vos in the last two years – her performance in this year’s race just a few weeks ago even more impressive, given her focus on the Olympics.

In fact, everything should be set-up for Pooley to light up her home Games – if only London had hills.

Pooley is the master of mountains and while Box Hill will certainly test the road race group, it’s not quite the Col du Tourmalet.

The time-trial route is flat and straight, not much of it requiring technical thought – so not really a lot offering pint-sized Pooley any favours.

But the Zurich-based rider has simply used that to spur her on to greater preparation.

It may be that helps her deliver more time-trial excellence. Or she may ride in support of another GB golden girl to ensure home glory comes one way or the other.

It may even be that Box Hill can offer her a glimpse of surprise from the peloton’s reaches on the Sunday. Either way, Pooley cannot wait.

“I’m quite happy with how my training has gone and I’ve had some good races in the last couple of months, so I think I’m where I want to be and you can’t really ask for much more than that,” smiled Pooley.

“I’m looking forward to it actually, which is how it should be. It should be fun.

“With the Giro I was quite surprised actually. Last year I was aiming for it and this year it was just a preparation race, and also the course wasn’t as mountainous as previous years, so I wasn’t really expecting to do well.

“So to come second behind a very worthy winner who I didn’t expect to ever beat, that was much better than I ever expected.”

And hopefully a more than good sign for London too.

Sport: Cycling – Women’s road race, time-trial. From: Norwich. Age: 29

Schedule – Road race (Start/finish – The Mall): Sunday, July 29 – 12pm. Time-trial (Start/finish – Hampton Court): Wednesday, August 1 – 12.30pm.

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