By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s track cyclists were still digesting a disappointing world championships medal haul on Monday but four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny believes there is no need to panic.
The 26-year-old queen of the boards did warn, however, against assuming everything will be alright on the night when the Tokyo Olympics roll around next year.
When Elinor Barker won the opening race last week in Pruszkow a British gold-rush might have been expected but her scratch race victory was the only one.
Kenny, who married Britain’s six-time Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympics, was part of the team pursuit quartet beaten to gold by Australia and then withdrew before the omnium because of illness.
The sprinters also failed to fire and only once in the last eight world championships have Britain claimed fewer than the four medals they managed in Poland.
“I don’t think there is anything dramatic that we should be worrying about, or changing now, it’s just about moving forward as a team,” Kenny told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
“Having said that we can’t be complacent. We can’t be like, ‘Oh well every time we go to the Olympics it comes together’ because it’s not as simple as that.
“The team has changed massively this time, not just with the riders but with the whole set-up, and there are lots of different people in different roles.”
Men’s endurance coach German Heiko Salzwedel, who plotted the team pursuiters’ path to Rio gold, left in 2018 and there have been other disruptions in British Cycling.
“Everyone has to come together, that’s what has always happened,” Kenny said.
“If we can do that the results will start coming again. In 2015 the worlds weren’t great but we were back on top in Rio. So let’s not throw everything out of the window.”
Kenny, formerly Trott, gave birth to son Albie in 2017 and admits she struggled for pace on her return to the velodrome before claiming two golds at last year’s European championships.
She was especially looking forward to laying down a marker in the omnium in Pruszkow last week before illness struck.
However, being a mum helped keep things in perspective.
“I was so gutted, it was so disappointing,” she said. “I’d never pulled out of a championships before. Training had gone really well and I really wanted to do well in the omnium and compete against (eventual winner) Kirsten Wild.
“I was sad but Albie is my world now whereas pre-2017 I would say cycling was everything. I cycle now for Albie and want him to have the experiences of going around the world watching me, but I don’t get completely wrapped up in it the same way.”
Kenny will target team pursuit, omnium and Madison at the Tokyo Games but said competition for places was fierce, with Katie Archibald and Barker eyeing multiple gold.
She has the chance to test herself against both of them at the Manchester Six Day extravaganza https://sixday.com https://sixday.com at the end of March — when all three will contest the omnium along with Dutch world champion Wild.
“We were all told to take a week off after the worlds so hopefully we will all be on the same kind of level I guess,” Kenny said. “Unless they are training secretly!
“I can’t wait for the Manchester Six Day. I watched the London one on TV when I was pregnant and it sounded like riding in a nightclub. It was spectacular.”
Since Kenny retained her Olympic omnium crown in Rio, the event has been reduced to four events and one day, rather than seven over two, with the timed events removed.
Kenny is a fan of the new format.
“You don’t have to dwell on it overnight,” she said. “I love racing. People say I’m good against the clock, and I was, but it’s not a bike race for me. I like the tactics of bunch races.”
She also thinks Britain’s team pursuit world record of 4:10.236 set at the Rio Olympics will have to come down to retain the title.
“The Aussies did a 4:13 last week so you would imagine three seconds would come off that before Tokyo,” she said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)