Laura Kenny says her return to bunch racing was “shaky” but that she is beginning to feel like herself again on the bike.
Kenny won omnium gold a the UCI Track World Cup in Milton, Canada at the end of October – her first world cup event since January 2016.
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In the interim, she picked up two more Olympic gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, before taking a break for the birth of her son Albie in August 2017.
“Canada was probably the best I’ve felt in a long time,” she said.
“It’s always hard to compare, because the last racing I did before I had Albie was at an Olympic Games, which is the peak of your career, but I was really pleased with how I performed.”
Since her return, Kenny has scooped up national and European titles, but this was her first opportunity to compete in the omnium discipline at an international level.
“It took a bit of getting used to – I was a little bit shaky in the first two events in Milton and didn’t feel comfortable in the bunch, as there were a lot of riders who I didn’t know. But once I started the elimination race, I thought ‘actually, I can do this’, and I felt like myself again,” she said.
“I really enjoyed the points race – I just felt free to race my bike, and I really did love it.”
In Kenny’s absence, a number of British female track riders have enjoyed success at international level, including Katie Archibald who won a world champion title in the omnium in 2017.
“I think both the overall standard of the omnium and the riders within the British team have moved on [since Rio]. That’s always going to happen – once you step away, it’s hard to step back in,” Kenny said.
“The competition even in our training sessions is unbelievable. There isn’t just Katie, but people like Neah Evans and Elinor Barker, and a number of other girls coming through. But that’s great, because it makes our training really hard, and that’s what we need to get better – not just for the individual events but for the team too.
“The stronger we are, the better our team pursuit team is going to be, so although you want to say ‘I want to do the omnium at the Olympics’, so does everybody else, and that’s what makes our team so good.”
The omnium in Milton was run under the new format – with four events taking place over the course of one day, as will be the case at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“For me, it brings a freshness to it – it’s a different event so I have to re-learn it, and I quite like that because there’s nothing to compare it to,” said Kenny.
“I like the fact that it’s now really punchy – the races are a lot shorter than they used to be in the old-style omnium across two days, and because it’s only the one day now, you only get two hours between races, and I guess I quite like that too.”
The next UCI Track World Cup event takes place in Berlin, from November 30 to December 2. After that, it’ll be at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark from December 14 and 16.