By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s track cycling golden girl Laura Kenny says drastic changes to the omnium event she has owned at the past two Olympics have left her scratching her head.
Her name was not the only thing different as she cranked back into action at the Revolution Series in London’s velodrome on Friday – her first race since winning team pursuit and omnium gold in Rio as Laura Trott.
A few weeks after marrying six-times Olympic track champion Jason Kenny in September, cycling’s governing body the UCI axed the pursuit, flying lap and time trial from the omnium and introduced a 7.5km “tempo race”.
Although Kenny welcomes change if it helps makes the omnium more TV friendly, she admits being clueless about the tempo race she was set to ride on Saturday.
Talking as fast as she pedals, the ebullient Kenny burst into giggles when explaining the 7.5km bunch race to Reuters.
“It’s a weird race. Every time you come across the line first you get a point. Is it? Or is it two? I’ve got to do this tomorrow and I don’t even know! I haven’t got a clue! I’ll just be riding around, like ‘what’s happening?’, help me!” she said.
“I’m all up for change because it keeps training fresh. But when the UCI made the changes I was gutted. They are ruining the history of it. You won’t be able to look back over the results and compare results. I’m not so sure. It’s learning a new race.”
The tempo race actually awards two points to the leader on each lap, with one to the rider in second place. Gaining a lap on the bunch is worth 20 points.
“It’s creating a negative race,” Kenny said. “And for me personally they’ve got rid of two strong events for me the 500m and the flying lap. That brings other riders into play.”
Kenny eased back into action on Friday wearing the rainbow jersey around the track on which she was catapulted to fame at London 2012 by winning omnium and team pursuit gold.
She was edged out in Friday’s scratch race but was not expecting too much as she starts building for the world championships after her marriage and honeymoon.
“I missed it, I’ve been looking forward to racing,” she said. “I expected to go badly though. My full throttle here won’t be like more full throttle in Rio. But it’s great to be racing in front of a home crowd again.
“I’m not 100 percent fit yet. I did a team pursuit recently and didn’t even finish.”
Still only 24, Kenny is tipped to even surpass her 28-year-old husband’s six Olympic golds, although he will be eyeing more in Tokyo. Nothing should be taken for granted though.
“I hope my career is still to peak,” she said. “Some say women don’t peak until they are in their 30s. Others say, ‘oh you’ve had it by then’. People think I’ve still got ages.
“Do you know how hard it is? How stressful it is? Every Olympic cycle you spend 18 months being the most selfish person you could ever imagine. Backing up the Olympics was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“You see people like Brad (Wiggins), Chris (Hoy) and Jason turning up at every Olympics and winning, you’re like, ‘it’ll be fine, it will work out’. But it’s not like that.
“At the holding camp before Rio I didn’t even think I would make the team, let alone win a gold.”
Kenny only has eyes for the track, though, dismissing suggestions she could one day emulate Bradley Wiggins by winning gold on the road and in the velodrome.
“People say well you’ve been national (road) champion. For starters I don’t even know how that happened,” she said. “And the road freaks me out. Everything it out of your control.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)