Laura Kenny is so keen to return to the track after becoming a mother later this year that she has enquired about the qualification process for next year’s Commonwealth Games, according to British Cycling's head coach Iain Dyer.
Speaking after the British squad won five medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong last week, Dyer said Kenny would undoubtedly rise to the challenge laid down by her great friends and erstwhile team-mates Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald, whose gold medals in Hong Kong saw them emerge as serious threats to Kenny’s Olympic omnium spot.
“There's absolutely no question of that,” Dyer said when asked whether he felt their performances would have inspired Kenny, who with four gold medals is Britain's most successful female Olympian. “Laura is a competitive animal. She demands the best from herself whether or not she's got competition around her. That's what makes her such a great athlete. I've got no doubt in my mind that having riders showing such potential will spur her on further.”
Asked about Kenny's hunger to return, Dyer laughed: “Within 10 seconds of me congratulating her on her impending child announcement, she was immediately asking me about qualification points for worlds and for Commie Games and things like that. I've got no doubt she'll want to come back.”
The Commonwealth Games take place in Queensland next April, roughly eight months after Kenny is due to give birth, making it extremely unlikely that she will compete but not impossible. Dame Sarah Storey returned to cycling within a year of having a baby.
Kenny told the Telegraph last weekend that she did not want to rush it. "I'm going to wait and see because it's different for everyone,” she said when asked how quickly she would come back. “Everything's going to be new to me. I know I want to get into the team pursuit, but anything after that is a bonus.”
As well as the multi-discipline omnium, the IOC is also looking at the possibility of including a Madison for both men and women in Tokyo, which could potentially open up another avenue for endurance riders such as Kenny, Archibald and Barker.
Dyer was generally in upbeat mood at the end of the week in Hong Kong. He admitted performances had been “mixed”, saying there were “a couple of areas where we've got some work to do" - notably men's endurance - and a couple of areas he was "really very, very encouraged by”. But he insisted that he was not worried by the medal count.
GB were down on medals in Hong Kong compared with the same stage of previous Olympic cycles. The British team won 11 medals in Minsk in 2013, nine in Pruszkow in 2009 and six in Los Angeles in 2005. But Dyer said he felt that as a squad they were actually in “a better place” this time around, having chosen to give some of their bigger-name riders the freedom to broaden their repertoires, and instead to stock their pursuit and sprint teams with young thrusters.
“Strangely, I think we're in a better place, because we've changed our approach and we've learned some of our lessons,” he said. “Riders like Laura have spoken in the past that she feels she flipped herself back around straight into [team pursuit] too soon after London.
“I think you've got to take note of that kind of perspective. And that's informing the way in which we're working with Katie and Elinor right now. We do feel pretty vindicated with that approach.
“You're right to say we might've been stronger on medals in the past, but I don't think we protected our performances as well in the past. Typically in the last Olympic cycle we actually dipped a bit later on. Whereas we're giving ourselves room to breathe immediately now – and you can quote me on this in a year's time – I'm hoping to see a more continual uplift of progression into Tokyo.”