‘It’s fresh’

Laura Kenny in action in the omnium at Rio 2016

Laura Kenny won the omnium at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny says she is enjoying the “freshness” of learning a new omnium format before Tokyo 2020.

Kenny, who won two of her Olympic golds in the event, made her omnium return with victory at the Track World Cup in Milton, Canada, in October.

The omnium has been changed to a one-day, four-event format at international level ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

“I like the fact that it’s now really punchy,” said the 26-year-old.

“For me, it brings a freshness to it – it’s a different event so I have to relearn it, and I quite like that because there’s nothing to compare it to.”

The UCI announced changes to the omnium format in October 2016, removing the individually-timed events and leaving the scratch race, elimination race, points race, and the new tempo race.

Kenny returned to the track in March – six months after giving birth to her son, Albie – and has since won national and European titles.

But last month’s outing in Milton marked her return to omnium, winning her second gold of the event having already claimed the team pursuit title.

“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 in Canada.

“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. Then I really enjoyed the points race – I just felt free to race my bike, and I really did love it.”

Kenny will return to the boards for round three of the Track World Cup in Berlin, Germany, between 30 November and 2 December before the event travels to the Lee Valley VeloPark in London from 14 to 16 December.

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Track Cycling World Cup: Sarah Storey & Jody Cundy in Great Britain squad

Jody Cundy

Jody Cundy on his way to gold in the men’s 1km time Trial C4-5 final at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio

Nine Paralympic gold medallists will represent Great Britain at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in London.

Sarah Storey, Jody Cundy, Kadeena Cox, Jon-Allan Butterworth, Neil Fachie, Megan Giglia, Louis Rolfe and Sophie Thornhill with her pilot Helen Scott will compete at the historic event.

It will be the first time para-cycling events have taken place at a World Cup meeting.

The event takes place at Lee Valley Velopark from 14-16 December.

Performance director Stephen Park said: “The squad looks strong, with some real medal prospects across the events.”

For the full squad list, click here.

The BBC will have live coverage of the event on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs, the BBC Sport website and app.

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‘Athlete welfare issues were disturbing’

Liz Nicholl

Liz Nicholl joined UK Sport as director of elite sport in 1999

Issues concerning athlete welfare were a “disturbing and uncomfortable” period of her reign, outgoing UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl has told the BBC.

Former Olympic cyclist Jess Varnish is suing UK Sport and British Cycling over allegations of discrimination.

Since her allegations, several British sports bodies have experienced controversy around duty of care issues.

Nicholl said the need for athletes’ voices to be heard had led to UK Sport’s Culture Health Check report.

Almost 700 athletes responded with their views on how they were treated.

Varnish was dropped from British Cycling’s elite programme in 2016.

When former technical director Shane Sutton was subsequently found to have used sexist language towards her, it prompted an independent review of the organisation.

Speaking to BBC sports editor Dan Roan, Nicholl said she had “no regrets” about her eight years in charge of UK Sport. But she added: “There was that very disturbing period when the British Cycling independent review had to be conducted and concerns about the voice of athletes being heard, growing awareness that the athletes’ voice wasn’t being heard in sports and needed to be heard.

“There was a period that felt very uncomfortable.”

Nicholl, who will step down next summer after eight years, added: “But what I’m proud of is that we responded by doing the right thing in a number of areas of work that we’ve taken on board and activated – not least, cultural health checks are now conducted across all the sports to drive positive change and be athlete focused on a day-to-day basis.”

Speaking about Varnish’s lawsuit – with a hearing scheduled for 10 December – Nicholl denied it had played a part in her decision to step down, but said: “We will learn from this regardless of whether we win or lose.”

If Varnish’s lawyers successfully argue that she should have had employee status, the case could have major ramifications for all contracted British athletes who are funded by UK Sport.

UK Sport might have to pay Varnish backdated pension and national insurance costs. This is currently avoided because athletes are not regarded as members of staff. Other athletes might then pursue legal action themselves.

“Our approach to supporting athletes has been similar to a student grant – a performance award that enables them to train – with no pay-back from that,” said Nicholl.

“There are other professional sports that actually have central contracts so there are two ways of doing this. The test of this case is whether the way Jess was supported constituted an employment status, so whatever the outcome we will review – as part of our future strategy – how we best support athletes and our relationship with athletes.

“Obviously we may be forced to change some things but regardless of that we will absolutely look at what is the best relationship we can have that’s right for them and for the system of public funding to get the best results in the future.”

Overseeing a period of success

Having joined UK Sport three years after Britain picked up just one gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, Nicholl oversaw Team GB’s record haul of 67 medals at Rio 2016 – 27 of which were gold.

“We can see elements of what we do that can be even better,” she said.

“We won’t be first in the medal table in 2024 as the gap between us and the US is enormous, but we have more sports now that know how to win medals and more sports that know how to win gold medals.”

A number of sports have lost UK Sport funding for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, including badminton, archery, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby. That has been largely driven by a fall in the National Lottery money available to the agency, with fewer people playing it.

Cycling – which brought Team GB 12 medals in Rio – has had its funding cut by more than £4m to £25.98m.

“After Rio there were more sports that had no funding,” said Nicholl. “Our board then said this for us is the tipping point, it can’t be any deeper than that. Even to fund the sports we are funding now we have to have a government underwrite it.”

UK Sport recently launched a £3m Aspiration Fund in a bid to help more athletes compete at the Tokyo Games who compete in unfunded sports, including skateboarding and surfing, which will make their debut in 2020.

Nicholl said the fund was a “pilot”, adding: “We will learn from it, whether it can be embedded into a future strategy.”

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UCI Urban Cycling World Championships: Jack Carthy retains Urban BMX title

Britain’s Jack Carthy wins the men’s elite 26-inch title for the third straight year at the Urban Cycling World Championships in Chengdu, China.

WATCH MORE: The brutal life of a BMX rider

Available to UK users only.

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British Cycling: Norfolk to host National Road Championships 2019

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish is among a star-studded list of former winners

Norfolk will host the 2019 National Road Championships, British Cycling has announced.

The men’s and women’s time-trial champions will be crowned on 27 June, with the road races held on 30 June.

The event will also include a sportive for amateur riders and the fifth round of the cross-country series in Norwich, as part of the new Great British Cycling Festival.

Earlier this year, Connor Swift, 23, won the road race in Northumberland.

“The championships are the flagship event of our road racing calendar, and the list of previous winners – which includes Sir Bradley Wiggins, Laura Kenny, Geraint Thomas, Lizzie Deignan and Mark Cavendish – gives some indication of the prestige of the event,” Commercial Director of British Cycling Jonathan Rigby said.

“While these Championships represent the pinnacle of domestic road racing, they are also a celebration of cycling as a whole.

“We’re delighted to be staging a mass participation ride alongside the elite races, and are pleased to have linked up with Golazo, Active Norfolk, Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council – all of whom share our ambition to make our communities fitter, greener and healthier through increased levels of cycling,” he added.

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