Jason Kenny excited by potential of Champions League to grow track cycling
Olympic champion Jason Kenny hopes the new UCI Champions League can give track cycling a shake-up and introduce a new generation of fans to the sport.
The inaugural season of the new TV-friendly competition that organisers hope can do for track cycling what Twenty20 did for cricket will continue on Saturday in Panevezys, Lithuania, before heading to London for two legs next weekend.
Kenny, who became Britain’s most decorated Olympian by winning his seventh gold in Tokyo, will be behind a microphone rather than on a bike as he enjoys a post-Games break, but is looking forward to some first-hand experience of the event.
“It’s definitely got the potential,” Kenny told the PA news agency. “The format makes it easier to watch.
“Track cycling is really good to watch and really contained, but in the past the formats were really fragmented and sort of boring, really. You’d break up the really exciting racing with a load of qualifying for the individual pursuit or something and it ruined the flow.
“Here, they’ve taken the best bits and chucked them into a nice condensed program.”
The series sees a total of 72 riders, 18 men and 18 women in both the sprint and endurance categories – with qualification based on results at the Olympics and world championships – race two events in a schedule packed into a couple of hours.
After the first round in Mallorca at the start of the month, Britain’s Katie Archibald leads the women’s endurance standings thanks to her victory in the elimination race.
And it is no surprise to see Kenny’s familiar foe Harrie Lavreysen, the Olympic sprint and team sprint champion, top of the men’s sprint standings.
The 33-year-old Kenny, who told the PA news agency last week he was “not optimistic” of continuing on to the 2024 Paris Olympics, opted not to race after his efforts in Japan, where he took a stunning victory in the keirin to move clear of Sir Chris Hoy’s record of six gold medals.
As he weighs up how much longer he might keep racing, Kenny admitted the new competition was the sort of thing that might keep him going.
“I wasn’t sure if I would get an invite,” Kenny said of this year’s edition. “When I did it was tempting to get training and get on it but in reality I don’t think I would have been in any kind of shape having been on holiday.
“I’ve sat this one out but hopefully moving forward in the future we’ll be in a better place.
“I think this can help the health of the sport and I want to be in it for the health of the sport.”
Kenny said his stint behind the microphone this weekend – he will be providing analysis for discovery+, Eurosport and GCN+ – might show what his post-racing career could look like, but he is not ready to retire just yet and is stepping up his fitness work with an eye on next year’s calendar.
“To be realistically competitive I need to be in full training by January,” he said. “At the minute the signs are good, there’s no reason that can’t happen. From there it’s whether I can deal with the volume and then actually get back in the team.
“We’ve got a decent squad and after the Olympics it’s a good opportunity for those guys that weren’t getting the rides. Myself and Jack (Carlin) have stepped away so this is an opportunity for those guys to show what they can do.
“It’s all to play for and it’s quite exciting.”
:: UCI Track Champions League dates: Round 2 – Lithuania (27 Nov), Round 3 & 4 – London (3-4 Dec), Round 5 – Tel Aviv (11 Dec). Watch LIVE on discovery+, Eurosport and GCN+
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