|UCI Track Cycling World Championships 2018|
|Venue: Omnisport Apeldoorn, Netherlands Dates: 28 February to 4 March Coverage: Live on BBC Red Button, connected TV and online|
Great Britain’s women’s team pursuit quartet took silver at the World Track Championships to complete an impressive return to racing for Laura Kenny.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist gave birth to her first child in August and only began training with the team in early January.
Earlier on Thursday, Ed Clancy, Charlie Tanfield, Ethan Hayter and Kian Emadi won gold in the men’s team pursuit.
The quartet beat Denmark to secure Britain’s first title in Apeldoorn.
Kenny ‘shattered’ but ‘loved every minute’ of return
In her first major competition since winning the omnium at the Rio Olympics in 2016, 25-year-old Kenny and her team-mates Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson were beaten to gold by the strong US quartet.
The US were never behind in Apeldoorn, holding an advantage of just over half a second after the first 1,000m and stretching that out to 1.311 seconds by the end.
“I’m shattered to be honest, normally I am in bed with the little one at this time but I have loved every minute of being back on the track,” Kenny told BBC Sport.
“I never would have expected to be back so soon and I would have loved to come away with a gold medal, but I have really enjoyed being back with the girls.
“We can’t help but feel disappointed but hats off to the Americans.”
The British quartet’s time of four minutes 16.980 seconds was more than six seconds slower than an almost identical line-up clocked in winning gold in Rio, the retired Joanna Rowsell-Shand the only absentee with Nelson replacing her.
But at this stage of the Olympic cycle it is a creditable result, even more so for Kenny so soon into her comeback.
Kenny’s husband Jason had made his own return with silver in the team sprint on Wednesday having reversed his decision to retire after the last Olympics.
Kenny has been taking advice from fellow Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill as she has stepped up her training after the arrival of son Albie.
Ennis-Hill stepped away from athletics after winning heptathlon gold at London 2012 to have her son Reggie, before returning to multi-events in spectacular style by winning world gold in 2015 and Olympic silver in 2016.
Multiple Paralympic cycling champion Dame Sarah Storey has been another example to follow for Kenny, who has been surprised how quickly her old form has returned.
The couple have turned their garage at their house in rural Cheshire into a gym, Albie now capable of falling asleep to the sound of a turbo – a stationary indoor cycling trainer.
In the Netherlands they have been billeted in their own flat rather than share the British team hotel, Albie travelling with them, the flat offering better sleeping both for the seven-month-old and the rest of the team, a microwave on hand to warm up Albie’s milk for his night feeds.
When the family are at home, Laura’s mother Glenda and Jason’s mother Lorraine both help out with babysitting, and both are at the Worlds this week, Glenda doing the first few days, Lorraine the remainder.
Laura had originally targeted August’s European Track Championships as her first major event, but has impressed GB performance director Stephen Park and her long-time coach Paul Manning.
At the start of February she remained in Manchester to train at the National Cycling Centre while the rest of the team pursuit squad travelled to a training camp in Majorca.
But she believes that the arrival of Albie has given her a tighter focus in the sessions she can make to compensate for the disruption to her and Jason’s sleep patterns.
As Ennis-Hill found, famously coining the acronym PPPB (post-pregnancy personal best) with her coach Toni Minichiello, Kenny is not yet hitting the numbers in training that she was making comfortably in Rio.
Jason too has had to accept the kind of beatings that a six-time Olympic champion does not expect. His first competitive race since Rio only came in October, when he entered a race in the North-West Cyclo-Cross League, staged in his home town of Bolton, and finished 50th of 54 riders.
Laura was there with Albie in a baby-carrier on her chest, Lorraine on hand to offer assistance, and that family partnership has continued in the months since.
Neither can she nor Jason compete in the individual events at these Worlds, as they do not have the requisite qualifying points having not raced internationally since Rio.
‘The next Wiggins – he is that good’
Earlier on Thursday, three-time Olympic champion Clancy won gold alongside Emadi, 25, Hayter, 19, and 21-year-old amateur Tanfield, who has deferred his university degree to race in the Netherlands.
Clancy told BBC Sport victory was “a really special moment”.
He added: “We didn’t win a single Worlds between London and Rio so we really pushed hard for this, every single one of us.
“Kian has been making massive leaps forward and is a really exciting talent, Charlie is just a massive engine, a massive talent who has come from completely outside the system.
“Ethan I think is the next [Sir Bradley] Wiggins to be honest. He really is that good. He is good on road and track – he’s probably the strongest man on our team today and he is 19 years old.”
They won in a time of three minutes 53.389 seconds, beating Denmark by 1.843 seconds with Italy taking bronze.
Jack Carlin finished fifth in the keirin, won by Colombia’s Fabian Hernando Puertas Zapata, while Chris Latham finished 12th in the men’s scratch 15km race, won by Belarus’ Yauheni Karaliok.