Laura Kenny has revealed that pulling out of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships was a “really heartbreaking” decision because of her dedication to the sport.
The 26-year-old secured silver in the women’s team pursuit in Pruszkow, Poland at the end of last month, but a sudden illness forced her to withdraw from the omnium – an event she has won at the last two Olympic Games.
Kenny knows vacating her spot, with Katie Archibald riding in her place and finishing seventh, was necessary and is pragmatic about how it will impact her as she builds towards next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
But her wholehearted enthusiasm and determination to succeed meant it was not an easy choice to stand down.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist told Press Association Sport: “I’ve never had to pull out of an event before and to have to pull out of a World Championships was really heartbreaking.
“As much as people will be like, ‘It’s just riding bikes, it doesn’t matter’, it’s your life.
“I train 24/7 for this, it’s not like I just go home and that’s it. You’re still thinking, ‘I should be resting, I should be eating this, I should doing that’, and so you do invest a lot of time into it.
“To have to pull out of the one event that you’re really focusing on in the year was hard for me to take.
“I think it was the right decision in terms of we are qualifying for the Olympics now and I could have come 16th and not scored any points, so it was worth Katie riding instead of me because there was just no point in me taking away those Olympic qualification points.”
Kenny, speaking to promote the inaugural Phynova Six Day Manchester later this month, disclosed her condition had few symptoms but that a week’s rest helped her to fully recover.
She added: “Because it’s the worlds you’re not going to go off and have a blood test.
“We travel with our doctor and he was there at the race. I came back early because there was no point in me just staying there for no reason, so I just took a week off and that was that. Nothing really came of it.
“The only warning sign I had that I might be getting ill was I had a bit of lower back pain the night before, but that was literally it.
“As athletes you’re going to get ill, you’re going to get injured, it’s one of those things that you just have to move on from. It will just be one of those things where it’s in the past and that’s where it will have to stay.
“I get ill and have colds and stuff throughout the year, but I hope it doesn’t happen again (at the Olympics).”
Cycling was put in perspective when it was announced on Sunday that United States rider Kelly Catlin had died, aged 23, with her father telling Velo News the three-time team pursuit world champion had taken her own life.
Catlin’s USA finished behind a Kenny-inspired Great Britain in the women’s team pursuit at Rio 2016.
Kenny said: “It’s just such a sad story. The thing I find saddest is the fact that she felt like she didn’t have anybody to talk to.
“It really got to me because we do give our lives to this and for somebody to feel that sad, like they can’t escape it, is really quite sad. I just feel for her and her family, I really do.”
Kenny will be joined at the Six Day Manchester – which spans three days from March 22-24 – by husband Jason as well as team pursuit team-mates Archibald and Elinor Barker at the National Cycling Centre.
She added: “I’m really excited about it. It’s completely different. It’s more of a party than it is anything else.
“But it has UCI points attached to it so it is still about scoring for next season so you can ride the World Cups. As much as it does feel relaxed, you can’t take your foot off the gas completely.”
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