After skipping August’s European Championships in Munich, Great Britain’s five-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny returns to action at this week’s Track Cycling World Championships.
The Worlds will take place in the same Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome that will host the Paris 2024 track cycling competition and Britain have sent a strong British team that includes Kenny, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Archibaldand Olympic silver medalists Neah Evans and Josie Knight.
However, with five-time Olympic champion Kenny yet to confirm whether or not she will aim to compete in the upcoming Olympics, it leaves the door open for a younger generation of British female cyclists to write their own names in history at the Games.
Which young female riders could star for Team GB at the Track Cycling World Championships?
At just 19 years old, Emma Finucane heads to the championships having enjoyed a stellar season, including two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games. The young Welsh cyclist, who began her career at the Towy Riders club, medaled in both the sprint and team sprint events in Birmingham, adding to her first place in the team sprint at the British national championships earlier this year.
She will be joined on the team by Sophie Lewis, who at 20 years old is the reigning British national champion in omnium and silver medalist in madison – her favorite event. Lewis also won European junior gold in Madison in 2019 and will be aiming for a strong performance in France to solidify her credentials as one of the most exciting young British cyclists on the circuit.
Two 23-year-olds make the team, with the 2018 British national road race champion Jessica Roberts and two-time British national track cycling champion Lauren Bell both aiming for top honors at these Worlds.
Roberts was forced to take a break from the sport due to back issues and highlighted how difficult the period was when she stated in a recent interview with the BBC that she “did a lot of stuff with a psychologist to try to get myself back to happy Jess.” Fit again and ready to compete, her list of credentials also includes a gold medal in Madison from the European Games in 2019.
Bell was victorious in both the time trial and keirin at the 2020 British National Track Championships and has a long history in sport – although not initially in cycling. The Scottish rider was first involved in athletics before her potential as a cyclist was identified and she became part of the UK Sport program as a teenager.
“It was quite an easy decision to focus on cycling above my athletics, just because I was given such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which I would have been silly to let pass,” she told Manchester World.
“The more I began to learn about the sport and develop my skills as a bike rider, I found myself really enjoying doing sprint cycling, and then eventually it became an easy decision because track cycling became the sport I wanted to do more.”
At 25, Megan Barker may not be at the beginning of her career, however she comes to these World Championships with real pedigree. The younger sister of Rio 2016 gold medalist Elinor, the Welsh cyclist won madison gold at the 2109 European Games in Minsk and team pursuit bronze at the 2021 World Championships in Roubaix.
Barker has also had to overcome a number of major obstacles to take her place on this team, including blood clots in her leg and lung that led to her taking a forced break from the sport in 2017.
While each of these riders has a long way to go to emulate the success of Kenny, these World Championships offer a real chance to shine on the same stage the Paris 2024 Olympic Games track cycling competition will take place in less than two years’ time . Who will stake their claim for a place on the Great Britain team for Paris 2024?
You can find out when the UCI Track Cycling World Championships take place between 12 and 16 October at Saint Quentin en Yvelines.