Callum Skinner admits he will be chasing personal glory rather than team success when the World Track Championships get underway in Hong Kong this morning.
The 24-year-old Glaswegian, who is based in Manchester, took Olympic gold in the team sprint in Rio last summer, but he is going it alone this week and will sit out today’s three-man event to save his energy for Friday’s individual sprint, in which he was Olympic silver medallist last August.
“It’s the first World Championships I’ve been to where I’ve only been focusing on an individual event,” said Skinner. “Every other one I’ve gone to I’ve been part of a team, so it’s something new for me and I’m excited to see how I get on. I’m just focusing on my own performances, and my aim is to do as well as I can in the sprint.
“Coming here with the Olympic success that I had, it doesn’t take away the pressure, it just changes it slightly. I used to be in a position where any semi-decent result would be great and I didn’t really have anything to lose, but now I’m in a situation where people are expecting results after the Olympics we had.”
Katie Archibald is another Scot hoping to make a big impression at the Hong Kong Velodrome, where she will contest the scratch race, omnium, individual pursuit and team pursuit.
Archibald, from Milngavie, won gold alongside Laura Kenny, Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Elinor Barker in the team pursuit at Rio 2016. But Kenny is currently pregnant with her first child and Shand has since retired, so it’s a new-look team pursuit squad taking to the track over the next few days.
She’s only 23, but Archibald is now seen as one of the senior members of the 20-strong Great Britain squad, which features ten World Championship debutants.
“The biggest change for us going into this World Championships is Laura not being here, along with Joanna and Ciara Horne,” Archibald said.
“Myself and Elinor have somehow been thrust into the position of being the elders, aged 22 and 23. It’s daunting.
“It’s a fairly obvious truth that Laura Kenny is Olympic and world champion. You’ve got to expect that if she had continued training she would have had the form to make that selection.
“But she is not here and there is still a huge amount of competition. I feel quite privileged to have this chance and have this omnium spot. I want to be competitive.”
British Cycling’s head coach Iain Dyer says the other cyclists, particularly Archibald and Barker, should turn Kenny’s absence into a positive and use the event to “make their mark”.
“It’s a young squad and anyone has the chance to unseat someone more senior,” explained Dyer. “The guys here are looking to make their own mark.
“Laura has ruled the roost in the omnium in the past but Katie and Elinor are pretty good bunch race riders in their own right, as we’ve all seen. The most important thing with these World Championships is that those who have been committed to team events now have the freedom to commit a little bit stronger to individual stuff.”