The world cycling championships which just took place in Minsk was the first major global championships of the new Olympic cycle looking towards Rio. These championships were a little weak because of the timing of the track champs these days. They were switched to the early part of the year some time back so that riders wanting to go out onto the road in the spring and summer would be able to do these first.
One of the effects of this switch has been that in Olympic years track riders have two peaks to the season. This is a tough ask and it is not surprising that many of the top riders from the Olympics have either retired, taken a break or aren’t at their best. On the other hand it has given an opportunity to the next group of riders coming through to win a world title.
This has certainly been a chance that Britain’s Becky James has seized with both hands. She won four medals including golds in the sprint and keirin. Two years ago I thought that Becky would deny Victoria Pendleton the chance of even competing in the sprint at the London Olympics. At that time Becky was a teenager and seemed to be on the up while Vicky was struggling a little with her form. I had a feeling that as Becky would soon become the British number one and take the only place on offer at the Games. However, Becky then suffered a series of problems with illness and injuries and didn’t make the progress I hoped for. Meanwhile Victoria stayed at the top to win more titles.
Ironically, it may well be that missing out on the Olympics is the making of Becky James. While the Games were going on she was training. This meant that she has been able to stay in top shape through the winter and was able to peak for the world championships. While it has to be said that the strength of the opposition wasn’t the best for a world championships, Becky showed admirable maturity to cope with the pressure. This bodes well for the future but there will be tougher tests ahead as the top riders return to the track. It will be interesting to see how Becky copes. I suspect that she will do just fine.