Laura Kenny on Tour de France for women: 'It needs to happen slowly'

Considered to be the most successful Olympic female athlete in any sport from Great Britain, British cyclist Laura Kenny has been nominated for the 2017 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. She spoke about British Cycling, doping in elite cycling and Tour de France for Women.

Laura Kenny with husband Jason Kenny

Laura Kenny with husband Jason Kenny at the Rio Olympic Games.   -  Getty Images

British cyclist Laura Kenny is a four-time Olympic gold medallist. Considered to be the most successful female track cyclist in Olympic Games history and most successful Olympic female athlete in any sport from Great Britain, Laura has been nominated for the 2017 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award along with US gymnast Simone Biles, U.S. track and field sprinter Allyson Felix, German tennis star Angelique Kerber, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky and Jamiacan track and field Elaine Thompson.

At the Rio 2016 Games, Laura and her husband Jason Kenny, won gold medals in sprint and team event. Her husband, Jason, made it five when he also won the gold in Keirin event.

“The whole thing was just incredible. Like way more than I could ever have asked for. I can think, like as an athlete, you always want to be the best. Like that's what you strive to be, and after 2012, like that kind of happened to me, and I didn't know how I was ever going to top that. And I also didn't — I kind of underestimated how hard it was going to be to backup. Like going through a four year phase, I realised that four years is actually a really long time and it was a long time to try and kind of prepare and then to go to Rio do it all, as much as it sounds kind of cliché, was a dream come true.”

Sharing her special memory from the Rio Games, Laura said watching her husband Jason win in Rio once again, was the perfect Games moment for them as a couple.

“Obviously seeing Jason win. Like I say, it's so difficult to go to the Games and backup time and time again. And Jason obviously went to Beijing, won there, and went to London. And then to do it again in Rio, it kind of seemed like the perfect Games for us as a couple.”

On being Britain's most decorated female Olympian, Laura said: “Again, that seems so surreal. Like when I grew up, I remember Kelly Holmes crossing the finish line of the 800 and winning her second gold medal, and being like, wow, that is such an incredible achievement; and nothing I ever imagined that I would be able to do myself.”

“And to now have four is kind of weird and like you say, I feel like it kind of didn't sink in, like to be the most decorated female Olympian. I didn’t ever try to get those accolades. It was quite a long process this time. Like back in 2012, everything was just fun. Like I was young and I was just there because I got selected. I never really understood how I managed to get myself there, and then this time around, obviously it was the expectation I guess I struggled with. Everybody kind of expecting me to win and go out there and do the same again. It was hard, but it wasn't just the work that I put in. It was the work behind the scenes of everybody, like with my coach, like the background scene, I guess, that not everybody sees.”

When asked whether it is difficult to encourage oneself after achieving such feats, Laura said that for her the love of riding a bike motivates her to go out and enjoy.

“I wouldn't say it's hard to motivate yourself. For me, I always love riding my bike. Whether that's just going out, because I want to go out, or whether it's to go out and do a training ride. I would say since Rio, though, I've taken a step back. I obviously had my injury which put me off some of the racing season. But I don't actually see that as much of a bad thing, I guess, because it means that I've sort of had time to step away and kind of work out what I actually do want. Like I love to ride my bike and I can't see my life without it.”

Speaking about the general growth and evolution of women's cycling over the years, Laura said: “I think it's taken a huge step forward from when I first started racing. The races that I had to do as a kid, I had to race against the boys, because there weren't enough females to have a separate race. But now, we can fit in races — I mean, for example, it was in the National Omnium Championships and I had to run two races, because there was too many people to be on the track all at the same time. I think track limit is 26 and they had 38 entrants, which is just incredible, and I think that shows the kind of development of British Cycling.”

“Also in terms of the professionals, on the track, we get prize money. Now have a UCI Women's World Tour, which we never had before. They have races at the Tour de France, which again, we never had before. I think things like that are only going to continue to grow the sport, which I think really helps,” she added.

On being asked whether there will ever a similar tournament like Tour de France for women, Laura said that such events need planning and patience.

“There used to be one, and I don't see why it can't come back. I think it needs to happen slowly. I don't think we want to rush into something like that because it's quite hard — I think we would be disappointed. But if they do it slowly and grow it, like say they start — I mean, the women have a tour in Britain and it started at five days, and I think went to seven days and they just lifted the limit so that they can go even longer now. I think starting off slowly with it, like a one day stage race, if they could maybe make that into a five day stage race and then kind of go from there.”

There have been accusations made by several women's cyclists about the treatment of women in British Cycling. Nicole Cooke had written an article for The Guardian in 2016, speaking about sexism in elite cycling. However, Laura credited British Cycling for her achievements and added that she cannot speak for other cyclists.

“For me, I can only speak from what I've experienced and I can only say that I've experienced good things from British Cycling. I think without them, I wouldn't be where I am today and I think the amount of support they give us is incredible. So, I can only speak personally from what I've experienced.”

“Obviously, I don't know what it was like back then. I know that from 2010, I raced with Nicole; they set up a Great Britain team so that Nicole could be a part of that with the support of — I think there was like six or seven other female girls in the programme at the time. But, I don't know what happened to the fallout, because I only ever experienced it from then onwards and it was only ever good for me.”

Speaking about doping in cycling at elite level, Laura said that she was shocked when Nicole made revelations about cyclists not being clean.

“For me personally, I've only ever experienced it to be clean. I don't know whether that's because track and road feel very separate because obviously I know Nicole Cooke came out about some of that, as well. And I was almost shocked to hear some of the story, actually, that Nicole experienced, because it just doesn't seem like that now. It seems like a completely different era. I think like the UK Sport and the UCI have a good system in place with testing us. I think we are one of the most tested sports. I know pre Games, I was getting two or three a week. Like you couldn't go a week without not having a test and I think that's massive. Like that's hugely important. Like at the time, you obviously don't want to wake up at 6.00 a.m. to get tested, but I can see why they do it and I think that's only a good thing.”

For Laura, it feels like a dream to be nominated in the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award. “It’s incredible, especially the names I'm kind of amongst. To me, you're inspired to be with those people. To be seen in the same kind of light as those, is just incredible. Like it feels surreal to me. It feels so far away from anything I did or ever was going to be nominated for.”

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