For those hoping the Track Champions League endurance competition will offer a hard-fought five-round battle between Great Britain greats Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny, the latter has a few words to manage expectations:

“I think he’ll probably knock me down, and I won’t stand a chance, but we can hope, right?” she says cheerfully.

After Eurosport suggests it may be hiding its light under a bushel, promising little for delivering too much, Kenny revises his predictions:

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“I think I’ll be a slow burner,” she says. “I’ll start slowly. For London, I’ll be at my A game.

If Kenny can produce the kind of performance for which she’s so famous, she’ll lift the roof at Lee Valley in four weeks’ time, but even if she can’t, the crowd will surely be on their feet, roaring at them around the 250m track.

Both Archibald and Kenny have experienced such a terrible tragedy in the past 12 months, that simply getting on their bikes is a great accomplishment.

Widely known to be close friends and teammates. Kenny talks about how grateful she was to have Archibald’s support after miscarrying last November and having an ectopic pregnancy in January. Archibald’s partner, mountain biker Rab Wardell, died of cardiac arrest in August.

“Katie’s last few months have been so much worse than anything I could ever imagine,” says Kenny. “She has been there for me through my really tough time. I wanted to be there for her during hers too.

“Quite Personal” – Archibald preparing to compete against former teammate Kenny

Archibald spoke on social media about how getting back into exercise has helped her focus. Cycling has also proved to be a great psychological support for Kenny.

Kenny said: “That was the first time I thought, ‘I’m really, really sad and I have no way of expressing it.’ But reaching for my bike and getting back to what seemed normal, it gave me that escape. Like it gave me the normalcy my brain craved.

“And it was absolutely an escape for me. It was the only thing that would stop my brain from overthinking everything. What I went through was uncontrollable. I wasn’t in control of any of that, whereas on a bike you are in complete control. When I go out on my bike, I can choose where to go, I can choose how long I will go. I can choose when I will. And it just brought normality.

The first round in Mallorca will be one of the few times many have seen Archibald and Kenny play each other. Far more often they competed together, in the Madison or the team pursuit, where their complementary and contrasting qualities produced the best results.

Where Archibald is more of a planner – “He’ll literally send me things like before games. It’s constant: ‘Look at this. Watch this. I made this spreadsheet’” – Kenny says she drives more on instinct and is the one who makes the decision in the race.

“We have yin and yang,” says Kenny. “It’s the perfect combination. When that sort of thing works and comes together, something phenomenal happens. And that’s what happened at the Madison at [Olympic] Games.”

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Having not raced much in 2022, Kenny isn’t sure how she qualified for the series, but “I couldn’t say no to another opportunity to race in London. Looks like it’s my track.

Indeed, the first series of the Track Champions League captured Kenny’s imagination when she attended, on alternating weekends with husband Jason, as a member of the Eurosport commentary team.

“Last year I got a taste of what it was like,” she says. “[After the Olympics] I didn’t think I would miss cycling. I was already on an extended break so I was never going to race last year but I really missed it. Commenting on it, being around it and being there among all the athletes made me miss racing my bike. I basically decided after last year that if I was fit enough and able to do it, I’d love to come.”

In addition to seeing the best track riders in the world compete four weekends in a row, what Kenny likes most about the TCL is the way it connects fans with the human side of the sport.

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“I think track cycling is brilliant,” she says. “It’s a spectator sport, so you’re always very close to the action, but very often you lack personalities. I think Track Champions League, with back-to-back cycling, means we’re getting to know people. It’s the sort of thing that tracks the needs of cycling.

For Kenny, nowhere is she more visible than on the women’s sprint side of the show.

“I loved the women’s sprint last year,” she says. “I think it will be the same again this year because the level is growing at an incredible pace. I love all this eye contact we have between different riders… Plus, they were amazing. Emma [Hinze] and Matilda [Gros] last year they were absolutely brilliant to interview.

Kenny says she’s a lot less nervous this time around than last year, when she was about to get her first taste of what it’s like on the other end of the mic.

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“I had no experience, we were just asked to do it,” he says. “You know, when you commit to something, and then it gets closer and closer, and you start to panic, because you’re like, ‘Wow, what if you’re really bad at this?'”

For those who missed it, she was – actually – really good.

However, since cycling is as natural to Kenny as breathing, it’s no wonder she’s a little more relaxed.

“I don’t know how I’m going to compete or what my legs will be like,” she says, “but at least I can ride a bike.”

There’s that expectation management again. We think he’ll do just fine.

– – –

After a great debut season, the UCI Track Champions League returns for a second season, with Laura Kenny joining the party. You can watch it all live and on demand on discovery+. We will have extensive coverage on eurosport.com and the first race will take place in Mallorca on Saturday 12 November, with the action starting at 5.30pm UK time.

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