Kirsten Wild not only extended her European title on the omnium at the European Championship track cycling in Apeldoorn on Friday, she also proved less than a year before the Tokyo Games that she can beat the British star Laura Kenny in an Olympic section.
Wild pointed after the finish of the closing points race to her own chest. She had counted on the bike during the exciting final part of the omnium, but she did not dare to cheer immediately.
Soon the redeeming word came: 37-year-old Zwolse did indeed end up in the rankings for her big rival Kenny, although the difference with two points was very small. "I was totally unsure of my case," Wild laughed just before she was awarded EC gold for the eighth time. "I thought: is this correct? It is almost impossible. But it was correct."
Those doubts were also due to Wild's respect for Kenny. The 27-year-old British, who became known under her maiden name Trott, is considered the most successful racer ever at the Games with four Olympic titles (two on the omnium and two on the team pursuit). In addition, she is eleven-time European champion (four times at the omnium) and eight-time world champion (three times at the omnium).
Wild, who herself as a six-time world champion and after Friday eight-time European champion also has no short honors list on the track, already explained two weeks before the European Championships in Apeldoorn that during training she is still motivated by the idea that British women are in her neck panting, with Kenny in front.
"I just think Laura is very good, I have her very high," said the Dutch. "I really thought about how to beat her, because she was really unbeatable for me. But she can be beat, I am very happy with that."
Kirsten Wild celebrates her European title on the omnium with the Dutch public. (Photo: Pro Shots)
"I often lost to Kenny in the past"
The omnium in Apeldoorn was the first time Wild and Kenny met each other at a major tournament in the Olympic section since the Rio Games, where the British extended her title and Wild finished sixth.
Kenny gave birth to a son a year after the Games and, since her return to the track in early 2018, focused on European Championship and World Championship mainly on team pursuit. Next year, however, she will probably be another formidable opponent of Wild, who is hoping to win an Olympic medal in Japan for the first time at an Olympic omnium in Tokyo.
"I have ridden against her many times in the past, and very often lost to her. That will be in your head," said the Dutchman, who in the absence of Kenny in 2018 and 2019 became world champion on the omnium. "It's nice that apparently I can stay close to her. Or sit in front of her, like now."
Wild did emphasize that a lot of work still needs to be done towards the Games. "I can now think: it's done, I can do it, but it just doesn't work that way. Cycling is about so many small things and I think there is still something to be gained everywhere. So I have to stay sharp on all fronts."
Wild comes into action one more time on Sunday at the European Championships in Apeldoorn, with Amy Pieters on the Olympic distance match. Saturday is all about the keirin and the points race.
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