Published: 24 September 2013
Words & interview: Simon Powers
Image: Alex Broadway/swpix.com
British Cycling Olympic Development Programme rider Danni Khan, fresh from her successes at the UCI Juniors Track World Championships, has said she is honoured to join forces with Jess Varnish for the women’s team sprint this week adding that it is a great opportunity for her in what will be an impressive field.
Khan said: “It is an honour for me to do it with such a great rider. Jess was part of one of the best team sprint squads in the world riding with Victoria Pendleton over the last couple of years so when Jess said I could do it with her I was just buzzing really.
“I really am so excited to do it and it’s a great opportunity for me to practice the team sprint event in such a good environment,” she enthused.
Khan is quick to point out that despite her recent successes, she is fully aware that she has big shoes to fill riding in the man two slot behind Varnish, a position previously reserved for arguably the most prolific female cyclist the sport has ever seen.
“There is a lot of work to do before I could ever be classed like that,” Khan emphasised.
“I’m just going to do my best; I’m just really excited about this team sprint out of all the events I will compete in this week.”
Her modesty belies the fact that she has had a string of triumphs on the track this summer winning two junior rainbow jerseys in the 500m time trial and the individual sprint as well as two national junior titles.
“Last year was my first senior nationals so no one really knew me then,” Khan said.
“Now there is going to be that pressure since winning at the worlds but I don’t really feel it, I did what I needed to at the worlds so really at nationals I can enjoy it and get some racing with some of the best riders in the world.”
As well as riding the team sprint they will both compete in all the sprint events across the five days of competition in Manchester. This is despite the fact that the main focus of Jess Varnish’s existence for the past few years has been on the opening lap.
“I am still focussing on man one in the team sprint since getting back from injury but I’m also focussing some attention on the sprint because they can go quite well together,” commented Varnish.
“I want to do well in the individual sprint, that is really something that I want to do personally. I am really looking forward to that. In the competitions later in the season, that’s an area where I am really looking forward to seeing how I get on.”
Fresh off the back of some impressive performances in Europe this summer in the individual sprint, she seems almost impatient to illustrate that she has more than just one string to her bow.
“With focussing one man one, I wouldn’t say it was boring but I started cycling to race and you don’t really race when you just go out for one lap. I want to race and that is a really big focus for me right now,” she said.
Danni Khan too is looking to build on her strong performances of recent months. She showed she can deliver in terms of speed and also in terms of results but is now looking to show the evolution of her riding ahead of any potential selections for the coming international season.
She concludes: “Obviously for me, the senior nationals will be more about performances and perfecting what I did at the worlds and junior nationals and trying to make improvements more than just results, obviously getting a result would be nice but I’m not going to focus on that. I want to focus on performing tactically well too.”