Cundy wins national title on return after Strictly

Cycling
Blaine Hunt, Jody Cundy and Archie Atkinson on the podiumSWpix.com

Jody Cundy marked his return to the track after a stint on the dancefloor with a comfortable win at the National Track Championships in Manchester.

The five-time Paralympic cycling champion, who took part in last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, retained his C4-5 national time trial title.

Cundy, 45, clocked one minute 4.527 seconds, with Blaine Hunt and Archie Atkinson placing second and third.

“It’s nice to be back doing something I know how to do,” Cundy told BBC Sport.

“It’s good to get a marker here because we’re racing the World Championships in four weeks. It’s a really important year, so to have a first ride and be in the right ballpark is really nice.”

In the aftermath of last year’s National Championships, former swimmer Cundy spoke in an emotional social media post of being at his “lowest” and “struggling”, but 12 months on he enters the Paris Paralympic year having been boosted by his Strictly experience.

“If I look back to where I was 12 months ago… yes, I had the jersey but it was one of my low points, so to start this year’s competitions and be feeling good about my riding… I’m enjoying it again,” said Cundy, who also has 20 world titles on the track.

“The confidence I got from doing Strictly… it was nice to go away from the sport for a while, and then to come back with the motivation to keep on doing it.

“Other than being injured or ill, I’ve never really taken time away from sport – and this is my 30th year of being a GB athlete. So to go away, do Strictly, have that experience and exposure and then pick up where we left off is really nice.”

Who won what?

Rhianna Parris-Smith

Swpix.com

This year’s National Track Championships are being held at Manchester’s National Cycling Centre for the first time since 2020 because of Covid-19 and the track’s refurbishment.

And on day one there was a maiden national title for 21-year-old Rhianna Parris-Smith in the women’s time trial, after which Michael Gill won the men’s individual pursuit by catching Will Roberts.

“I’m so surprised,” European under-23 champion Parris-Smith told BBC Sport. “I thought I might be able to nick the podium so I’m super happy.

“Our GB team is really strong. My team-mates are forever on the podium these days. For me as the underdog, I’m always pushing to get where they are and this could be a step in the right direction.”

Jenny Holl won the women’s scratch race, having earlier piloted Sophie Unwin to silver in the women’s Para B time trial for visually impaired riders.

There was another catch in the women’s team pursuit final as Team Inspired – Maddie Leech, Grace Lister, Kate Richardson and Izzy Sharp – saw off team Tofauti Everyone Active, before Peter Mitchell beat Marcus Hiley to men’s sprint gold.

Earlier, in Friday’s day session watched by the Duchess of Edinburgh, two-time Paralympic champion Lora Fachie and her pilot Corinne Hall were the first to don the coveted national champion jersey in 2024 in the women’s Para B time trial.

Just 20 minutes later, a second title for the Fachie household followed as Neil Fachie – who also has two Paralympic golds to his name – won the men’s race with pilot Matt Rotherham.

Daphne Schrager, a 2022 world champion, retained her title in the women’s C1-5 time trial, while Jaco van Gass – who won three medals at his debut Paralympics in Tokyo – won the C1-3 time trial.

The National Track Championships continue over the weekend, with scratch world champion Will Tidball in points race action on Saturday.

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