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Brits try to forget sexism and bullying scandal at track worlds

British Cycling is still reeling from an off-the-track scandal that involved allegations of sexism and bullying.

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HONG KONG (AFP) — Great Britain will try to move on from damaging allegations of sexism and bullying as it challenges with a new-look squad at this week’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong.

The Brits’ rise to cycling prominence has become mired in controversy over the past year since axed rider Jess Varnish lashed out at the team’s internal culture.

The fallout led to the departure of technical director Shane Sutton and prompted an independent review, a leaked draft of which slammed a “culture of fear and bullying” within British Cycling.

However, some leading figures have begun to push back, with record-breaking Olympian Chris Hoy saying he felt the row had been “sensationalized” by the media.

Even Katy Marchant, who like Varnish was highly critical of British Cycling when they failed to qualify for the Olympic team sprint at last year’s world championships, told The Telegraph, “I had never had a problem with the culture.

“Obviously at the world champs last year there was a lot of disappointment, and there were some heated moments. Things got expressed maybe not the way that they should.”

Olympic gold and silver medalist Callum Skinner said the British team now hoped to “draw a line” under the controversy.

“I think the important thing is that going forward … it feels now like we’re in a happy place and the sport is moving forward for the better,” he said, according to The Telegraph.

“I don’t think there’s a need for a continual cycle … I think it’s just good to draw a line under it, make the changes that are necessary, and move forward,” added Skinner.

New faces

Despite the absence of power couple Jason and Laura Kenny, who are awaiting their first child, and the retirements of Bradley Wiggins and Joanna Rowsell Shand, Great Britain has still brought four 2016 Olympic champions to Hong Kong.

Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Steven Burke, and Callum Skinner all topped the podium in team events last year in Rio de Janeiro, while Marchant won bronze in the individual sprint.

Australia, now without retired great Anna Meares and hoping to make amends for a disappointing Olympics, has brought eight debutants alongside a clutch of world title-winners.

Six-time world champion Cameron Meyer headlines the team, which is now under new performance director Simon Jones, while Rebecca Wiasak is aiming for her third straight individual pursuit title.

“We’re not here to be the second best. We’re starting to get the right people around us, and no doubt [Jones] will make a number of changes within our squad in the high-performance program and that will be for the better,” Wiasak told AFP.

“A number of our riders are in incredible form, so we’d hope to come away at least with a couple of gold medals.”

In what is only the second track world championships held in Asia, the women’s madison will be contested for the first time and the omnium has been slashed from six events to four.

With teams now preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Germany’s Kristina Vogel is the sole individual sprint Olympic champion at the event, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday.

Hong Kong’s hopes are carried by Sarah Lee, the 2012 Olympics keirin bronze medalist and the time trial runner-up at last year’s world championships.