• Kelland O'Brien of Team Australia and Leigh Howard of Team Australia compete during the Men's Madison (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
It’s an exciting time in the career of Kell O’Brien, with the 23-year-old Olympian on the track just starting his professional road career as he looks to balance that with ambitions in the velodrome.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

19 Oct - 3:58 PM 

O’Brien is one of five athletes lining up for Australia at the 2021 Track World Championships, an event where he’s currently slated to ride the omnium and the madison together with Luke Plapp.

The new signing for Team BikeExchange arrived in his first professional event at the CRO race, but now his attention shifts back to the boards for the world championships. For the moment, that’s a balance that O’Brien is comfortable with.

“I’m really excited to switch my focus about a bit and get a bit out of myself on the road and see where that might take me,” said O’Brien in an interview with SBS Cycling Central's Finn Potter. “I definitely won’t put track cycling out of my mind. Paris is only a few short years away and it’s easier to get my mind around doing in for Paris.

“In my mind I’ll always want to do track cycling. I’ll always want to do the six days. I’ll always want to be on the boards.”

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The world championships will be O’Brien and the Australian Cycling Team’s first big meet since the Tokyo Olympics, one that will go down as an Olympics of promise for him, with an equipment failure in the heavily focused upon men’s team pursuit meaning that Australia was fighting at best for bronze. They won that battle after a crash for New Zealand in the ride-off for third/fourth saw the Australians take third overall.

“It’s what I’ve always dreamt of, and the event I’ve always wanted to go to,” said O’Brien of his participation at the Olympics. “We were prepared pretty well by athletes that have been to past Olympics. They tried to get across to us that the Olympics throws a lot of curveballs at you, and it certainly did.

“The main part of it, representing my country at an Olympics Games, is something that I’ll never forget and something that’s a special thing to do. Hopefully, there will be many more Olympics to come.”

The hurt isn’t over yet though, with the Victorian hoping that it fuels his motivation on route to another Olympics campaign at Paris 2024.

“I’m sure in the future I’ll look back on that bronze medal with fond memories but for now, it doesn’t sit well with me,” said O’Brien. “For so long, you’ve been thinking about one thing. We weren’t an outside chance, we were coming in as heavy favourites.

“In a way, it’s a good thing. It puts fire in the belly for the next Olympics, bronze is just a step on the way to gold now.”

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The Australian team for worlds has had its own equipment problems, with bikes not reaching Mallorca in time for training, with AusCycling assuring that they will be available for competition.

“It hasn’t really disrupted me too much,” said O’Brien. “We’ve had some nice people around us to lend us some equipment to get by and it’ll be ok by the time we race. Sometimes it’s frustrating, especially when you’re trying to get equipment out of customs in Spain and you don’t speak Spanish. It’s all part of it, just trying not to stress too much about it.”

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O’Brien will race the madison with Plapp, with the pair sharing a deal in common as the youngest member of the team pursuit squad, with both of them also stepping up to the WorldTour on the road with stagiare stints leading into the world championships.

“In the partnership, I’m the older rider, but we’re still both quite young, so we can feed off that a little bit,” said O’Brien. “We’ve had a similar preparation, a bit of road racing, a lot of road training, not so much track. We’ll be in the same position.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there with Plappy. We’ve never raced together in a Madison, it’s nice to debut the partnership at a world titles. But yes, I’m looking forward to it, we’ve been training all week.”  

For the full interview, check out the video above. To catch Kell O’Brien in action, you can tune into SBS On Demand daily from October 21-24 for the live action from the UCI Track World Championships.