Road To 2016: Phil Dixon happy with start to 2013 season

Phil Dixon happy with start to 2013 season

British Cycling’s Olympic Mountain Bike coach Phil Dixon has confirmed he is happy with the start made by his squad to the 2013 season – despite some mixed results following a successful winter and challenging early spring.

The first competitive outings for the squad came after Dixon regrouped from the four year process of qualifying the first British woman to the Olympic Games in over a decade.

First, Dixon doubled the number of staff on the Programme, recruiting Simon Watts as Olympic Development Programme coach.

Meanwhile, Annie Last moved onto her trade-team Trek Factory Racing and out of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme environment, as first-year athlete Beth Crumpton moved in, joining second year Grant Ferguson and third year Kenta Gallagher.

According to Dixon, all three Academy athletes enjoyed a solid winter but encountered some problems after January.

By the first round of the British XC Series in March, Ferguson was in good form and scored a career best third place in the senior men’s competition. Crumpton also showed well, finishing fourth after completing a six-week recovery from an injury picked up on a training camp.

Gallagher did not finish due to a bout of tonsillitis, while an injury sustained by Last in America after she finished second in the opening round of the XCT US Pro MTB cup meant that her level was compromised and a finish impossible.

It was worse news for Olympic Podium Programme athlete David Fletcher who didn’t even reach the start line, stopped by a broken wrist and elbow, which is unlikely to see him back in competition before June.

By week one in April however, the squad recorded its first finishes for all riders at the highly competitive Swiss National Series.

The first round featured a respected international field, with Ferguson securing another breakthrough ride. With no separate under-23 competition, he rode to 18th place – four minutes down on winner and world champion Nino Schurter and among a top twenty of world-class competitors.

Gallagher’s goals were amended after getting tonsillitis. His completion of a race effort without difficulties on a challenging track were all signs of progress on the journey of gaining race conditioning before the opening world cup of 2013. “It is still early season, keep working hard” was Dixon’s advice to Gallagher at the finish line.

In the elite women’s race Crumpton gained a solid top-twenty position and essential experience in the competitive elite women’s field, behind Last, who managed her first European finish of the season.

The second weekend of April saw the second Swiss National Series , with Last finishing fourth in the elite women. Crumpton crashed on lap one of the same race but went on to finish 25th.

Both Gallagher and Ferguson exited the start loop in the top 20, but soon encountered mechanical problems. Gallagher snapped his chain and was forced to withdraw. Ferguson managed a quick fix, but had to come back from last place, eventually recovering to 30th.

With the opening round of the UCI World Cup four weeks away, Dixon is confident that the level of the squad will only increase.

“Before the world cup, we have the second round of the British XC Series and the first race on the Commonwealth Games track in Scotland. I think with that kind of conditioning Beth, Grant and Kenta can go to Albstadt in good shape and with room to progress through the season.

“Annie now operates within her trade team environment at Trek Factory Racing, with British Cycling’s Podium Programme continuing to provide support services and coaching. Right now she’s managing an injury which means she has to take a different approach to racing, but we’re excited about the season ahead with her new team.

“Beth is the opposite really, in year one as an Academy athlete she first needs to learn how to race and how to perform in a senior competition, which takes place over more laps, at a higher pace and over a longer period of time. That’s a lot to learn but with the progression we saw with Annie we know it is possible, it will just take time.”

British Cycling will have the latest from the team from all of their upcoming races.