Sprint Stars Get Sky+HD Backing

Sprint Stars Get Sky+HD Backing

Home » Great Britain Cycling Team

'Mean and moody is what we want' says the photographer from Getty Images as Jamie Staff, Shanaze Reade, Victoria Pendleton, Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar look straight down the camera lense.

Whilst the Great Britain cycling team has had the luxury of trade teams in the past to get more riders into World Track Cups to help with qualification for the World Track Championships, what has been missing is a team like the new Sky+HD one where a select squad of riders, six, are sponsored by a major corporate name and paid well for their talents just like the road stars are in this day and age.

For six Olympic riders, all Sprinters, the deal with Sky+HD is recognition of their achievements on the track and will give them all a massive boost as they look forward to the next four years of their career and the challenge of repeating the success in Beijing in London. Five of the riders were in Manchester for the launch with the one missing rider, triple Olympic Gold medallist Chris Hoy, unable to attend prior to other commitments.

Shanaze Reade, Ross Edgar, Victoria Pendleton, Jamie Staff and Jason Kenny kept the press entertained for two hours with interviews and a photo call and British Cycling took the opportunity to talk to them.

Victoria Pendleton (Olympic Gold)

A rider who has become one of the faces of the GB team after amazing success in recent years says the time post Olympics has been hard for her. “Everyone says it must be amazing coming off the back of  a major competition like that but for everybody – the staff and riders – it can be a bit of an anticlimax.”

“You don’t just spend four years of your life but maybe your whole life looking to achieve a goal like that and so its like, what do I do now? Suddenly you feel a bit lost and a bit low because it is such an instantaneous high and then its all gone. It is quite a hard thing to deal with and you have to assess where you are at and think about your future goals really quickly to give you something to hold on to and aim for.”

“After Beijing, I got straight back on the bike and I have to say when I am feeling like that, getting out on the road and clearing your head is one of the best things you can do. I was out on the bike not with any training purpose – just riding and was back in the gym as well because with this competition looming, I knew I had to get back into the gym training because otherwise you end up ridiculously sore.”

To see if what she was feeling was ‘normal’, Victoria popped in to see Steve Peters (GB team psychiatrist), who is nicknamed the team’s ‘head’ coach. “I popped in to see Steve and came out of that knowing that it is quite normal and I was experiencing quite normal feelings. Everyone else was the same and he explained I had to relax and enjoy all the opportunities that come about after the Olympics.”

“When you come second, you have something to aim for but when you win, it can be in some respects harder to know what to do next.”

London 2012
Is the next Games a long time in the future she was asked? “2012 does seem a long way away but coming back from Beijing, there was such a lot of 2012 hype because we had done so well and that was really helpful to me because it gave me automatically something to look forward to. I know that as soon as I start training, those four years are going to go quickly. I think for Team GB as a whole, it’s going to come round sooner than people think.”

Asked is she worried because of the publicity the sport has had that a new star will come out of nowhere and steal her thunder for 2012, Victoria replied with a cheeky smile “I hope not! I fully intend to go out there and train as hard as possible and try and find new ways to get faster and better at what I do.”

“Also, the event that I do on the track, the Sprint, is a very experience based event as well and the fact I have been racing on the track since I was nine is something that makes me the athlete I am today. You can’t rush gaining experience.”

“There may be some one who comes along who is super talented and naturally picks up the tactics and technique but I think it would be a big ask for someone who had fantastic ability to really suddenly become the worlds best sprinter.”

There is also the Olympic experience where she has an advantage over any newcomer it was put to her? “Yes” she replied. “Going into a Games is very different to anything you really experience in the sport. The track scene as a whole is fairly low key and then you go to the Games and suddenly everyone is watching you and you have all this media attention even if you have never achieved anything before.”

“It puts expectations on athletes even if they are going for experience or their first Games. You’re still going there and hoping you will do something to make everyone proud of you. You can’t avoid that. I think that pressure and the general atmosphere of the Olympic village can only be learnt if you go there and experience it. A lot of people come away from their first Olympic experience and feel they have learnt a lot from it because there is nothing like it.”

Victoria is also aware that the team will be under pressure in London in four years. “There will be a lot of pressure in London for Team GB to do even better than they did in Beijing.  Every step of the way is going to be covered by the media – we’re not going to escape under the radar on this one after our success so it will be a lot of pressure for  a new athlete to deal with but not impossible.”

And giving us a glimpse into that pressure, Victoria admitted that after the success of the other riders in Beijing before her event that she went into her event having never felt pressure anything like it before.

Life since Beijing though has changed. By way of example, Victoria laughed and recalled walking through Cheadle the day before after visiting an estate agents and found  some guy chasing her down for an autograph . “It’s not like it is everyday life for me now” she added.

World Track Cup
Moving on to talk about the World Track Cup, Victoria admits that she is nervous before this weekend’s World Track Cup where she will debut the Sky +HD colours for the first time in a major competition.

“As much as it is always enjoyable to compete in a World Track Cup, especially at Manchester, for it to be the first one of the season is in some respects a little bit of a nightmare for me because I haven’t had time to go back and do the base training – the  kind of training in the same format I have used over the last three years which kind of guarantees me a certain level of form.”

“Not having that behind me now is a little bit scary and just having to do something different and work with what I have got is kind of a bit like plan B training instead of what I’d like to do ideally in the run up to a major competition.”

“With the limited time between now and the Games, if I had gone back and done the base miles and the heavy strength training, I’d have no speed right now. You have to take such a big step back to move forward in the Sprint event and I haven’t had the time to do that. That will come after this World Cup event”.

“I will have a few weeks off after this where I will not be training specifically on the track and just riding my bike and going to the gym if I choose. Then after that, I will be getting back into proper training. Hopefully, when I am back into my usual routine, it will help me take a step back and really think about what I have done.”

Victoria’s winter programme is modelled on the Chris Hoy programme where she will ride Manchester and Copenhagen World Track Cups. The Olympic champion explained why. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have time to get in the work I need to do to be  in the right form for the World Championships.”

“This year will have been hard for everybody because we have lost our ‘off season’ as it were to a major competition (the Games) which means we haven’t had the break or the recovery we usually do. I don’t expect there will be any World Records this season! Miracles do happen but I think finding a better state of form will be close to impossible unless you’re a rider who didn’t compete in the Olympics.”

“You need time for your body to recover and time  to really work at those lower levels of training, preparation and base work, which allows you to lift heavier weights, push bigger gears and hit higher speeds.”

Jason Kenny (Olympic Gold and Silver Medals)

Bolton’s Olympic star Jason Kenny went into the Games largely unknown by the World and came out a major star with a Gold from the Team Sprint and Silver medal in the blue ribbon event, the Match Sprint. The young academy rider who will no doubt become a Podium Programme rider now, had just returned to Britain from Holland for the Sky+HD team launch.

Talking about his inclusion in such a star studded line up, he says “It’s good to be in such a team with the likes of Chris, Vicky and Jamie. It is quite an honour. The kit looks cool and feels a bit special too.”

Asked did he in his wildest dreams expect the success he has had in Beijing, he replied “I knew it was possible of making Beijing but never gave it a thought about what was going to happen after. I still haven’t really and I’ve been floating about trying to get back to training and some normality. It has been a bit crazy”

Of the two Olympic medals, he says the silver medal in the Sprint was the big surprise. “I was really pleased with  my performance at the Worlds where I was fifth and I thought if I can finish anything like that, I’ll be over the moon. Then after I qualified second, I kind of realised I could be really competitive for this.”

It was his first time under 10 seconds in competition. “We’d done a little bit in training so we knew it was physically possibly but I had no idea what other teams were going to do so I wasn’t getting my hopes up. I just went out and did what I knew I could do. I was quite surprised at the gap between me and Chris. I knew I’d be behind him because at the Worlds I was a couple of hundredths behind him and in training as well. He always had half a tenth on me.”

Despite being beaten by the triple Olympic champion, Jason admits that with Chris Hoy being so strong in training, it was good in that in dragged everyone out and helped the sprint team improve as a whole.”

With his medals won, was he under any pressure in Holland recently? “Not really.  Amsterdam was a good event, good fun and low pressure for me with a good crowd to race in front of. I felt like I could relax and enjoy it. I wasn’t the main man there even with the medals – it was all about Theo Bos – so I could step back and  concentrate on going fast.”

Looking ahead to this weekend and the World Track Cup, Jason explained “I know the guys in the team are going well and that will ease any pressure on me here at Manchester. I have no idea how I am going to go so I’ll do as normal and go into it and give it my best shot. I’m doing a lot of the events here; Sprint, Keirin and Team Sprint. I’ll just get stuck in and see what happens.”

After the World Cup, there is plenty to do. As well as preparation for the World Cups and Championships, Jason is a man on the move and is looking to get his own house. Keeping his feet on the ground is easy enough he says with the help of the others in the team. “Chris Hoy is the master of it after all where he knows how to look after the performance side of things as well take care of the media and other interests”

Jamie Staff (Olympic Gold)

One rider clearly excited by the Sky+HD team is Team Sprint Gold medal winner Jamie Staff. He explained to British Cycling that during the last part of his BMX career, he was racing in this kid of outfit, a trade team, and that is helping him now play a role in the development of the new Sprint team.

"I got used to working with the attention to detail needed and have been plugging Shane (Sutton) by saying we have to have this and that has got to match and we have to do this first. It has been really exciting.”

“It is exciting for us sprinters because for once we are actually getting paid well and making some extra money from our work on the track. Our funding is great and we really appreciate that but this gives me a living. At the moment I can only just pay the mortgage, feed the kids and the wife so this is a great help as we look forward”.

Jamie is one of the more experienced riders in the team and says ruefully that the formation of such a team has come a little bit late for him to take full advantage but is hoping he can stay around at this level for the next four years to benefit from it.

“The endurance riders get to ride with their trade teams during the road season and some of them make decent cash out of that but for the sprinters, you are relying on your lottery funding for income. A couple of riders may get some extra money here and there but it does feel good to be part of a proper trade team. Its brilliant.”

Jamie will be doing a few days of commentary at the Track World Cup and then racing the Team Sprint on Sunday for the Sky+HD team.

Ross Edgar (Olympic Silver medal)

A young rider who has been progressing nicely over the years backed up his good performances in Athens (5th in the Sprint) with a Silver medal in the Men’s Keirin in 2008. Beijing though was a roller coaster of a ride. All the sprinters wanted to be part of the Team Sprint but for Ross, he was edged out by Jason Kenny and they went on to win Gold.

“That was quite emotional missing the ride in the Team Sprint after seeing the way they went in the first round” he told us. “They did phenomenal ride and you could see the heads drop on the French riders as it was all over for them and for me.”

“That was a big big blow but I was prepared for it as I had already been told it could be the case because I could see how well everyone was going. I knew I was going well myself and knew I could step in if something happened. It was the way it should be though and the fastest riders should be in the team.”

Ross though bounced back and in an awesome ride in the Keirin, finished second to Britain’s Chris Hoy who won Gold. “The Keirin was a surreal experience” he told us. “I knew this was the one and after making the final it was about going for Gold. Chris was definitely the main opposition for me but we also didn’t want to hinder each other in the race and maybe help each other if we could.”

“During the latter part of the race though I got a bit boxed in and I spent a lot of my race at that time waiting for a gap to open. When it did, I went for it and everything worked out with the silver medal.”

Going back in time to the Manchester World Track Championships that preceded the Olympics, Ross explained “the Worlds were not the best. It was funny one for me in that I never really thought about the Worlds -- it was all about the Olympics. I thought at the time ‘hang on a minute, this is the World championships’ but it just didn’t have the same meaning for me as a normal World championships would because I knew the big one was coming.”

“That was a lesson learnt for me in that I know now I have to set my goals a bit shorter and not think too far ahead.”

Ross arrived back in Manchester the night before the Sky+HD launch after doing a short spell of Japanese Keirin racing. “I did two races out there, World Grand Prixes racing against the best Japanese riders which made the racing really difficult. I was there with Teun Mulder (Holland) and Shane Kelly (Australia) and we were working together against the Japanese but they definitely know what they are doing over there and we didn’t exactly get the best results.”

“It is so different from normal Keirin racing and I had forgotten a lot about just how hard it was from when I was out there four years ago.”

On his inclusion in this new trade team, Ross explained “being part of the Sky+HD team is a big thing for me to take me through to the Olympics in London. It is a great help and great motivator that people like this are willing to put their faith and money behind us cyclists to go all the way. It is good that a sponsor recognises that we (sprinters) put in so much hard work and we’re getting results. We’re now seeing the benefits from that.”

Ross though had no idea how his form was for the World Track Cup. “We’ll see. I have been riding on steel frames and spokey wheels for the last three weeks on outdoor tracks so I have no idea how I am riding. I’ll be jumping back on the SI bike (GB team issue) soon and getting used to the stiffness of the frames.”

“It will be a bit faster on the wood and I’ll be getting some efforts out tomorrow and then see how we fare on race day (Sunday, Team Sprint and JKA Keirin).”

“It is going to be fantastic here at Manchester with the amount of people coming to see it. We were struggling to find tickets when I got back from Beijing but I have the supporters coming which will make it special and help get me going. It’s going to be amazing.”

Shanaze Reade

The BMX World Champion who had her eyes on Gold in Beijing and crashed heavily in doing so, says her role in the Sky+HD team is predominantly to take the Sky colours into BMX.

“I’d still like to do as much track as possible and that too will be in the Sky+HD colours. It will though be a massive thing for me and a new and exciting thing for BMX to see a big company like Sky involved in BMX.”

“I have been out now for six weeks with the hamstring injury and I’m just getting back into the swing of things.

Everything is starting to fall back into place now and I am looking forward to racing at the next World Track Cup.”

“Everything was such a blow to me after Beijing and such a shock, that only now can I start to see the light at the end of the tunnel after having been so single minded about the Games which was the be all and end all.

On the future and the disciplines we’ll see her racing in, Shanaze explained “For sure, I want to further myself on the track and move into Match sprinting as it’s something I’d like to do. I know its going to be difficult and hard but it is something I know I can do and I’m looking forward to it.”