Olympic Academy  Head for Beijing

Olympic Academy Head for Beijing

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Olympic Academy  Head for Beijing

January, 2010; by Larry Hickmott

A small team of five riders plus staff from the Great Britain Cycling team will be travelling to Beijing on Sunday, weather permitting, for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup. After the successful results of the Manchester round of the World Cup where Great Britain qualified places in most of the events for the Track World Championships, the team have been able to give the Academy riders an important hit out in a World Cup.

The Academy during one of their drills on Thursday at the Manchester Velodrome.

The riders travelling to China with their coach Paul Manning, are:

George Atkins (East Midlands)
Mark Christian (Isle of Man)
Jon Mould (Wales)
Luke Rowe (Wales)
Erick Rowsell (London)

The focus for the coach Paul Manning who won a Gold medal in the Team Pursuit at the 2008 Olympic Games, will be the Olympic event, the Team Pursuit and the riders will then be given experience in other events providing it fits into the schedule and such a ride will not impact on the Team Pursuit.

Whilst no decisions have been made on who is riding what event until the form of riders can be assessed closer to the time, it is expected that the fifth rider, who won’t be required for the Team Pursuit, will be given a run out in one or both the Points and Scratch races. The team may also enter a rider in the Individual Pursuit event which is held on day 1, but again, it will depend on how the riders form is once they get to Beijing.

The last of the endurance events, the Madison, is on the final day and GB may well enter two riders, Luke Rowe and Mark Christian who are the most experienced of the five riders travelling to China. Two of the riders, British Junior Road Race Champion, George Atkins and British Senior Derny Paced champion Jon Mould, will both be experiencing a World Cup for the first time.

Paul Manning explained that although the winter freeze has not allowed any road training, they have been busy on the track for a month now working on drills for the Team Pursuit. He said that this World Cup is an ideal experience for the young riders and has fallen at the right time in the year for them. The Manchester World Cup, he explained, would have been too soon with the new Academy intake only having just been selected and like Manchester, there would have been too little time to prepare the first year riders for Melbourne.

New coach for the Academy in 2010, Olympic Gold Medallist from Beijing 2008 Paul Manning, helping prepare his riders for a return to the Olympic velodrome.

Paul is also mindful that he may not get a chance at the Europeans this year as no date as yet has been set for the Track Championships which are set to take place in Holland. He says that unless they fall around the normal time in July, they may well clash with other goals for the team which are on the road.

So Beijing in January has given the coach time to look at his new riders and put together a team to challenge the Worlds best in Beijing. Not only will they get to experience what a World Cup is like, they will also have the challenges of travelling to the event via a long haul flight which Paul himself has done a few times.

The final preparations at the Manchester Velodrome included several short fast drills in team pursuit formation on the track and they’ll get a final hit out that is sure to make their legs hurt at Revolution 27, the night before they take the flight to China.

It was interesting talking to the coach who was one of the key riders in the Team Pursuit for over a decade with Team GB as he explained how things have moved on over the years. The gears they were using over 10 years ago in Olympic competition are similiar for example, as the Academy riders are using now, ones which Paul admitted were a little ‘revy’ when the times start to get closer to four minutes.

The bike the riders will use in Beijing, their Pinarello, in training mode this week.

The Academy riders will also be using the Academy Pinarello track bikes, not the Sports Institute ones the senior team use. This is part of the pathway system where as riders progress through the development programmes, the bikes and training is changed slightly to help them with all round improvements as they themselves improve as riders. At the end of the training session on Thursday, the coach thanked his riders for their efforts and declared he was pleased with how they had performed ahead of an important goal.

Whilst there is no pressure on the riders for honours in Beijing with experience being the key goal of the trip, the riders themselves are certainly well up for the opportunity to make a name for themselves. One who has already tasted victory after his win in a World Cup on the Road last year is Luke Rowe. The Welsh rider has ridden three World Cups on the track, all last season, and is looking forward to going to Beijing.

“The team has been going really well this winter” Luke told me. “Usually, we’d have Andy Fenn as our fourth man but he’s training with the podium team at the minute. We do though still have a strong fourth man and so I’m confident we’ll do okay.”

Luke (above, leading the team in training) admits that the first World Cup he did was at Manchester, so the experience wasn’t so daunting as he knew where everything was. Luke added that the process being part of the GB team at a World Cup is very similar to being at a European Championship but with a stronger field of riders to compete against.

“Ninety percent of our training has been towards the Team Pursuit so that is the big aim on the Saturday and then on the Sunday, I’m doing the Madison with Mark and we’re going to go for that too” he says.

A new face in the Academy for 2010 is George Atkins (right) and Beijing will be his first World Cup. The British Junior Road Race Champion has ridden at the European Championships before and as such, will be familiar with how GB work at such events.

And, having trained with his coach Paul Manning through out the winter, he says there are no nerves at the moment.

“I’m just focused on the job I have to do after having done everything I can do to do the best ride in Beijing. A World Cup is a big stage for an Academy rider so perhaps nearer the time I’ll get nervous.”

George says that having come through the Olympic Development Programme helps as he trained with the other academy riders during that time and knows them well but adds that the training on the Academy is a step up.

Showing how well the two programmes dovetail together, George explained that once upon a time the 60 lap warm-up they learnt on the ODP would wreck the head but he’s now used to it and it does help with pace judgement in drills. The Team Pursuit drills too from his time on the ODP come naturally now.

“A lot of what we did on the ODP has given us a good base for what we do now and we’re able to use those skills in the bigger efforts we now do.”

As a first year Academy rider who has yet to experience the academy life in Italy, his goal after Beijing and a Development World Track Cup that follows, will be to get his road legs back and look forward to a season abroad with GB with a goal being the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix.

British Cycling wishes the team well in Beijing next week.