Copenhagen Beckons for Team GB
Story posted 14, by Larry Hickmott | Part 1 of 2 |
GB, top team at the Track Cycling Manchester World Cup.
The Great Britain Cycling team will soon be making their way to Copenhagen for the 2010 Track Cycling World Championships at the Ballerup arena. With the London Olympics drawing ever closer, the team are halfway through the current Olympic cycle and the pressure is gradually increasing to start laying the foundations for 2012. Head coach Shane Sutton says of the GB World Championships' team, “whilst this is not the Olympic team, the Worlds in Copenhagen will be about assessing where we are, right here, right now.”
The Track Worlds is not just about preparing for London 2010 though as Sutton explained. “Given the amount of investment we put into the team, the Worlds in Copenhagen is also about winning medals. We are another year closer to the Olympics and so there is more importance on these Worlds. There is also an increase in morale. The team have gelled together and there is a bit of buzz around these Worlds as the days to 2012 are coming down”.
Endurance coach Dan Hunt points to the spot for his riders in the Team Pursuit
There are many interesting stories surrounding the team for Copenhagen including the selection of the hero from the Sydney Olympics, Jason Queally. You can read that feature here. Since the Worlds last year, there have also been some changes to the coaching set-up: In 2008, Dan Hunt coached Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel to Gold and Silver in Beijing and last year had his role expanded to take on the Men’s Endurance job as well.
In the run up to Copenhagen, he has had help from Beijing Gold medallist, Paul Manning (Academy endurance coach) and the last few months have been interesting for Dan: “It has been a massive learning curve for me after being the coach of the women” he explained. “Last July, I was asked to take the guys on as well and at that point, it was undecided whether it would be both endurance teams or just the men. It turned out to be both squads and I have really enjoyed coaching them and the learning that has gone along with that. What it has meant is that I’ve been very busy as there is only one of me but a lot of them!”
“Being so busy, I have been operating with that nagging feeling that you have constantly forgotten something because there is so much going on. That said, I have had massive support from senior management like Shane (Sutton) the head coach and it shows the mettle of the team that when one person does step up and take on more responsibility, that the others around help out and absorb some of that work load as well.”
Shane Sutton is also full of praise for all his coaches and the way they work together. “This is the best coaching crew ever. No doubt about it” Sutton says.
“These coaches know the demands of the events better than anybody because they have done their homework better than anybody else” he goes on to explain. “Because the sprint and endurance events are getting ever closer in performance terms, it’s brought the coaches from the sprint and endurance groups closer together and there is a lot of cross pollination between them all, which is really good.”
Victoria Pendleton, World Sprint Champion for Women, leads her coach Jan van Eijden during a drill in training.
By way of example, Shane explained that for the last Olympics, the team had gifted athletes like Steven Burke and Ed Clancy who were already very fast, the type of athletes the team were looking out for. “We were fortunate to have good starters (for the Team Pursuit) but we did have to train people like Paul, Brad and Gerraint differently with help from people like Iain Dyer and Jan van Eijden helping us out technically.”
“So whilst I’ll see things and bring things to the coaching group, they know what they are doing and these guys make us look good”.
In preparation for the Track Cycling Worlds, riders in the GB team have been preparing around the world. Part of the Sprint team were in Perth, Australia while the rest stayed at home in Britain. Talking about training in Australia, Sutton says “It is a proven method now and I’d like to see us in Olympic year go back to the sun with both the endurance and sprint squads. It will though come down to what ever the coaches think is best”.
The Endurance riders in both male and female squads prepared in Majorca. During the final training camp in Majorca, the endurance squad also took advantage of there being an indoor track there. They used it for a five day session to help them get their track legs before returning to Manchester for the final pre-worlds camp.
Shane Sutton (second from right) joins the Sprint squad for a post trials briefing.
GB Sprint Team News
With the return of Sir Chris Hoy, following the injury which prevented him from competing at the 2009 Worlds, the Sprint squad are now back to almost full strength. However, this winter has seen coaches working hard to overcome new obstacles like the injury to Jamie Staff who will be in Copenhagen but on the other side of the camera, working for Eurosport.
After a lengthy endurance and preparation phase, following the Manchester World Cup, the last month has seen the sprinters ramping up their training. First there was the Revolution Track International where they came up against German, Dutch and Italian opposition. Then, on March 10, there was an important trial for the Men’s Team Sprint. These are like the final exams for the riders but it is something they get used to says National Sprint coach Iain Dyer.
“We have to draw a line at some point because entering a team in to the World Championships comes with its own regulations so we need to make our choices before then” he told us. "We knew we had to select the team before the end of this week (March 12) which is why we had this trial. In terms of being judged, the sprinters are pretty used to having everything they do calculated, compared and analysed.”
“It is hard to get away from that because if you’re in the lab, the numbers are there, if you’re in the gym you know what weight you’re lifting and how often and if you’re on the track, you know what your times are. So being judged all comes with the territory. You grow up with that as an athlete.”
Jason Kenny heads up the track to let Chris Hoy through
The first ‘trial’ for the Sprinters was the Revolution 28 meeting which was sprint orientated with riders from Holland, Germany and Italy. “That was very important for us” Iain says. “That is normally a position in the preparation period where we have a round of the World Cup. So after you have done a heavy period of preparation, you need to pin a number on your back and race another rider. So the Revolution was essential for us just to knock the rust off. The riders were also in good shape and because of that, you saw some very good performances.”
Nothing ever goes smoothly in the world of sport and injury is part and parcel of it. Last year, Chris Hoy missed the Worlds and the team had to rearrange the Team Sprint line up because of it. This year, Jamie Staff is injured..
“Since the World Cup in Manchester, Jamie (Staff) who is our Man 1 for the Team Sprint, hasn’t been able to train and for a long while, we pinned our hopes on Jamie being able to return and get back to his old self” Iain explained.
“It soon became clear that Jamie wasn’t going to be able to rehab his back injury in time. So, our immediate thought was, ‘how do we replace Jamie in man 1’? By the time we got to the Revolution, we saw how well Jason (Kenny) was going and so that question had been answered but a new problem surfaced in ‘who do we ride in man 2 and man 3’? All of a sudden, we had a different problem to the one we thought we had” Iain explained.
It wasn’t that long ago, pre Beijing Olympics, that Jason Kenny was being tested for Man 1 (among other positions in the Team Sprint event) and the training he undertook for that held him in good stead in the man 2 position in Beijing where he had the gas to get on such a phenomenal first lap by Jamie.
Jan van Eijden and Iain Dyer (plus Jon Nofolk out of picture) study the splits during the Team Sprint trials
Now Jason has gone full circle and is using that experience to get the most from being man 1 in Copenhagen. The key for the team at the trials was to look for the best combination with Jason in man 1 and the other positions to be decided. For them, they have plenty of options with Sir Chris Hoy, Ross Edgar, David Daniell and Matt Crampton all being trialled.
The women sprinters too have been busy and during last week at the track, World and Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton was duelling with her coach Jan van Eijden and Jess Varnish was also putting in lots of hard work in the starting gate. Meanwhile, Becky James was getting great results in her schoolwork while also keeping up her training at home in Abergavenny (Wales). For those wondering about Shanaze Reade, the BMX world champion who won Silver last year in the Team Sprint, she is still in the frame for the Track events but not at the 2010 Worlds.
A very important part of the training sessions is the work done by analysis experts Chris White and Duncan Locke, two of many helping the team.
Part 2: In the next part to be published soon, we look at the Endurance squads preparation and talk to coach Dan Hunt about the Omnium...
Spectacular opening for Track Worlds (includes race schedule)