Published: 9 October 2012
Report: Scott Hobro
Video: Simon Powers
British Cycling coach Iain Dyer anticipates competition for spots in Great Britain’s track line-up will be as tough as ever as the team embarks on a fresh Olympic cycle with the start of the international track season.
After seven gold medals on the track in London, back-to-back weekends of competition with the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Colombia and European Track Championships in Lithuania sees the schedule revert to ‘business as usual’ with the eventual target another gold flourish in Rio de Janeiro.
Seven riders will compete between the two meetings. Jess Varnish, Becky James and Kian Emadi make the journey to South America as Victoria Williamson, Callum Skinner, Lewis Oliva and Matt Crampton travel to Panevėžys. Whilst the likes of Emadi, Skinner, Oliva, James and Williamson may lack the Olympic and world championship experience of their counterparts, there is plenty of time to display their Rio medal credentials.
“You can’t discount anybody, if you’re good enough you’re old enough as the saying goes,” said Dyer - who has been a coach with Great Britain through the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics.
“From what I’ve seen from some of the younger riders coming through and some of the applicants coming through that’s a good thing.
“It’s a good opportunity now to reset the team a little bit, ourselves, and whilst we want to be qualifying places for the world championships it gives everyone the opportunity to expand their horizons and start looking at new riders and young rider coming through the programme.”
Whilst four years of anticipation was understandably geared towards the epicentre of the London 2012 Games, a return to a non-Olympic ‘year in, year out’ campaign is something Dyer welcomes.
A visit to the 2014 track world championships selected venue – Colombia’s Alcides Nieto Patiño velodrome which Dyer describes as ‘a nice track and a good enthusiastic crowd’ - is the ideal antidote to get everyone into ‘world cup mode’.
“Not so long ago this seemed like a really long time away and all of a sudden it’s on top of us,” Dyer said. “We’ve just got to bring ourselves back into world cup mode and think about world championships and qualifying places.
“There are only three world cups now so we are going to Cali in order to qualify places [for the world championships]. In particular this is our only crack at the kilo this winter so we need to have a good run out in the kilo and qualify a place in the world championships for that and keep our options open.
British Cycling Academy Programme rider Kian Emadi, fresh from being crowned as British kilo champion at the Manchester Velodrome, is tasked with the same event in his world cup debut in addition to the keirin and sprint, an opportunity which is fully merited according to Dyer.
Callum Skinner, British sprint champion, and Lewis Oliva were late call-ups to the European Track Championships after impressing at the Manchester Velodrome. Elsewhere, with two-time Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton retiring following the home Games, a void in the female sprint line-up exists with Becky James, Jess Varnish and Victoria Williamson amongst the options.
James, aged 20, started the season in the perfect fashion, winning four national titles at the British Track Championships – the sprint, keirin, team sprint and 500m time-trial. “Becky had an amazing championship,” Dyer acclaimed.
“She won everything she entered and really dominated the women’s sprint programme so it’s a really good start by her and a nice range finder ahead of serious international competition. I’m sure she’ll feel in a pretty confident mood about where she is at right now.”
Coming only weeks before the international curtain is raised, the British Track Championships were ideally placed for riders to start to fine-tune their form and put their name forward for the winter calendar ahead. “Especially for the sprinters,” Dyer explained. “You can train everyday but when it actually becomes time to compete it’s nice to get up there with your rivals, your peer group and mix it up a bit and start knocking the rust off a little bit ahead of the international stuff.”
Absent from the championships was Jess Varnish, like other Great Britain Olympic participants on an alternative schedule to best ease her back into competition. The consternation of disqualification in the Olympics is tempered by the opportunity to focus more energy in the sprint and keirin - after the team sprint was the focal point in recent times.
“The world’s their oyster at this point, with all the events not just the team sprint,” Dyer said.
“Jess had nothing else but a standing lap to think about for the last two and a half years so I’m sure she’ll be relishing the opportunity to have a crack at sprint and keirin. Although she has done that in the past it’s been off standing lap training.
“It’s very early days for Jess immediately after the Olympics. I’m sure that’s what she’ll be thinking about and the standing lap will be less of a focus for her in the next couple of years.
“I’m sure Becky will be looking forward to getting up in the team sprint as well and staking her claim but it’s really early days yet.
“We’ve got some really good girls coming through like Victoria Williamson and Dannielle Khan. Whilst they’re young at this point - as Jess has proven in the last cycle and Jason in the cycle before - there’s still every chance you might make the next Olympics.”