Published: 4 December 2012
Report: Scott Hobro
British Cycling Olympic BMX coach Grant White says Great Britain will target the maximum number of spots in the discipline for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but accepts that it ‘wont’ be easy’.
For the London Olympics Team GB used the one spot given to the host nation in each of the men’s and women’s BMX competitions to allow Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade to focus fully on their preparation for the Games, but in the next cycle will be required to qualify spots for Brazil.
If cycling’s world governing body the UCI retains the same qualification process used in London, the top five nations in the UCI rankings would receive the maximum three slots in the men’s competition whilst in the women’s category the highest four nations are granted two places.
In addition if the same model is kept it would mean nations begin to earn the ranking points in the two seasons before the Games, in the case of Rio the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. It allows White and his team two years to continue to work and develop Great Britain’s athletes across British Cycling’s Programmes – Podium, Academy, Development and Talent Team – before the task of earning spots for 2016 goes into full flow.
“It won’t be easy,” said White. “You look at the top five countries in the men who qualify three positions and you say ‘if GB could be in the top five countries that would be a big achievement because you’d have to have some quality riders to do that’.
“But I think it’s completely realistic to achieve that. You’ve probably got two years between now and when that starts.”
If Great Britain were to achieve the complete complement of places in both the men’s and women’s competitions, White is adamant that there is no shortage of rising talent to step up, citing the likes of Academy rider Kyle Evans in the men’s discipline and Abbie Taylor in the women’s, who finished third in this year’s UCI Supercross in Abbotsford.
“With respect to the females, Abby is doing some good stuff,” White said. “There is still a gap to bridge to put herself at that top end but she is constantly making improvements, she had a pretty decent world cup series and world championships last season. She keeps getting better in training here.
“Obviously you’ve got Shanaze too. Then you’ve got a young girl underneath, Valerie Zebrokova, she’s a few years away yet but you’ve got to say that out of those three athletes you should be able to field two spots and be competitive.
“In the men Liam proved in London he is highly competitive in that class as well as through the world cup series and the maximum numbers you can qualify is three at the moment unless they change that.
“Then you look at the Academy guys and think ‘is there potential for at least two of them to fill up and move up and be competitive?’ I think absolutely. They’ve been here for a year and they’ve done nothing but get better.
“You look at the structure that we’ve got here and the facilities and support staff as well as the talent those guys have. They are doing a lot of work week in week out, so absolutely.”
In the interim, Great Britain will be taking a 10-stong team to the Indoor BMX Saint-Etienne competition in early December, including Phillips and Reade alongside a mixture of Academy and Development Programme riders.
It forms part of Great Britain’s plan for the first season post-London which includes a home round of the UCI BMX Supercross for the first time in the competition’s history, taking place in April 2013 at the National BMX Centre in Manchester.
White cited that there would be a ‘limited places’ for Supercross rounds in the near future but anticipated that numbers would expand as time progressed towards Rio to include more Academy riders.
“They have done some pretty good stuff so far, but they’ll say themselves they have got steps to make,” White commented.
“So whilst they’ve got steps to make they know there’ll be limited opportunities and that they’ve got a lot of work to do in training to raise their level. Once they raise their level to be highly competitive then there’ll be regular world cups, but initially Manchester is here and it’s our intention to have all of our riders racing.
“By the time this whole Olympic qualification process starts which will be 2015, we’d like to be in a position to take a full squad and know they’d be highly competitive at a world cup stage.”