Great Britain coach Chris Newton predicts the battle for places within the track endurance squad will force athletes to go ‘further, faster and move their event on’.
The three-time Olympic medallist is overseeing seven riders in Minsk, Belarus for track cycling’s showcase event, consisting of three defending team pursuit champions plus four British Cycling Academy riders.
In addition to the four team pursuit places, Newton will also need to select who competes in the omnium, individual pursuit, scratch, points and Madison disciplines from 20-24 February and admits there is healthy ‘fight’ for spots.
“It’s encouraging we’ve got quite a strong depth of riders now that are going to that level,” said Newton, who has been overseeing both Podium and Academy riders since October.
“It’s taken a couple of years for some of these athletes to reach that level because of the events changing, it (team pursuit) has moved away from an endurance event. It’s not quite a sprint event, it requires a special kind of athlete that we are trying to nurture I would say. It’s satisfying that the guys I have worked with are now heading to the worlds.”
Up-and-coming talents Jon Dibben, Owian Doull, Sam Harrison and Simon Yates have joined seasoned pursuiters Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant for Great Britain’s first major post-London track meet.
Newton, a former points race and team pursuit world champion, is adamant the blend of experience and youth is the perfect alchemy to push Great Britain forward over the next Olympic cycle to Rio.
“I think every other nation is the same for this forthcoming worlds, most nations have put in a different team, a young team, trying different things and we’re very fortunate we can do that,” Newton said.
“But we are also fortunate that there are existing athletes that are still well within an Olympic cycle - if not further - who are so fired up to still perform and fight for a place, which also has a knock on effect to the younger athletes knowing that’s the level they need to achieve.
“It’s a fight to get into the squad and when you have eight riders fighting for four places for the team pursuit and then fighting for the omnium place it does bode well for the future. Everyone’s on their toes, wanting to go further, faster and move their event on again past the world record that currently stands.”
"Everyone’s on their toes, wanting to go further, faster and move their event on again past the world record that currently stands."
And Newton added that he anticipates the pool of riders to increase in the future.
“Other athletes who haven’t made the cut this time around, give them another year on the road to just increase their strength, to progress them as an athlete. We’ll see a few more riders coming through.
“Since the beginning of October they have benefitted from multiple training camps in Majorca, training alongside Team Sky for instance so they’ve had that experience. They had that learning process so when they come back into it, which they will in the summer post-worlds, they are already a step ahead and that moves everyone forward.”
Ed Clancy’s decision to switch back to the team pursuit from the sprint format added an extra ingredient into the mix for Newton prior to the competition.
The two-time Olympic champion missed out on a team sprint spot for the championships, prompting his move back to the endurance squad which handed Newton a tough choice to make.
“When I learnt that Ed wanted to come back into team pursuit I knew straight away that some rider was going to miss out on the cut for the worlds,” Newton said.
“That’s part and parcel of being an athlete but the guys took it really well and they saw the positive side of that. We would never take Ed back on if it was going through the motions - he is fired up to perform.”