British Cycling coaches Chris Newton and Paul Manning have outlined their initial plans as they take Great Britain’s male and female track endurance squads towards the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Manning, an Olympic gold medallist in the team pursuit in Beijing, has made the switch to coaching the men’s group after orchestrating the dominance of women’s pursuit team which witnessed Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell set six consecutive world records in 2012, ending in gold in London.
Newton, who had previously overseen the British Cycling men’s Olympic Academy Programme and coached the men’s team pursuit to silver at the 2013 track world championships, will take over the women’s squad as it moves from a three-people over three-kilometres event to match the men’s distance of four-kilometres with four riders.
Great Britain are currently Olympic champions in both the men’s and women’s team pursuit disciplines as well as holding gold and bronze medals in the women’s and men’s omnium respectively through Laura Trott and Ed Clancy.
"I’m starting with a blank sheet of paper - where they are at, a chance to review what was achieved last summer in London and look to try and plan something bigger and better for Rio."
“I’m excited but it almost feels familiar to me, you’ve been in the squad so there is an association with it,” Manning commented.
On his priorities in his new position, Manning added: “The obvious things really, getting to know the athletes.
“I’ve known some of them as teammates but I need to come at it with a different perspective. I’m starting with a blank sheet of paper - where they are at, a chance to review what was achieved last summer in London and look to try and plan something bigger and better for Rio.
Manning leaves behind a women’s squad which was only denied the world title once in his tenure – in Copenhagen in 2010 and will now be synonymous with the three-kilometre version of the discipline in its brief four years in the sport.
“It’s not an easy decision to leave athletes like that behind,” Manning said.
“They’re young, enthusiastic and really driven individuals and they obviously combined really well last summer as a team with their track record and Olympic success. The continual improvement through 2012 was probably one of the most impressive things; how they kind of gelled and kept pushing each other further on.”
Newton, who coached the Olympic women’s road team which delivered Liz Armitstead to silver on the Mall, admits taking on a group which is both world and Olympic champions is a challenge though he isn’t fazed by the prospect.
“It’s really good, I’m very excited for the future and it’s a great group to work with,” Newton said.
“Obviously, with the history of the team, I’ve got some big shoes to fill there but the way we have restructured this, we will be working closely together and Shane [Sutton] is more closely involved too so we have got a really tight group there. Looking at the next three years, it’s exciting times.”
With the Olympics over three years away and the potential for the personnel to alter, both coaches highlighted the need to assess the current circumstances and to then develop a suitable selection of athletes who can contest for the spots.
The task is particularly noteworthy for Newton. In addition to needing an extra rider for competition itself, it is also the first time Great Britain has had to assess its women’s team pursuit line-up post-Olympics, London being the first Games the discipline was included for females.
In the absence of Joanna Rowsell at last year’s Glasgow’s track world cup, Elinor Barker demonstrated her potential, winning gold with Trott and King however Newton is keen continue the development of more riders.
“Obviously we have got to increase our pool of riders as a starting point,” Newton said. “We have enough numbers now but we really want to push that on and we obviously want the level to move on again.
“We are still in a bit of an unknown as to what this line-up is going to look like with regards to four-kilometre until we get onto the boards, when we will certainly see that. I think it’s a good opportunity and it opens the door for more riders to get more experience racing.
“We have Laura [Trott], Dani [King], Joanna [Rowsell] and Elinor [Barker] who are all proven champions in their own right but we also have Amy Roberts, Lucy Garner and Emily Kay.
“I would say that there is a lot of experimentation to be done but it has come around quite early and we have got three years to work at it so I think we are in a good place in that sense. There are also riders from the Olympic Development Programme coming through and we have even had a few athletes from other sports who have expressed their interest.
“Obviously we have got to increase our pool of riders as a starting point. We have enough numbers now but we really want to push that on and we obviously want the level to move on again."
“Ideally it would be nice to have around ten riders to help push things on. I think every rider needs to feel pushed, not necessarily threatened, but to know that there is a need to perform.”
Manning underlines the need to look at all the options available with a myriad of athletes such as Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Sam Harrison and Joe Kelly possibly solutions to the men’s team pursuit puzzle in addition to the more experienced Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant.
The added potential for riders from the road coming into the setup closer to 2016, as Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh did ahead of London, could give Manning further options.
“Various things have been said about whether people will be back in the squad or not. I think time will tell on that one,” said Manning, who won his gold alongside Ed Clancy, Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.
“There are opportunities for me to engage with anybody who has aspirations, that’s the main thing at the minute, taking stock of who’s out there and who wants to be a part of it.
“It’s taking time to be closer to those riders I don’t necessarily know that well and identify their potential. Chris Newton is an important part of that with regards to his better understanding of where the men are and vice versa with the girls.”
Though designated to lead on each group, Newton and Manning will work closely with Great Britain head coach Shane Sutton with the three pooling knowledge and ideas across the track endurance squad.
“There are times where I will cover the girls’ sessions and Chris will cover the lads’ sessions, it gives us that versatility to get the job done,” Manning explained.
“The commonality between the events with four people on four kilometres, it’s another area to emphasise the fact that three brains are probably better than one in forming training plans, selections, deciding on strategy, that’s again another area where we can work across as a team.
“We are going to work quite closely with Shane Sutton as well to keep the conversation going amongst us so we are not working in separate teams, there is effectively three people working towards these same objectives.”