2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships coverage | Get into track cycling
Published: 26 February 2014
Written by: Eddie Allen
Video: Simon Powers
Great Britain Cycling Team performance director Sir Dave Brailsford is confident that the young team for the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships is in rude health with the Olympic Games in Rio only two years away.
Brailsford spoke as the team completed its final Manchester training session before flying out to Cali, Colombia for track cycling’s biggest annual event, which takes place from 26 February to 2 March.
And although track cycling is built around the architecture of the four-year Olympic cycle, Brailsford was keen to highlight the significance of the annual world championships, whilst acknowledging the importance of Cali, midway on the road to Rio.
"Well, it's the world championships at the end of the day and we know in cycling that the rainbow jerseys are very important,” said Brailsford. “The world championships are our biggest event on an annual basis and so we've got to take them very seriously.
"Looking at what does this worlds mean in the context of where it lies in terms of an Olympic cycle, it is an important period.
“It gives us an opportunity to assess ourselves in terms of where we're at; some of the training approaches; some of the line-ups and it guides us really.
"It's also a good opportunity to assess ourselves against the rest of the world and see where we stand against everybody else and that can then guide our future plans for the next two years."
A year ago, ahead of the 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk, Brailsford spoke of ‘the changing of the guard’; the ascension of younger talents like Becky James and Jason Kenny following the retirement of the talismanic Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
Since then, the injection of youth into the squad has continued, with James, Kenny and others maturing into their roles.
"If you bring youngsters into a squad it takes time for them to develop and you've got to be careful not to expect too much too soon,” said Brailsford.
“The optimal level of development is one where they're challenged in a positive sense but they don't feel scrutinized or an overbearing pressure to perform.
“I think they're developing tremendously well and I think some of the guys who are the older members of the squad, like Ed Clancy, he's doing a tremendous job, sharing his experience and showing some real leadership."
Looking back to this point in the previous Olympic cycle, the 2010 world championships in Denmark, Great Britain came away with three gold medals from solo events. Yet the line-up for team events was in a state of flux and the team overall had less strength-in-depth than is evident today.
Fast forward to 2014 and Great Britain has emerged from the 2013/14 UCI Track Cycling World Cup series as winning nation, with a big, robust squad in which line-up experimentation appears more driven by the desire for improvement and experience building, rather than being borne of necessity.
Brailsford however was more pragmatic when asked to compare the 2010 and the present day.
"It's a different bunch of riders and a different set of criteria,” he said. “It's rare that you keep the same level of intensity and the same level of performance right the way through an Olympic cycle.
"However, it would still be nice to go and get the best possible performance but at this moment in time there'd be no panic."
Despite Brailsford’s measured optimism, he also acknowledged that the Great Britain Cycling Team arguably approach Cali with a greater depth of talent that ever before, which the performance director ascribes in part to the tremendous popularity that cycling in general, and track cycling in particular, is enjoying.
"There's a growing volume of talent within the sport of track cycling which has benefitted us tremendously,” he said.
“So I'd like to think that thanks to the Chrises, the Jason Queallys, the Vicky Pendletons of the world; that their performances have attracted and inspired other people to get into the sport and now we're seeing those youngsters come through and give us that strength in depth.
“Hopefully it's a virtuous circle that keeps on going."