Dave Brailsford: "We Are Key Protagonists At Road World Championships"
A two year plan headed by Rod Ellingworth, dedicated to nurturing, qualifying and building a complete men's road race team for the 2011 World Championships reflects how far cycling in this country has come; according to British Cycling's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford.
Following the conclusion of the Tour of Britain - where Mark Cavendish took two stage wins and continued his preparation to race for the rainbow jersey - Dave Brailsford is comfortable with assertions that British Cycling' s star rider is a favourite to take the World Championships.
"We've got one of the best riders in the world, a strong support team, so it's all to play for" Brailsford opens.
"But I wouldn't underestimate the course or the opposition."
The Team Sky Principal assessed the individual and the team, considering the race one with medal potential.
"As an individual I think Mark is considered to be one of the favourites and it's an enviable position to be in. As a team I think we are key protagonists - I'm not sure we are favourites. We genuinely go into the men's and women's road races with chances of a medal and I think it's a good position to be in for these Championships."
But Brailsford is insistent that despite a full line-up and one of the race favourites in Mark Cavendish, the British team cannot dictate the headline event, which will instead come down to the cooperation of multiple nations and their confidence to set up a sprint finish.
Speaking after the Tour of Britain Brailsford talked of a tactical battle in Copenhagen, one which would not become entirely clear until the race was in its decisive moment.
"Riding the World Championships in national teams compared to trade teams bring about nuances and differences in that you wouldn't normally see.
"At the World Championships you don't get country against country. You will get three or four nations who want to see the race finish in a sprint; you'll get other nations who want to tear it up. You will find that the nations who want the race to finish in a sprint will work together - as you see on the pro scene - and there are others who prefer not to see it like that so they will combine their efforts.
"Mark is certainly a rider others will be thinking about how to ride against in the race, some riders obviously will look to distance Mark, to make sure he's not there at the finish, not many will want a straight up sprint, so it will be a challenge in that respect to manage the race.
"I think the race will not just boil down to the British team, but also to how many other nations want a sprint finish, and if you get four or five nations who really want a sprint then the chances of it happening will be very, very high, but if it is just one nation, then it won't happen."
And Brailsford answered the question surrounding Cavendish's rivals as equally unpredictable - with the individual nations' belief in riders to perform as the measure of how each team will approach the race.
"The danger teams depend on how each nation sees their riders - are they on form, are they fatigued, have they had a long season, are they in the right form to win? And without that no team is going to roll out a tactic without believing they can win.
"I think the Germans will be key in terms of where Greipal's at, where Degenkolb's at - they have quite a few sprinters in their team; the Australian's will wonder how they want to play their cards - the American's have Farrar but will be the same. But I think most nations will have more than one option so I think they will have a key sprinter and a second option. It's quite a tricky one to call; a lot of the national teams don't ride together on a regular basis, so there's that gelling as a team and the ability to ride as a team."
Australia is one team with a mysterious tactic - not selecting an in-form Mark Renshaw
That ability has been a key focus for Rod Ellingworth, who created a project for the World Championships, which gained credibility at the Olympic Test Event with a Cavendish win. Brailsford is keen to champion the work of Ellingworth, but surprisingly puts less emphasis on the importance of an HTC-style leadout train at the World Championships.
"You have to give credit to the work that Rod Ellingworth has been doing for the last couple of years, the riders have been going on camps together, training together, they have had a Worlds team and a Worlds project and every opportunity there is the lads get together to train and whenever the opportunity is there - like it was at the Olympic Test Event - then race. But I think the team camaraderie is there and has been building for a couple of years and is a vital ingredient.
"The leadout train is a bit more tricky to call, we have the riders to do the job - no doubt about it - but a lot depends upon what happens in the final and depends on if other teams are trying to break it up, if our riders are having to work to keep it together - which is what they will try to do obviously, then how hard that becomes will see whether our leadout train is depleted or not. It's a long race so you can't expect to have a full leadout train at the end of it, but Mark is very good in the wheels and knows his way around a finish so it won't all be down to a full leadout train, it will be about trying to keep the race together that will be the key.
"This year however, I think in terms of strength in depth that is the key difference. In the nature of the course and the nature of the rider - with Mark - but I think the strength in depth is the key thing and demonstrates a critical mass in professional British cyclists which we haven't had before and long may it continue."