Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton is confident that his squad is in good shape for February’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Paris after an encouraging performance throughout the winter-long UCI Track Cycling World Cup.
The three-event series, which culminated in Cali, Colombia in January, saw Great Britain finish second behind Germany in the overall rankings, with strong results in the men’s team pursuit alongside the emergence of new talent across the board.
Sutton now wants his team to carry the form into the zenith of the track season.
"We will be better than we were last year for sure,” Sutton said, alluding to Great Britain’s below-par performance at the 2014 championships.
The world cup saw Britain’s male pursuiters top the world cup rankings with silver in Mexico, gold in London and bronze in Colombia. It was a welcome return to form in an event regarded as the blue riband track event and a traditional staple of British success.
But as encouraging as world cup results are, it is the impact of recent changes in the support structure and team attitude which Sutton is most excited about, with the world championships just a month away and Rio around the corner.
“As far as the worlds is concerned I think across the board we've had a massive amount of changes within the coaching structure and it was all positive. But these things aren't going to be influential overnight,” said Sutton.
"There are three things here that equate to success and always have done in the building. First of all, there's leadership, secondly is good coaching and thirdly you've got to have the talent."
"With the changes that we've made here our leadership is good again. It's not easy replacing Dave Brailsford let's be honest.
"We're getting there on the leadership front; we're getting control of everybody in the way we'd like them to work.”
Changes to the team’s structure in the latter half of 2014 saw Iain Dyer move into a coach coordinator role, with Heiko Salzwedel and Justin Grace added to the endurance and sprint coaching staff respectively.
"Bringing Heiko back - he's one of the best out there at that level of endurance,” Sutton said. “The buoyancy that he's brought to the squad already, the boys are really up for the fight.
"Justin coming in there now working on the sprint programme, he comes from great pedigree as well.”
And of that final component, talent, Sutton was equally confident, encouraged by his team’s paradigm shift in attitude following the disappointment of Cali 2014.
"Have we got the talent? I'm totally convinced we have,” said Sutton. “But I think it's like every other Games - we've gone through that lull, that period and if you asked us are we in the right place at this moment in time I would say ‘yes’."
For Sutton and the team, the world cup is a stepping stone to the world championships, which is in turn a stepping stone to Rio and a chance for riders to show how they can perform. So it is perhaps unsurprising that Sutton is unwilling to specify a medal target for Paris.
"We're going to be up for the fight but don't ask me a medal target, don't ask me what we're going to do,” he said.
“We're going to go there and be the best we can be. We're going to come away, we're going to strip everything back, we're going to look at it all and then look how we move forward again from there.
"We will be better than we were last year for sure.”