Published: 15 May 2012
Report: Scott Hobro
Great Britain’s strength in depth in the men’s team pursuit will be integral to their Olympic gold medal ambitions in August when five riders will be used, according to coach Dan Hunt.
Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh rode at the world championships with Tennant deployed in the qualifiers and Burke replacing him in the gold medal ride against Australia. For Hunt, having such an assortment of riders is fundamental if Britain is to put forward a strong challenge for gold.
On 3 August there will be just one hour between round one of the men’s team pursuit and the medal rides at the Olympic Velodrome in the culmination of three years of preparation for Hunt. Faced with that scenario Hunt said that the decision to swap athletes between the rides in Melbourne was a pre-meditated one with Great Britain using the opportunity to familiarise the squad with the adjustments that will occur in the summer.
“When the UCI announced the format - that you’re going to need five guys and you’ve got to be back up within the hour - having as many fresh legs as you can to put into the team is good and if you’ve got two blokes who can ride three fifty-threes and three fifty-fours you’re in a good position,” said endurance coach Hunt, who started working with the men’s team in 2009.
"When you do it [change the rider line-up] it disrupts the team. Dealing with that type of change is something we’ve got to get used to because we’re going to be doing it at the Games."
“That’s why we did it at the worlds. It was the world championships and we had qualified fastest, we were in Australia, we we’re going into probably the biggest fight we’ve ever been a part of in the team pursuit and we still kept our focus on the Olympics. When you do it [change the rider line-up] it disrupts the team. Dealing with that type of change is something we’ve got to get used to because we’re going to be doing it at the Games.”
After a gold in last October’s European Championships, nearly 36 months of work has shown signs of its apex with events in Melbourne preceded by another close-fought final against Australia at the Olympic test event in February.
Getting to such a stage has required reconstruction. With Clancy and Thomas the remains of Beijing gold following Paul Manning’s retirement and Bradley Wiggins focusing on the road, a new group of riders was primed to fill the remaining spots, each in their early-20s or younger when originally cited for 2012.
“When I started coaching the men back in 2009 we had no depth whatsoever. In fact we were struggling to put a team together,” Hunt confessed. “We always knew that certain riders would be coming back so we set out on a project to get more riders in that three fifty-five type area.
“If you look historically we went to Beijing with four guys who rode three fifty-threes. The same four were the only guys who had gone three fifty-five and three fifty-six. Bradley Wiggins wasn’t going to ride the [London] Olympics on the track and Paul Manning retired, so all of a sudden we had quite a few spots to fill from a bunch of blokes who weren’t going that quick,” Hunt recalls.
“That’s when we went and recovered Andy Tennant from Halfords. Burke was with the team in Beijing but didn’t ride [in the team pursuit] and has been on the steady up and up. Obviously we had Ed and Geraint coming back in but with Pete and Ben new to the team pursuit in the last couple of years we’ve had to make their progressions as rapid as possible.
“It’s a great position but a deliberate one.”