It’s late November at the GB Cycling Team HQ and the team pursuit squad is three weeks into an intensive ‘boot camp’ session, orchestrated by their coach Dan Hunt, with the aim of building on the team’s European Championships victory and honing the squad into a world beating unit for 2012.
Steve Burke is one of around six riders upon which Hunt hangs his medal hopes in the upcoming World Cup, World Championships and Olympic campaigns. Speaking to British Cycling, Burke was typically forthright in his assessment of the team’s performances in 2011 and the work ahead preparing for what will be a momentous season.
“I’m pretty pleased with how this year has gone”, said the 23 year old from Colne, Lancashire.”The Europeans– Okay we won there but as a team we should have gone a bit quicker. A couple of seconds quicker I think”, said Burke. “A win’s a win I suppose and we needed to start winning again”, he added – acknowledging that belief is in an essential part of any performance. Belief, talent and hard work.
“We’re in week three or four of the boot camp phase and it’s real hard graft we have to do. In the end it’ll all pay off and it’ll be worth it”, said Burke taking a break between two hard sessions on the track for photo-shoots, interviews and autograph sessions. Steven continued, “The two weeks after that we’re out in Majorca for an endurance block that will help with the team pursuit. It’s work that we need to do.”
This period of intensive training will ready Steven and the rest of the pursuit squad for their first real test of 2012, the home round of the UCI Track World Cup on the Olympic velodrome in London. Burke was cautious however to manage expectation around the sellout Olympic test event, stressing that the team pursuit squad was in the process of building toward two greater goals.
Steven: “I’ll be looking to peak firstly for the World Championships – obviously I want to do well in London but I want to peak for the Worlds and then again for the Olympics. There’s quite a knack to doing it and I’m really confident in my team and the background staff and the coaches and I think we’ll get the job done.”
Looking ahead to the Track World Cup in London, Steven was respectful of the competition that the squad would face on home turf. “Don’t get me wrong it’s still a massive race and the big teams like Australia, the Kiwis and the Russians will turn up. It’ll be hard to win that event. Normally we win the home world cup pretty easily but it’s not going to be the case this time around. It’s massively important but the Worlds and the Olympics are a bit more so.”
And what of the Olympics? Steven is no stranger to the pressures and rewards of competing at the highest level, winning bronze in the Individual Pursuit in Beijing in 2008, beating his previous PB by 11 seconds. With the individual pursuit now consigned to history as an Olympic discipline we asked if Burke would be contesting the one-man event in the World Cups and World Champs. Burke’s answer underlined his singular commitment to London 2012: “No, it will be full commitment to the team pursuit from now until the Olympics. I’m not going to really think about any other event. It’s going to be a big moment in my career next year if we do well – all my focus is towards the team pursuit.”
Looking ahead, only time will tell if the team’s boot camp preparations pay off. However, one thing’s for sure, the unassuming man from Lancashire is clearly keen for Beijing to be just the beginning of his Olympic story.