British Cycling’s head coach Shane Sutton pulled no punches in assessing his squad’s below-par performance at the Track Cycling World Championships in Cali, but absolved absent performance director Sir Dave Brailsford of blame.
Two years out from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Britain returned from Colombia with five medals, four in Olympic events. It was well short of Sutton’s personal target of six medals in the 10 Olympic events – and the men returned with nothing for the first time since 1998.
Chris Boardman has called for Brailsford, British Cycling performance director since 2003, to commit or pass on his role. “Dave would clearly be the best full-time boss,” said the Olympic gold medallist, “but if he’s not going to do that, it might be better if somebody else comes in and takes the reins.”
But Sutton insisted Brailsford – missing for a second successive Track World Championships to focus on his other job as Team Sky principal – was not at fault.
“The buck stops with me and I’m big enough to take it,” said the Australian. “We weren’t having this conversation 12 months ago when Dave wasn’t here. For people to start pointing the finger at Dave is unfounded. This guy’s been the greatest leader in British sport history. His legacy will go on and on.”
The tone for the men’s performances was set on day one, when the team pursuit squad finished eighth in qualifying, the worst result for Britain in the event in at least 15 years.
“They need to look at themselves,” said Sutton. “They got it wrong. They went out for the festive season, came back and weren’t where they should have been.
“I’ve got concerns with the current crop of riders we’ve got and it’s only them that can change. We’ve just gone backwards and I think the accountability rests with the riders.”
Sutton also appealed to four-time Olympic champion Sir Bradley Wiggins and London 2012 gold medallist Peter Kennaugh to make their intentions clear regarding possible track returns for Rio.
“I know Pete’s appetite for the track is still very big,” Sutton said. “We would welcome him with open arms... and Bradley. If Brad’s definitely going to ride the track I think if he was to say sooner rather than later that that is definitely a goal then that might just be that little bit of upward pressure the other guys need.”
Britain completed the championship with two more medals on the final day, as Olympic champion Laura Trott won silver in the six-race omnium, while Becky James was third in the keirin.