It is barely a week since Shane Sutton was rushed to hospital having been hit by a car as he cycled into British Cycling’s HQ in Manchester but the Australian was in the stands in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome today to watch his charges make the first tentative turns of the wheel in the Rio Olympic cycle.
Sutton, Britain’s head coach, can remember nothing of the accident that saw him suffer bleeding on the brain, a fractured cheekbone and broken ribs from a collision that came just a day after Bradley Wiggins was also involved in a road accident.
Wiggins climbed back on to a bike for the first time today and with Sutton back in his GB tracksuit it appeared business as usual much sooner than anybody might have expected. But despite being in Glasgow Sutton is still feeling the effects of last Thursday’s accident and is limiting his involvement this weekend to a watching brief.
“I don’t feel right,” said Sutton. “I’m okay but I’m not 100 per cent. I’m getting up a feeling a little bit drunk everyday. I don’t feel balanced. It’s going to take time – that’s what the doctor said.”
His doctors instructed him to rest but he was determined to be here, not least to pay tribute to “one of the all-time greats” – the man after which the venue is named – and because “I love cycling, I love racing and I want to watch it.”
Sutton was knocked off his bike as he cycled to work. He has a vague memory of being in an ambulance and when he came round in hospital he was so confused he thought he had come to visit Wiggins. He said: “I had this vision that I was there to see Bradley.”
Sutton was wearing a helmet when he was hit – he has done since an accident in Majorca a couple of years ago – and he believes that was crucial. “I'm only alive today because I wore a helmet,” he stated. “There's no doubt it saved my life.”
The 55-year-old, who has refused to take any painkillers or medication since leaving hospital, is to meet with the police when he returns to Manchester on Monday to discover whether charges will be pressed against the driver who collided with him.
Sutton has no desire to see the case go any further but suggests there needs to be much greater awareness from drivers around cyclists. He said: “It’s not about blaming anybody. It’s about trying to make drivers more aware of what’s on the road. Forget helmet issues, it’s about making people aware we’re out there.”
Having been involved in the British coaching set up for a decade – winning coach of the year for his part in the success of the Beijing Games four years ago, Sutton is currently discussing with Dave Brailsford what his role over this Olympic cycle will be. He will remain closely involved with Wiggins as well as continuing his duties within the velodrome and is soon to take a group of track riders to Perth for winter training – he wants Hoy there as well whether it is as a rider or simply for his influence on the others.