Cycling: Shane Sutton predicts Team GB destined for 'greatness' at Rio 2016 Olympics
Britain impress at the World Championship
Monday 25 February 2013
Greatness is not a word regularly thrown around with reckless abandon among the British Cycling hierarchy but head coach Shane Sutton believes the new breed of track cyclists are destined for just that.
In the absence of performance director Dave Brailsford, who has been focusing on Team Sky, Sutton has overseen the team here in Minsk, which consisted of experienced riders like Jason Kenny but in which the average age of the gold medallists was just 21.
Britain won five golds to maintain their place as the world's leading track cycling nation, and Sutton warned their rivals that he expected more to come from a team which consisted of six World Championship debutants, two of whom, Simon Yates and Elinor Barker, came away with rainbow jerseys.
"This team is heading towards greatness in four years' time," said Sutton. "They're joined already as a team, they're a very young squad and they all get on. They're all on the same page."
With such a young squad, many of them experiencing the world stage for the first time, the appetite for medals at every championship seems greater than ever before, perhaps surprising in the year after an Olympics.
Whatever the success in Belarus, British Cycling loves its number-crunching and all the various statistics will still be geared towards one ultimate goal once more, the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Looking ahead to 2016, Sutton said: "If you're working from platforms and data and whatever, if you look to where we were at the beginning of the last Olympic cycle, I think we're in a much stronger position, a much healthier position, you can virtually name your team for Rio now."
A slight exaggeration maybe but the foundations are already laid for the Olympics. While the basis of the women's squad now seems pretty clear, with Jo Rowsell likely to return to what will be a four-woman line-up in the pursuit, and Jess Varnish and Becky James set to lead the sprint aspirations.
Vicky Williamson adds a potential alternative while Sutton admitted that Danielle Khan and Rosie Blount would travel to the next sprint camp in Majorca for the first time.
The exact make-up of the men's team sprint and team pursuit line-ups are far from finalised. The issue of man three in the sprint remains unresolved in a post-Chris Hoy Olympics. It is still hoped that Kian Emadi can do the role and it's worth remembering that man one, Philip Hindes, only made his debut in the line-up three months before the Olympics and went on to catapault the team to gold.
There are plenty of alternative line-ups for the pursuit but Sutton said he did not expect either Bradley Wiggins or Geraint Thomas to slot back, which had been mooted previously.
"In Brad's case, I've always said there is a possibility but the longer time goes on and Brad puts another couple of Tours in his legs, I think it would be a big call for him," said Sutton. "As far as G [Thomas] is concerned we are not doing our jobs if G can come back and ride team pursuit in four years' time because we should be going too quick. He won't come back. The more time you spend out on the road, the more you deplete that speed and we need to be fast."
There are three more World Championships between now and Rio, and Sutton has set his riders the challenge of topping the medal table at each and every juncture.
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