Cycling: Brailsford accused of losing Olympic focus

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The Independent Online

Olympic team sprint champion Jamie Staff believes British hopes of more cycling medals at the London Games in 2012 are being damaged by Team Sky.

Staff, winner of the team sprint with Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny in Beijing, was part of the coaching staff at the national cycling centre in Manchester until he was recruited by USA Cycling this year.

And, in an interview with American website, he has revealed his fears that Team Sky – a joint venture between British Cycling and the satellite broadcaster – is affecting Olympic prospects.

Dave Brailsford, performance director at British Cycling and the man who guided the team to eight golds at the 2008 Olympics, has been splitting his time with the professional road team which was formed with the aim of winning the Tour de France.

Staff said: "I would like for them to do well in all events, but with Dave Brailsford's attention turned to the road, I think it's having an effect on the track team.

"If your leader goes off and leads something else, you get consequences. At the end of the day it comes down to the riders, but having someone to lead the army is the key. It gives the riders the belief they have the backing. If you remove that and the riders feel they are on their own, then cracks can appear. I see some cracks appearing."

The partnership between British Cycling and Team Sky is currently the subject of an independent review by Deloitte. Team Sky made their Tour de France debut this year with two-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins as the team leader. Wiggins finished 24th.

Staff's comments were strongly disputed by British Cycling, who cited the progress made by a number of British cyclists under the wing of Team Sky.

And Brailsford has long advocated the need for British cyclists to compete for a professional team which is sympathetic to their Olympic ambitions. A British Cycling spokesman said: "The British Cycling partnership with Sky has been in place since just before the Beijing Olympics and to suggest it is having a detrimental effect on our track team is simply not true.

"The fact that young, talented British riders such as Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and Pete Kennaugh are able to benefit from the partnership no doubt boosts our road presence, as highlighted by Geraint's white jersey success at this year's Tour de France.

"It also means the British track riders in Team Sky can benefit from having their road-race programme fully tailored to optimise their Olympic ambitions, something which might not be the case if Team Sky was not in place.

"Success in London in 2012 is at the forefront of everyone's thoughts, most notably Dave's, and nothing will ever distract us from that."