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Sir Dave Brailsford not responsible for men's team collapse in Cali...

British team head coach Shane Sutton says he would welcome the return of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish to the track team for the Rio Olympics in 2016 but criticism of Sir David Brailsford after the team’s men won no medals at the track world championships this past weekend is misplaced.

It’s been an embarrassing weekend for the men of the British track cycling team. At the world championships in Cali, Colombia, Britain’s women took five medals including a gold in the team pursuit after a thrilling battle with Canada. The men, however, are coming home empty-handed.

Head coach Shane Sutton told The Times’ Alyson Rudd that his boys simply need to raise their game, and in particular should look to two of Britain’s top riders for inspiration.

“I’ve always said, if you define greatness, you look at Mark Cavendish and you look at Brad Wiggins. If anyone can do this, they could do it. Cav’s pedigree on the track is phenomenal and Brad’s record speaks for itself. He will leave this sport a legend.”

Both Wiggins and Cavendish have said they would like to ride on the track in 2016, and that’s a prospect Sutton is taking seriously.

“Age is no bar,” he said. “[Wiggins] is 33. Sir Chris [Hoy] was winning gold medals at 36. Yes, I think we probably do need one or two of them to put their hand up and say, ‘That is my goal, I will be there and I will start my journey on such and such a date.’ ”

But the question remains: what went wrong in Cali? Sutton said his riders were simply not in good enough condition because they had not prepared hard enough over Christmas.

“What they did over that break at Christmas has come back to haunt them. They need to look at themselves. They got it wrong; they went out over the festive season and came back and shouldn’t have been where they were.

“I’m not saying they went out on the piss; what I’m saying is, there are younger guys in the Aussie team that are performing better, riding the times we had been previously. Everybody’s got to stop making excuses and understand where we are and make it right, but if we don’t learn from it, we can’t make it right.

“We don’t live with these guys 24/7, so they need to put a mirror up to themselves right now. I’ve got concerns with the current crop of riders we’ve got and it’s only them that can change.”

As head coach, though, Sutton said responsibility for the team’s performance is ultimately his and his alone. It does not lie with performance director Sir Dave Brailsford, who did not travel to Cali with the team.

“The buck stops with me and I’m big enough to take it,” Sutton said. “Dave has been the greatest leader for GB going back to Clive Woodward and the Rugby World Cup. Dave’s not here. The accountability of these performances rest totally with me, not Dave.

“He trusts me. We weren’t having this conversation 12 months ago when Dave wasn’t there [in Minsk]. For people to start pointing the finger at him is unfounded. I, as head coach, need to accept responsibility for that. I think any criticism of Dave would be unfounded. This guy’s been the greatest leader in British sport history. His legacy will go on and on.

“There’s no two ways about it. You don’t lead the team to the success it’s had for people to sit back and start criticising. Look at the work he’s done with Team Sky at the moment. We’re winning and winning.”

Nevertheless, Brailsford has questioned whether he can continue to oversee both the national track squad and Team Sky. Chris Boardman has said that he believes Brailsford is the best man for the Team GB role, but if he elects to stand down he should do so quickly so a replacement can be found.

Sutton, on the other hand, has no plans to step aside. “I don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “I want to stay here, I want to take them in to Rio and in to Tokyo if I’ve got the opportunity. My appetite is as big as ever. I love it and I love the riders.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

15 comments

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Hoester [68 posts] 3 years ago
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See that spade over there? That's a spade. Shane Sutton calls it succinctly as he sees it. Refreshing.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Tellingly Ed Clancy tweeted on Sunday
"Looking fwd to getting home for a bit of road racing now! :-D"

To me, and i could be wrong (i usually am), that implies he was glad to get his track commitments out of the way.
I think its the sort of thing someone who wasnt totally focussed would say.*

*opinion not fact

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Simon_MacMichael [2497 posts] 3 years ago
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"Dave has been the greatest leader for GB going back to Clive Woodward and the Rugby World Cup."

Which wasn't of course GB. Still, can't blame an Aussie for having mostly erased the memories of that one...

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mooleur [537 posts] 3 years ago
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I think I'd cry tears of joy for a week if Cav finally got the Olympic medal he's been after.

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Sim1 [57 posts] 3 years ago
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mooleur wrote:

I think I'd cry tears of joy for a week if Cav finally got the Olympic medal he's been after.

Try persuading Lefevere to let him...

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Sim1 [57 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

Tellingly Ed Clancy tweeted on Sunday
"Looking fwd to getting home for a bit of road racing now! :-D"

To me, and i could be wrong (i usually am), that implies he was glad to get his track commitments out of the way.
I think its the sort of thing someone who wasnt totally focussed would say.*

*opinion not fact

I interpeted it as him having had a mare last week - and maybe leading up to it, especially with the others going badly - and just wanting the relief of the road for a while.*

*also opinion not fact

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mikefreer [17 posts] 3 years ago
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I personally would love to see Brad and Cav on the track at Rio, but they are going to have to fight for their place on the team as they are not automatically going to get on to it, everyone will be training hard so it will be a tough fight for selection.

Good luck to both of them though  1

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Leviathan [2731 posts] 3 years ago
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Can we see some kind of graphic of inter-olympic slums for GBTrack that proves we will inevitably be ready for Rio (get the rounder wheels out of their bags.)

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cinelli Dave [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Mid Olympic cycle - isn't this the lull before the upturn in form? Chapeau to Shane Sutton! Wears his heart on his sleeve and I for one have huge respect.

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alg [173 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh woe - the men didnt win anything
There are lessons here from the girls - they are hungry, they have some stars in their midst but there is also leadership amongst the riders and they back each other to the hilt
The men havent suddenly become 2nd class riders but they do seem to have simply lost that oneness

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TrekBikesUK [128 posts] 3 years ago
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How 'bout looking to the women's team for inspiration? They have clearly demonstrated that they are capable of remaining consistent at the top, and do so with skill and grace, and stay positive with the media.

Can the same be said for Shane's two 'benchmarks'?

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mooleur [537 posts] 3 years ago
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TrekBikesUK wrote:

How 'bout looking to the women's team for inspiration? They have clearly demonstrated that they are capable of remaining consistent at the top, and do so with skill and grace, and stay positive with the media.

Can the same be said for Shane's two 'benchmarks'?

Well said, when you look at the more experienced riders/leaders like Rowsell a lot can be taken from their mindset and their attitudes, even from the "off the bike" behaviours they display in comparison to the guys, they're incredibly focused yet somehow remain relaxed and enjoy everything they do.

GB has pretty much "nailed it" with getting the 'right' team together on the women's front IMHO, it's not necessarily a gender thing there either, they've just happened to get this particular team right.

Not saying the men's isn't right but maybe the guys could learn a lot from the girls. Hell I use people like Rowsell, Armitstead and King to help my own head before racing, they're very human - they don't behave like rock stars, they just do what they love and that shows - it's very inspirational.

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notfastenough [3727 posts] 3 years ago
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cinelli Dave wrote:

Mid Olympic cycle - isn't this the lull before the upturn in form? Chapeau to Shane Sutton! Wears his heart on his sleeve and I for one have huge respect.

It is, but I think the point is that the current lull is a little deeper than intended. If the riders are disappointed, then that suggests they themselves expected better results. Normally the reply would otherwise be a cagey "We're happy with where we are at this point..."

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Veloacciaio [18 posts] 3 years ago
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Maybe they could start with the revolution series on the 15th. Would make my front row seats unbelievable!

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Shades [340 posts] 3 years ago
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Sim1 wrote:
mooleur wrote:

I think I'd cry tears of joy for a week if Cav finally got the Olympic medal he's been after.

Try persuading Lefevere to let him...

I think his response a while back, when there was talk of Cav returning to the track, was on the lines of, "we pay him to race on the road". Pretty unambiguous.