Dan Hunt returns to Team Sky as Sports Director
New DS worked for Sky in debut 2010 season before coaching Team GB men's pursuit squad to Olympic gold
Dan Hunt, who coached Team GB’s men’s team pursuit quartet including Team Sky riders Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh to Olympic success, is returning to the British ProTeam as sports director.
Hunt previously worked at Team Sky during its debut 2010 season, combining his role with his work at British Cycling, but this year he will be focusing exclusively on the road. His principal workplace will be unchanged – the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
“We’ve walked the same corridors with the same people for three or four years now,” Hunt revealed in an interview published on the Team Sky website . “I know everyone on this team and I have a fantastic relationship with them all.
“I want to learn the races and re-learn the job of a Sports Director. But maybe also bring different things to the table, because I’m not an ex-pro. I haven’t ridden these races, so I’ve got a bit of homework to do.”
Speaking of his work with Team GB that culminated in the successful defence of the team pursuit title won in Beijing, Hunt said: “I don’t think it gets any better than Olympic gold at a home Olympics from a coaching point of view. It’s a great time to bow out and start a new challenge and I’m really excited about the project.”
Hunt began working with British Cycling as women’s programme coach in 2005, having previously worked with Nicole Cooke. “It was a programme which was basically failing at the time and my job was to go in and turn it around.
“The programme ultimately went on to Beijing and won two gold and two silver medals, with Wendy Houvenaghel and Rebecca Romero on the track and Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke on the road.
“I started working with the women and the men in 2009 through to the early part of 2010, working and coaching both squads through to March. By this point Team Sky was up and running. We’d had the November camp and the team was racing. I was involved right from the start as a Race Coach, combining that role with my role in GB cycling.
“In 2010 I was asked to DS on the road. I ended up doing quite a lot – around 80 days. I didn’t start racing until Tour de Picardie in May so it was a lot of racing, mainly as second DS. I did a heavy summer road programme and then went straight back onto the track. 2010 was the start of Olympic qualification and we had to start scoring points, starting at the European Champs.”
His role meant that even though he had stopped working directly with Sky after the 2010 season, he remained close to the team, due to Kennaugh, Thomas and Ben Swift – the latter would subsequently withdraw from the squad, which was completed by Stephen Burke, Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant, the latter not riding in London – all being involved on the track.
“We had great relations with the team. They one hundred per cent supported the project, even though at times it left them a little bit short in the races. Obviously Geraint wasn’t able to ride Flanders and Roubaix. Then after the Olympics was always going to be a difficult period for those that had been involved in terms of the transition back to the road.”
He always intended to reprise his former role, however: “Having done a bit of DSing in 2010 it was actually quite hard to go back to the Olympics, particularly two years out from the Games. But I’m really glad I did as I wouldn’t want to have missed out on the experiences that I’ve had. Equally I don’t want to do another four-year cycle as Olympic coach - I want to move into DSing.
“I need to expose myself to as much racing as possible to maximise my learning over the first year. I want to be good at this. I want to be a good DS and it’s going to take time to get there.”
Hunt believes that the fact he wasn’t a pro rider means he can bring a fresh way of thinking to the role – some might add that it also means that he is guaranteed to be free of the baggage that last autumn led to sports director Steven De Jongh and race coach Bobby Julich left the team after admitting doping during their riding careers.
Another sports director, Sean Yates, also left citing family and health reasons, although the timing of his departure, in the wake of the US Postal scandal, led to speculation that other factors may have been at play.
“I think you have to look outside of your own world,” said Hunt. “Otherwise the team surrounds itself with people who act, think and believe in similar things. We have a really nice mix in the coaching team and together we’ve got all the skills. As long as we keep on operating as a team I think we’ll be fine.
“We’re young, we’re dynamic and we learn quickly. We’re keen and we don’t tire easily.”