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End of a golden age? Sir Dave Brailsford quits British Cycling role

Architect of Olympic success to focus exclusively on Team Sky, Shane Sutton takes over as Technical Director, Dr Steve Peters leaving too

Sir Dave Brailsford, architect of Team GB’s dominance in track cycling at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London two years ago, is leaving his position as performance director at British Cycling to focus full-time on his role at Team Sky.

In response to Brailford's decision British Cycling has restructured the set-up at the top of its elite performance programme, Shane Sutton becomes Technical Director with responsibility for rider performance, while Andy Harrison continues in his role as Programmes Director with responsibility for the running of the Great Britain Cycling Team’s development programmes - a new role, Head of Performance Sport is also being created. Both Sutton and Harrison will report to British Cycling Chief Executive Ian Drake - as presumably will whoever takes the Head of Performance Sport role. 

While Brailsford may have formally stepped aside he isn't stepping away completely from his work with British Cycling and Team GB, but will continue to have an advisory role and will support the Team GB road programme through it's links with Team Sky. 

Speaking about his departure in a British Cycling statement Sir Dave said:

Sir Dave Brailsford said:  “This is a big step but it is the right decision for the team and for me.

“Since London 2012, we have worked hard on succession planning and that has meant we’ve got to a point where I can move on, knowing the team will go from strength to strength.

“I’ll still be available to Ian, Shane and Andy for support if they need it and my role at Team Sky will mean we’ll still work closely and support the aims of British Cycling.

“I'd like to thank all the great staff who I've worked with and of course the amazing athletes who ultimately deserve all the credit for their success.

“I have some extraordinary memories – not just from Olympic Games and World Championships but also just day to day seeing cycling go from a fringe activity to a mainstream sport.

“I’ve always said that, more than any of the medals, the transformation of cycling in Britain is the single thing I’m most proud of having helped achieve.”

Team psychologist, Doctor Steve Peters is also leaving his role to concentrate on his work with other teams and sports - Peters is team psychologist to Liverpool Football Club and he is also working with the England Football Team at this summer's World Cup tournament in Brazil. 

In a similar vein to Brailsford though he is not completely severing his ties with the national cycling team, says British Cycling, Dr Peters "will support the development and implementation of a new support system for the team in this area before his departure."

In a statement released announcing the changes British Cycling Chief Executive, Ian Drake paid tribute to Brailsford and Peters and explained the rationale behind the changes made to Team GB's structure:

“Firstly, I want to thank Sir Dave Brailsford for his enormous contribution to British Cycling – the organisation he leaves behind is transformed from the one we both joined in 1998.

“In that time the Great Britain Cycling Team has not only set the standard by which British sporting success is judged but also inspired millions of people to get active through cycling.

“I also want to thank Steve Peters for his contribution to our medal success over the years – his support for athletes and the team has been groundbreaking and the foundations he has put in place will continue to shape the programme and its culture in the future.

“Both Sir Dave and Steve took leading roles in the review and recognised the systems that they have helped put in place mean they can both step away from the team, certain it will be in good hands.

“The changes we are announcing today are in response to a simple question which has guided the team since lottery funding was introduced – what will give us the best chance of winning gold medals?

“In Shane and Andy, I’m confident we have the right management team to take us into Rio and beyond. The sport of cycling in this country has travelled a long way in the last few years but the best is yet to come.”

The long expected news of Brailsfords departure was broken early this morning by the Guardian's William Fotheringham, who says that Great Britain head coach Shane Sutton, who like Brailsford previously combined that role with one at Team Sky before stepping down from the latter early last year, is the most likely candidate to take over.

Brailsford’s departure from the national set-up has been widely expected after he revealed in February that he planned to review his dual role following UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Cali, Colombia.

Those championships, which Brailsford did not attend, saw Great Britain win two gold medals, and five in total – its lowest return since 2006, and the first time the country’s men secured no medals whatsoever.

Shortly afterwards, Chris Boardman, who as technical advisor to British Cycling helped devise some of the cutting edge equipment that helped secure that Olympic success, urged Brailsford to decide between the twin positions.

Then, Sir Chris Hoy, who won all six of his Olympic gold medals under Brailsford, suggested that “it might be a good thing” for him to stand down to enable a “fresh start” to be made with two years to go until Rio 2016.

Prior to Cali, Brailsford had said: “The thing that I am concerned about is to make sure that the Great Britain cycling team is in the best possible shape going into Rio.

"If I was occupying a certain space, but for whatever reason I didn't feel like I was optimising what I could do, then I would change my role.

"It is nothing drastic. It is just a question of continually managing and evolving the situation.”

The Guardian said that Brailsford was not available for comment, and that British Cycling had declined to make a statement on potential changes to management, although a spokesman said that a review was being conducted in the wake of Cali.

The newspaper added that the close ties between Team Sky and British Cycling meant that Brailsford would potentially be able to help the national team as and when necessary, as well as helping smooth the process of succession.

Some believed that Brailsford and Team Sky were overreaching themselves when he said at its launch in early 2010 that it aimed to win the Tour de France with a British rider within five years.  But in its first four seasons, it’s now achieved that twice.

The team’s victories in the last two editions of the Tour de France through Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Chris Froome last year, plus a string of wins in other high-profile races, have led to Brailsford’s job there becoming much more involved, says the Guardian.

Brailsford arrived at British Cycling in 1997 and moved into his current role as performance director in 2003. At both Beijing and London, Team GB won six gold medals in the velodrome.

Meanwhile Nicole Cooke took gold in the women’s road race at Beijing, and the world championship the following month, while Wiggins won the individual time trial in 2012 less than a fortnight after his Tour de France victory.

Like Wiggins, Brailsford was knighted in the 2013 New Year’s Honours for services to cycling.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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