Shane Sutton says Great Britain’s track cyclists are on course for a successful Olympic Games in Rio next year after the country topped the medal table at the UEC European Track Championships in Grenchen, Switzerland, which finished yesterday.
With less than 10 months to go until next summer’s event in Brazil, British riders won six gold and three bronze medals at the championships, all going to members of the men’s and women’s endurance squads.
Highlights included three gold medals for Laura Trott, in the Omnium, scratch race and team pursuit, where Team GB’s women will defend their Olympic title next year, as will their male counterparts, who also took gold in Switzerland with a squad led by Sir Bradley Wiggins.
With young members of the squad also enjoying success – Katie Archibald won both the elimination race and the individual pursuit, an event in which Ciara Horne took bronze, as did John Dibben in the men’s Omnium and Chris Latham in the elimination race – Sutton with an eye on Tokyo 2020 said the outlook was bright.
The Australian, who became British Cycling’s technical director early last year when Sir Dave Brailsford decided to focus full time on his position as team principal at Sky, told the British Cycling website: "I think it's been one of mixed emotion for the athletes.
“From my point of view I think it's gone really well. Endurance, we've been very strong obviously. We started off with two big golds opening and Laura's been exceptional here.”
The country’s track sprinters missed out on the medals in Grenchen, but Sutton insisted: “I look at the sprint programme and I am taking a lot of positives,” citing Jason Kenny’s narrow quarter-final individual sprint defeat to Jeffrey Hoogland of the Netherlands, who would go on to take gold.
"But,” Sutton went on, “I think he needs a result for his belief systems to come back. We believe in him – it's just a matter of him believing in himself.”
He continued: “I think as an overall squad - there's a lot of experience but there's a hell of a lot of youth as well. And then you see Chris Latham step up in the first ever elimination and he picks up a medal.
"Jon Dibben - it seems as though Jon's been around forever. Jon's still able to win in the under-23 worlds next year.
“So I think, as a squad, in moving forward and if we look forward to say, Tokyo, we've got a really, really good squad going forward towards Tokyo now.”
First, though, are next year’s Games. “Our job is to win medals in Rio first and foremost,” Sutton acknowledged.
“I still believe that the experience we have – the experience with Wiggins, even Trott. She is a master. She seems to have been around forever as well but she's still a kid. But she's got so many big race occasion experiences.”
He added: "I think for Rio, we're on track. But we probably just need to find a little in certain areas. But certainly it looks really good in going forward to Tokyo now, as we start to plan that mission as well.”
Team GB dominated the track events at Beijing in 2008 and again in London three years ago and will go to Rio on the back of a home world championships at Lee Valley.
The event, in front of what are likely to be partisan home crowds, will be a crucial benchmark for a national team geared towards peaking at the business end of each four-year Olympic cycle but came away from this year’s edition in Paris without a single rainbow jersey.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.