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Tokyo postponement may boost GB cycling medal hopes says team boss

GB Cycling Team performance director Stephen Park says extra year's preparation could be vital...

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to next year may boost Great Britain’s cycling medal hopes, says British Cycling performance director Stephen Park.

Originally due to have been held from 24 July to 9 August this year, the International Olympic Committee confirmed this week that it now plans to hold the Games of the XXXII Olympiad from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

Park, who formerly spearheaded Great Britain’s Olympic success in sailing joined British Cycling in late 2016, shortly after Team GB’s cyclists had dominated the track events for a third Games in a row.

However, a lacklustre performance at the recent UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin coupled with other countries improving across a number of events meant that it looked as though Great Britain’s dominance would come to an end in Japan this summer.

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The Scot believes however that the additional preparation time afforded by the postponement will enable the country’s track cyclists to get back to top form, reports BBC Sport.

“We're really disappointed that 2020 is not going to happen but there's a feeling also that this extra 12 months is just what we need,” he said.

“But it would be fair to say, yes, we do now have the opportunity to adapt training and set new expectations.

“Jason Kenny, who has the chance to become Great Britain's most successful Olympian, is now saying 'hang on, if we continue to progress [in the team sprint] over the next 12 months the way we have been, then we're going to be in front of the Dutch."

“Ed Clancy [who had been aiming for a fourth successive gold medal in the team pursuit] was due to retire after the summer but he too is thinking there's enough time to do the work required in the team pursuit.”

He also said that the delay would enable Laura Kenny to fully recover from injuries sustained earlier this year, including in a crash at the Track World Championships.

“Laura is one of the best, if not the best in the world,” Park said. “Now it gives her some really good time to recover from those hard knocks.

“Rather than feel she was on the back foot, she now feels she can give her body a chance to recover and be at her best in 2021.”

He added, however, that much would depend on when restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted, allowing riders to fully resume training at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.

 

“There's quite a big gym programme in addition to the track time, using a lot of specialist machinery, and there needs to be staff supervision to make sure it's done effectively,” Park explained.

“So, although we've done a pretty good job of making sure our riders have access to weights at home in addition to their daily rides, it is quite different to how it would be at the National Cycling Centre.”

At the Track Worlds in Berlin, which took place from 26 February to 1 March, Great Britain won just one gold medal, with Elinor Barker clinching victory in the women’s points race, an event not included on the Olympic programme.

Silver medals came in the men’s team sprint and women’s team pursuit, and a bronze in the men’s omnium through Matt Walls.

The country finished an unaccustomed seventh on the medal table, which was topped by the Netherlands with six gold medals with Germany, whose cyclists won four golds, in second place.

The United States and Denmark also clinched two gold medals apiece, and Italy and France also finished above Great Britain on the medal table by virtue of having won more silver and bronze medals.

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.

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