British Cycling have appointed a new head of technical development to oversee Team GB’s equipment development and training analysis programmes until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Aerodynamics specialist professor Tony Purnell – former team principal at the Jaguar Formula One motor racing team and the founder of Pi Research, which made performance analysis tools and control systems for racing cars – will take up the role.
He will work alongside Chris Boardman, who was head of research and development at BC until the 2012 Olympics and is still a consultant for the federation.
“British Cycling is an exciting organisation to work for – their elite performance record is as good as any in any sport; it’s a tough challenge to maintain such a standard, yet alone better it, but that has to be the goal,” Purnell said.
“I intend to spend the next two or three months meeting the people across all areas of the team and understanding what has been done in the past,” he added. “After that, well, I just hope to be able to suggest a good direction for the future that delivers the goods.”
British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford, who is also principal at Team Sky, said: “We are very fortunate to have some of Tony’s experience and ability to work with the riders and coaching staff.”
UK Sport have allocated £37m to elite cycling for the next Olympic cycle leading up to the Games in Rio.
British Cycling have developed an enviable Olympic record. Athletes took a total of 16 gold medals at the Games in London in 2012 and Beijing in 2008. They also have a record for pushing technical boundaries to the limits. In 2010, the UCI warned the federation that their specialist track bikes, which cost thousands to develop, needed to be available for sale to the general public.
Last year’s Olympics were a high watermark in new technical developments. The British road team rode specially made UK Sport road bikes, and athletes wore ‘hot pants’ that kept muscles warm ahead of competition. As the Team GB medals piled up, the French team's director, Isabelle Gautheron, suggested the wheels used by the British team were illegal because they covered them up a lot.