Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s Director of Performance, declared his riders and backroom staff “ready to go, ready to race” during a pre-Olympic press call at Newport Velodrome in South Wales yesterday.
This was the last chance for the media to hear the thoughts of riders and staff before British Cycling’s Olympic challenge goes into lockdown mode for 10 days prior to the journey to Beijing. Based at Newport’s Celtic Manor Hotel, in addition to the nearby velodrome and mountainous roads of South Wales, the athletes’ final training period will include the use of a special chamber at the track facility to help acclimatise their bodies to the heat and humidity that will be encountered in China.
And after the stellar performance at the last two World Championships, not to mention Mark Cavendish’s four stage wins in the Tour de France, Brailsford and his team are clearly chomping at the bit.
“This is the best British team in history,” he said. “We’re confident but not over-confident or arrogant, and we can’t wait to get racing.”
He spoke about breadth and the depth of his squad which features a mix of established world class competitors and exceptional young talent as well as the team of backroom staff which he said was one of the best that had been assembled in any sport, anywhere in the world.
Brailsford said that he has been bowled over by the current levels of interest in British Cycling. As for the potential medal haul, while he acknowledged that a target of six has been agreed with UK Sport, he preferred to talk about riders aiming for specific times and performing up to the level of their abilities. If they do that, he said, it would take a good team to beat his athletes.
He also told BikeRadar about the contribution the team’s Sports Psychiatrist, Dr Steve Peters, has made to the squad. Peters, he said, helped “oil the wheels” in terms of allowing team members to recognise when they were thinking and acting emotionally rather than logically.
“He acts as a great neutral outlet for riders and staff,” said the Performance Director. “I see eye-to-eye with him on the idea that the way to achieve excellence is by nurturing and mentoring people, and giving riders ownership of their training programmes so that we take a background role.”
As for overall team selection, Brailsford and his staff said that the team had largely selected itself with just one or two final pieces of the jigsaw remaining to slot into place. The following 25 athletes have already been confirmed to compete in 15 events:
Shanaze Reade (Women’s BMX)
Liam Phillips (Men’s BMX)
Oliver Beckingsale, Liam Killeen
Jonny Bellis (Men’s Road Race)
Steve Cummings (Men’s Road Race & Individual Time Trial)
Roger Hammond (Men’s Road Race)
Ben Swift (Men’s Road Race)
Nicole Cooke (Women’s Road Race)
Sharon Laws (Women’s Road Race)
Emma Pooley (Women’s Road Race)
Steven Burke (Team Pursuit)
Mark Cavendish (Madison)
Edward Clancy (Team Pursuit)
Ross Edgar (Team Sprint and Keirin)
Chris Hoy (Sprint, Team Sprint and Keirin)
Jason Kenny (Sprint and Team Sprint)
Paul Manning (Team Pursuit)
Chris Newton (Points Race)
Victoria Pendleton (Sprint)
Rebecca Romero (Women’s Pursuit and Points Race)
Jamie Staff (Team Sprint)
Geraint Thomas (Team Pursuit)
Bradley Wiggins (Individual Pursuit, Team Pursuit and Madison)
Wendy Houvenaghel (Women’s Individual Pursuit)