This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
In a few days time the track cycling programme at the 2012 Olympic Games will draw to a close. For Dan Hunt, the Great Britain coach behind the men’s team pursuit gold, Monday morning will be the end of one chapter and start of another. A debriefing will start a process that will ultimately lead to the re-building of the Olympic champion’s pursuit team for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Both Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh are expected to return to the road and may bring their track careers to a conclusion. It’s a similar position to 2008 when Bradley Wiggins’s dedication to road began and Paul Manning retired.
“That was probably the last time that we’ll see Geraint on the track. Pete’s main ambitions now lie on the road, although he’s not ruled himself out of ever coming back. He may put himself in the Rio line up. That very much relies on where his road career goes. Certainly we won’t see him on the track this year,” Hunt told Cyclingnews.
It leaves Great Britain reliant on Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant and Stephen Burke as their mainstays for future pursuit successes. However, if the Kilo returns to the Olympic programme, Clancy may also turn his back on the team pursuit.
Video: Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh after their team pursuit win
In the years after the team’s pursuit gold in Beijing, Denmark and Australia won world titles as Britain sought a winning formula. Riders came in, Ben Swift was given an opportunity, and it took until April of this year before the reigning Olympic champions won their first world championship title.
Peaking for London has been key and the questions surrounding Great Britain’s decline after a fourth place in the 2009 Worlds is a distant memory. Not only that, but the talent pool looks as healthy as ever.
“We had the initial squad back in November and it had seven and it contained Sam Harrison, and he’s a star, a potential big player in the future. Although we need to carefully manage his next couple of years. I think Ben Swift, never say never with him, and he may well be on the track in the build up, although it’s unlikely that he’ll go team pursuit in Rio. It’s really about retaining two or three [from London] and then rebuilding,” Hunt said.
“Obviously we lost Bradley entirely after Beijing and it was only Thomas who was coming back. I think that you can do it but it needs be carefully programmed and carefully planned. You need to have a very good relationship with the pro team. It is doable but you have to be pretty exceptional to do it.”
Mark Cavendish has made it clear that he would consider a move back to the boards –preferably on the pursuit team for Rio – and while Hunt told Cyclingnews yesterday that he would welcome any British rider with the necessary talent, he also spelt out that any rider considering track for the 2016 Games would have to become an out-right specialist.
“The way team pursuit is going, it’s going to be a much more track specific disciple as we start to head towards under the 3:50s. The average road rider doesn’t have the speed so it’s going to take a very specialist athlete to race the team pursuit at the highest level in years to come.”
Line-ups and times will be forged and re-forged in the time between now and Rio 2016 but Hunt has already allowed himself some time to contemplate different scenarios.
“Your mind wonders as a coach but as of Monday I don’t have a plan if I’m completely honest. One hundred percent of every bit of focus and concentration has gone into team pursuit here. Everything else, I’ll worry about afterwards. I know who is coming up, I know who we’ve got and we’ve integrated them in. Obviously we retained Clancy, Burke and Tennant. We got a good pool of riders. On Monday morning, that’s when I’ll start thinking about how fast we want to ride in Rio: who are the people, who are players and who are going to be coach.”