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GB cycling boss warns against high expectations for Tokyo Olympics

GB cycling boss warns against high expectations for Tokyo Olympics
© Reuters
Britain won just one gold, two silvers and one bronze at the World Championships.

British Cycling's performance director Stephen Park has warned the days of a single team dominating on the track at an Olympic Games are over as he sought to manage expectations ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Great Britain have bossed the velodrome at each of the past three Olympics but have their work cut out this year as the rest of the world catches up.

"I think the days of any nation winning 10-plus medals have probably gone," said Park. "I don't think that is a result of GB's performances decreasing. I think that is a result of the worldwide competition increasing.

"We should temper our expectations."

Elinor Barker's points race victory on Sunday ensured Britain did not end up without a rainbow jersey at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, but this will be the first time Britain will go to a Games without a world champion in any of the Olympic events since 2000.

Their tally of one gold, two silvers and one bronze in Berlin left them seventh in a medal table topped by the Dutch, who took nine medals, six of them gold.

Britain have had worse Worlds – they took only three silvers in Paris in 2015 – but recent Olympic success has always followed glory at the preceding Championships.

They won nine golds at the 2008 Worlds before winning seven at the Beijing Olympics; six golds at the 2012 Worlds were followed by seven at the London Games; and they took five golds at the 2016 Worlds in London before claiming six at the Rio Olympics.

UCI Track Cycling World Championships 2020 – Day One – Velodrom
Great Britain's men's team pursuit squad were off the pace in Berlin (Tim Goode/PA)

The biggest concern is over the men's team pursuit. Britain could only qualify seventh fastest in Berlin, and though their qualifying time of three minutes 50.341 was a British record, the world record of 3:44.672 set by Denmark in the final was on another level.

"The goalposts have moved somewhat and there's a bit more reassessment of that event to go on," Park said.

"But with the exception of the men's team pursuit, people are coming back really positive about the progress made and where they think they are on the trajectory to Tokyo."

Denmark have been helped by aerodynamics expert Dan Bigham, the 28-year-old who rode for Great Britain at the 2018 Worlds but grew frustrated with what he considered a lack of willingness to try new things within British Cycling.

Bigham this week accused Britain of being "lax" in their approach, but Park took issue with that.

"People are welcome to their opinions but I don't think it's valid," he said. "Are there areas around physiological preparation that we need to look at and keep pushing on? Yes.

"Are there other teams who may well have delivered physiologically better than us? Arguably. Is that because we've been lax? I don't think so."

There is no doubt British Cycling has the resources, having been handed just shy of £30million in funding for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, but that budget could be cut if they miss targets.

Park insisted he was confident Britain would hit those targets in Japan, but said they may need to look outside the velodrome to do it.

"I think we have realistic medal opportunities in freestyle, in the women's mountain bike, in BMX racing, and on the road as well," he said.

"We have more possible medal opportunities in Tokyo than we've had before but diversified across different disciplines than we've had before.

"If I was going to predict now, I think we will win less. I don't think any country will win the same number of medals as GB won on the track in Rio, but I am confident that we have a significantly higher potential in the non-track events so I am confident we will hit our medal targets for UK Sport."


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