The dust has settled and the medals have been put on display. The winners' lives are returning to...
The dust has settled and the medals have been put on display. The winners' lives are returning to some vestige of normality, while the disappointed athletes have either retired, or fixed their sights onto new challenges. Athens 2004 is a fast-retreating dot in the rear view mirror; time to move on.
Attention is now turning towards the next Games, to working out what went right - or wrong - last summer and how to use that knowledge to build towards the future. In this two-part exclusive, Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes talked to coaches from Great Britain and Ireland, tracing the very different paths they will follow between now and the next Olympiad.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The 2008 Olympics may be over three years away but the maxim holds true, with the groundwork that is being done now enhancing the chances of medals being won in Beijing.
The Great Britain track team had a strong showing in Athens 2004, with kilometre specialist Chris Hoy and pursuit rider Bradley Wiggins both taking gold medals in their events. Wiggins took two further medals, silver in the team pursuit with Steve Cummings, Paul Manning, Rob Hayles, Chris Newton and Bryan Steel and bronze in the Madison with Hayles. And while Team GB's road prospects were hit by David Millar's suspension for EPO - something he stressed was nothing to do with British Cycling - taking medals in four separate disciplines certainly provoked feelings of envy from other countries.
Click here to read the rest of the interview with British Cycling's head coach, Simon Jones.
In complete contrast, Cycling Ireland gets a far smaller level of government backing and, indeed, is currently in debt. For that reason its approach to the 2008 Games is considerably different.
Looking back at the Athens Games last August, just four Irish riders took part. Mark Scanlon and Ciarán Power lined out in the road race, with the latter taking a highly credible thirteenth place. Robin Seymour and Jenny McCauley competed in the men's and women's MTB cross country events, finishing 30th and 23rd respectively. No track riders qualified for the Games.
It is in this third area that the scene on either side of the Irish Sea differs considerably. The latter wing of the sport was identified several years ago by British Cycling as being an area with a high potential return of medals. It was able to convince - and later prove - to the government that investing in track cycling was a good way to secure Olympic and world championship success. For Cycling Ireland, though, that task has been a more difficult one.
Click here to read the rest of the interview with Irish head coach, Padraig Marrey.
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