Progress despite gold medal drought, says Brailsford
The British track cycling team, once so dominant in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, may be in the midst of a minor gold medal drought, but British cycling's performance manager David Brailsford said he is not worried despite losing his main male endurance rider, Ed Clancy.
Clancy dropped out of the 2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships after a botched attempt at coming back from an illness. Clancy started the men's team pursuit qualifying yesterday but it was quickly apparent he was not up to the task.
"Clancy had a virus and didn't train last week, and it was a bit of a gamble bringing him here," Brailsford told Cyclingnews. "We rested him up, but obviously he didn't feel great, and it was clear he wasn't riding like Ed Clancy. So we decided to withdraw him."
The team scrambled to substitute him with 18-year-old Sam Harrison, who helped to salvage the night and gain bronze with the men's pursuit team. Harrison will now skip today's individual pursuit in order to focus on the omnium, where he will replace Clancy, who won the event in the Cali World Cup in December.
Brailsford indicated he was putting no pressure on his young rider Harrison, saying he would ride for experience in the event. "We can only do what we can do, there's no point in worrying about it."
In the lead up to it's near total domination of the Beijing Games, Great Britain scored seven gold medals at the 2007 worlds in Mallorca, but in five events so far, the British have come away only with bronze in the men's team sprint and pursuit.
While the lacklustre performance may be worrying to British fans, Brailsford said he won't be disappointed unless the team fails to perform in its home Games next summer.
"The biggest disappointment would be if we didn't perform in London. It's all a stepping stone for London. Right now we have the opportunity to run some young riders. It would be nice if we picked up some gold, but if someone's ill, they're ill, there's nothing you can do."
In 2007, the team looked like a well-oiled machine, with Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton performing as expected, while the top riders participated in the men's endurance events. They then went on to steamroll the Beijing Games, claiming seven gold medals.
In Apeldoorn, the focus still appears to be on looking to the next generation to give a boost to the men's and women's endurance teams. Olympic gold medalists Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas chose to focus on the road, and the British came to the Netherlands with a group of young and somewhat inexperienced riders.
Brailsford said they are still "tinkering around" with the team. "We've got two young girls who are in their first world championships in team pursuit and Sam, who's 18. We want to perform, but I think we still have a lot to give.
"The worlds are important - you have to recognize that. London 2012 is massively important, but Rio's the next thing and we have a new generation coming up. Life goes on, you can't take your eye off that ball that's for sure."
He echoed the words of star sprinter Hoy, who after taking bronze in the men's team sprint hailed the squad's progress.
"We closed the gap a little to the Germans and French. ['08 Olympic team member] Jamie [Staff]'s moved on, but we've started closing the gap so that's good news for us. We're progressing, chipping away. From our point of view there are quite a lot of positives to take out of that."
When asked where he thought his team might break the gold rush drought, Brailsford refused to speculate.
"We'll see how we go. We're in for medal chances in quite a few events, but have to see how we go on the day."
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