Great Britain sprint coach Justin Grace has insisted that there is no secret behind the team's run of success at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Great Britain has scored four gold medals thus far at the Games, landing victory in the men’s individual and team sprints, and both the men’s and women's individual pursuit events.
Grace joined British Cycling in August 2014 and has experienced Britain’s remarkable track success from both sides of the fence, following stints as sprint coach in his native New Zealand and in France.
"When I was in New Zealand, I used to ask myself: 'What’s special in Manchester?' I can tell you: we do everything in every department a little bit better than the others, and that’s all. Don't look: there’s no secret, no magic. Only some good training and great athletes," Grace told L’Équipe. "We take care of all of the details. I was in both camps and I can tell you that we do everything correctly."
Grace spent just one year at the helm of the French squad and parted company with the French Cycling Federation despite a World Track Championships that yielded a hat-trick of rainbow jerseys for Francois Pervis.
National Lottery funding has often been cited as a pivotal factor in Britain's superiority on the velodrome, but Grace believes that the France set-up – which has yet to land a medal in Rio – suffers from no particular lack of finances or technology relative to their rivals across the Channel.
"In France we had everything we needed in terms of training and facilities," Grace said. "Certain projects that I started were followed through, like the wind tunnel, the new handlebars and an evolved bike. The biggest problem at the time was that we were transferring from the INSEP training centre to the new velodrome at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. But there has always been money, you just need to spend it intelligently."
As in London in 2012, the British track team has delivered a series of remarkable performance at the Olympic Games after some underwhelming showings at the World Track Championships over the preceding four years.
"The principal difference is patience," Grace said. "I think that France wants big results all the time. In Great Britain, you're left time to build a programme. I'm not saying that you go and do nothing at the Worlds for three years, but, stage by stage, it's easier to prepare for the Games."
Callum Skinner, in particular, has made a striking improvement on his showing at March's Track Worlds in London, where he placed 8th in the individual sprint and he was part of a British trio that could only manage 6th in the team sprint. The Scot anchored Britain to gold in the team sprint in Rio, and then took silver behind teammate Jason Kenny in the individual event.
"We made some changes with Callum before the last Worlds, but they didn't show," he said. You need everything to make a rider emerge, there's no secret. I could have done the same thing in France but I didn't have the time. Remember, in New Zealand, it was the same thing. I took some young riders and within three years, there were second at the Worlds [in the team sprint] and a year later, they won gold."