Australian national endurance coach Tim Decker has tasted gold medal success in the team pursuit at national championships, world championship and the 2014 Commonwealth Games levels. In 2016, Decker is aiming to add an Olympic Games gold medal to his trophy cabinet. First though, he will look to deliver the team to a third world title in London next week at the Track Worlds under his stewardship that begun following the London Olympic Games.
Four years on from the silver medal ride in London, Rohan Dennis is the only member of the team not going to Rio on the track. In last the Olympic cycle, Australia's team was relatively shallow in quantity not in quality. For Rio, the number of riders up for possible selection is in double, rather than single figures.
"I think we have a group capable of actually winning a gold medal so I am not going to make any decision on the team 'as soon as possible'. The guys need to be, as well as myself, used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable until the time to get comfortable," Decker told Cyclingnews of his approach to the Rio Olympics with the team pursuit squad.
The squad's depth is made evident in the fact that multiple track world champions Jack Bobridge and Alex Edmondson will both be absent from the London Worlds. Their replacements are well and truly up to the task.
"In that period of Glasgow we were in a building phase so I knew a few of these younger athletes were starting to come through but needed another year or two," Decker added of the squad's depth following on from the 2014 gold medal ride at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
"Some of them might need another year. They could potentially miss out on the team and may need another year. I knew that there was a younger group coming and I knew what sort of talent they had. We've put a lot of work to get them to his level so far and we'll keep working to get them to another level."
"I have noticed a lot of differences, the depth and the number of riders capable of riding the times we are expected to ride, and that is a full credit to Tim Decker who has done a great job of continuing the progression of riders out of the junior ranks," Hepburn said.
Glenn O'Shea and Bobridge are the oldest riders in the team pursuit set up at 26, both will be 27 by the time Rio rolls around, and are unlikely to be around for Tokyo 2020. For Bobridge, O'Shea and Hepburn, Rio is about avenging the London loss and is their last chance saloon as Decker expanded upon.
"If they miss out on Rio, some of these younger guys at the moment have nothing to lose because if they miss Rio, they'll be ready for the 2017 season and the 2018 Commonwealth Games," he said. "Some of the older athletes, this could be their last roll of the dice so they are also quite hungry to make it happen. They have to make sure they do everything right just as much as the young guys."
Miles Scotson and Alexander Morgan are two riders who have ridden the World Championships in recent years with the former becoming one of the key riders in the squad. At 22 and 21 respectively, the duo are just two riders placing pressure on their experienced colleagues, however it is a younger group of athletes yet to enter their 20's that have impressed Decker in the past 12-months.
Callum Scotson, the younger brother of Miles who won the Australian national U23 time trial title in January, at 19 may prove to too young for Rio but certainly has time on his side. Sam Welsford, 20, 19-year-old Alex Porter and the 2015 Australian junior cyclist of the year, Rohan Wright, rode to the team pursuit win at the Hong Kong World Cup last month alongside Callum Scotson to suggest this could be a quartet to watch over the next decade.
"It's certainly satisfying because we've put some work into that and one of my aims was to always have a solid base that could keep the pressure on and we would have some number leading into Rio," Decker added of the presence of the younger riders selected in the London Worlds team.
"At the end of the day, you never know what happen across the board. You can't just rely on one athlete, you have to rely on a group of athletes so that's why it so important I built the numbers."
The endurance squad for London includes Luke Davison, Michael Hepburn, Cameron Meyer, Glenn O'Shea, Alexander Porter, Callum Scotson, Miles Scotson and Samuel Welsford. Of the riders selected, all have won a gold medal at either Worlds or a World Cup.
Add into that mix Bobridge and Edmondson, and Australia's run of team pursuit success looks like continuing for several more years thanks in part to Decker’s injection of young talented riders into the set up.
With pressure on for positions, Decker is aiming for the internal competition to ensure no one lets up before August.
"The worse thing that could happen now is that people get complacent and think they have a ticket to Rio already. A few athletes have been to the Olympic before and its not just about going to the Olympics," Decker explained.
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