The European Track Championships in Switzerland is the latest stepping stone for the Great Britain team ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016, and with Bradley Wiggins fit and ready the team are in great shape, according to technical director Shane Sutton.
Wiggins returns to Great Britain duty for the first time in several seasons and will be a central part in the squad's team pursuit ambitions and, although Ed Clancy is out through injury, Sutton expects the squad to step up.
“You’re testing yourself against yourself to see whether the progression is where it needs to be. There are a few big blows with Clancy being out but these things happen. We have to accept that not everyone is going to be fit for the Games, so that means going out there with the best team possible,” Sutton told Cyclingnews.
Great Britain topped the medal table at the last European Championships in Guadeloupe with six gold medals and eight in total, including the men's and women's individual and team pursuit titles. However, Sutton has not put any medal target in place for his team, suggesting that the main ambition is to display improvement ahead of the Olympics. With a number of spots still open ahead of the Games, and with the Cali Track World Cup around the corner, medals will of course be crucial in Switzerland.
“We’ve not put any medal hauls in place, so it’s just about making sure that we’re as good as we can be. Hopefully we’ll get some rewards from that because they’ve all been working incredibly hard and progressing well.”
“It’s the European Championships and that’s not something to be sniffed at. You’ve got to be able to perform on the big stages and this is one of them. There are a lot of good squads in Europe and even if you don’t have the Kiwis, Australians and a few others, everyone else is there. It’s a big stepping stone for everyone involved in the team and you only get so many big championships in a year. We’re treating it with the full respect it deserves and sending the best possible team.”
The men’s team pursuit squad for Rio is still undecided and despite Wiggins’ presence in his first senior European Championships, none of the five spots have been cemented. Three of the four riders from last year’s championship success return but Mark Cavendish, according to Sutton, is still in with a chance.
“I think that we’re close with the guys that we have out there but then you have Ed and there’s always the possibility of a leftfielder coming through in the next twelve months. We have some great Academy lads that we’ll be looking closely at, so we have options,” Sutton told Cyclingnews.
“For Mark, that door isn’t closed. Cav just needs to get over this injury. He’s keen as mustard. It’s a shame that he and Brad can’t ride at the London Six Day, so that’s a bit of a setback in one way but the door is always open for Mark. He’ll come in and do some team pursuit training and we’ve got to keep every door open.”
Wiggins comes into the track meet having recently recovered from a bout of illness that took him out of the track nationals. Sutton believes that the Tour de France winner’s experience will be key this week, providing a calming influence for some of the less experienced member of the team.
“He’s had a bit of a bug but he’s quite resilient and he’s bounced back pretty quick. He’s in good shape. He’s looking forward to his first big test back in GB colours in quite a while. He wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t ready.”
“With Brad you get that leadership because you have the ultimate professional. He’ll be organised and dialed in. That gives the young guys a good lead and he’s been in some huge battles before, so he’ll bring a nice calming influence to them.”
“From a performance point of you view he’ll want to contribute too so if the coach turns around and asks for 14.2 laps I think he can deliver.”