When it comes the London Olympics, Dani King, Joanna Rowsell, Wendy Houvenaghel and Laura Trott will have a former rider in their corner who knows what it takes to win Olympic Gold, Paul Manning.
The women’s endurance coach, Olympic Champion Paul Manning, will be the person pulling the strings at the London Olympics as he steers his girls towards the ultimate reward, Olympic Gold. Manning’s task is to manage his team of four and put out on the track the best trio to negotiate three hurdles – qualifying, round one and, hopefully, a finals ride.
King, Rowsell and Trott rode both the qualifying and final ride in Melbourne as they broke the World Record twice on their way to a World Championship victory, whilst Houvenaghel was used at the London Track World Cup in qualifying, before King replaced her in the final. The Olympics, however, will require the three rounds to be ridden in two days with just an hour between round one and the finals, a demanding schedule that Manning admits will need careful consideration when deploying riders.
Paul Manning with Dani King and Laura Trott.
Speaking to British Cycling, he says “Given we have only got an hour we have to make a quick decision,” Manning said. “We will continue to support all four and look at what our best options are. It might take the one ride for us to decide what the next ride looks like, there is nothing set in stone. We did the very same thing at the Worlds and the World Cup – we will consider utilising all four because they are so close it is a genuine prospect we will use them. We just have to see how the competition pans out and ultimately where everyone’s form is on the run in, it will be a very tough decision.”
“We just want to be in control of what we are doing,” Manning added, in reference to the importance of a calculated ride after the perfectly judged effort at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne (Worlds). “It will be different at the Games with three rides and how we measure the rides and the final rides being close together. We had a little go at the Worlds when there was three hours between qualifying and the final and we went quicker again than some of the competition on that ride which gives us confidence that we can recover but it is slightly different.”
Regardless of the three athletes that are rolled out on the track, Manning expects further improvements in what he describes as a ‘young event’, with further seconds expected to be chipped away from the World Record. “It’s still a young event – it’s only really leapt forward in 2012 really, that the times have only significantly gone below three minutes and twenty”.
“You see the men’s team, they are improving and the margins are becoming smaller and smaller. I think there’s a lot more to come – if you think of the group they are doing everything together for the first or second time [in competition]. We’ll become much better when we spend a bit more time doing things together. It’s got to be right on the day – the competition environment and the team. That’s the beauty of the event, getting them all right on the day. The sky is certainly the limit.”
“I do think it (the world record) will go again, maybe that will establish something that is tough to beat over the next three or four years. It’s a time-trial in the qualification but it does become a race and time is less relevant, you’re just interested in the win. Certainly this summer we won’t care if we break the world record it’s whether you win the gold in that final ride.”
After a short break following the track world championships, the quartet are to spend some time away from the boards and move onto the road – both domestically and on the continent – before returning in late May to commence their build-up to the Games.