TalkingShop: GB Track Performance Manager Shane Sutton

The performance manager for Team GB Shane Sutton in a very interesting, forthright and revealing interview about the team for the London World Cup and beyond.

In the past few weeks, VeloUK has spoken to the following athletes who will be competing:
Riders Settling in to London | Sir Chris Hoy | Jason Kenny | Ed Clancy | Joanna Rowsell |
| Matt Crampton | Ed Clancy & Dani King | GB Team | Laura Trott | All 2012 Features

At a recent press day in London, Shane Sutton was quizzed by the Press Association and his answers (below) have been distributed to the press by the GB Team’s Press Office (thanks Abby).

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“I think we’re in a good place” says Shane Sutton who has been the ‘whip’ for the GB team and it’s staff for the last two Olympiads. The Aussie Milk Race winner and more on the road, was quick to keep the press and public’s feet on the ground though by adding “but let’s not get carried away by the outcome of this week. You look at where we were going into March in certain events pre-Beijing (2008), and we were probably half a second down in the Team Sprint on the French and we turned that around by a virtual second to beat them by half a second. So anything can happen.”

Shane Sutton celebrating a victory by the Brits in the 2008 World Track Championships at Manchester.

With the German’s having shown in previous World Cups their enormous strength in depth, and GB seemingly still struggling with Man 1, Sutton explained that the team events are still work in progress and that includes the Team Pursuit as well. Asked what the biggest challenges of 2012 will be, Sutton replied “The challenge is coping with a home Games. That’s the one thing we can take from this week. Evaluate where everyone is, obviously, but more so not be governed by that and just see where we’re at as a team.”

“We have set goals at certain times on the pathway to London, so we’ll need to see where we’re at in line with those performance plans and those goals this weekend, but not be governed by what the others do. It’ll be nice to see where they’re at but not be governed by it and I think if we can just stick to our game plan, we’ll be fine.”

“The challenges are making sure that you come here this weekend and you don’t feel the pressure that you’re going to feel in August. This is just a learning curve, familiarisation, because we’ve all been here and trained on the track and everything else, but we’ve never actually been in competition on the track. So there’ll be a lot of learning to be taken from this weekend.”

Sutton, and the riders know the crowd will be more a cycling crowd than the one at the Olympics. The riders for example will have their families there where as, because of the way the tickets were issued, not all the riders families will have got tickets to the cycling events at the London Olympics. “This crowd will be more knowledgeable than the Olympic crowd” says Sutton. “So anything that we do will be really scrutinised here. But I don’t want the riders feeling any pressure as far as that’s concerned. They put enough pressure on themselves to get a result anyway.”

GB in 2008 when they were on top of the World. In London this weekend, Ed Clancy (second from the left) and Geraint Thomas (right) will try and bring that magic back for the crowd watching.

“I would say 90% across the board, everyone’s in a good place. It’s just a few areas at this moment in time we need to work on. And it is exploratory in certain areas, so there’s work being done but we’re still exploring combinations etc, etc and so we just need to get out there and be the best we can but also try to learn something from this week going forward. That’s the key.”

Asked about the Team Pursuit teams, Men and Women, and how the selections were made, Sutton replied “It was a tough decision but we ran a couple of hit outs last week and we saw a couple of things that we felt needed to be addressed and we thought the sooner we narrow it down, the better. “Andy Tennant, albeit he’s missed the team this week, doesn’t mean he’ll miss the team for the Worlds. So we’ve gone with what we think is our best four option available to us in this competition, and we still have other people like Wiggins out in the wings, depending on which pathway he takes.”

“But this is the best team that we’ve got at the moment and people look at it and think the Team Pursuit is the Ashes (Britain versus Australia). Well, I see the Team Pursuit as just one medal. When you look at the Sprint disciplines, you’ve got three medals in Women’s Sprint, three medals in Men’s Sprint. We’ve got one medal in Men’s TP, so we’ve got to be careful that we don’t just pour all our energies into that.”

Are the line-ups in these events now fixed?
“No” says Sutton. “We’re still experimenting. I think our one-to-one coaching’s the best in the World and I think the sooner you get a narrower focus, you can steer it easier. And I think that’s what we’ve done now. With the Women, that four, they’re the four chosen – that’s it. They’re on the pathway to Olympic selection. Someone will miss out but it’s one person.

“In the Men’s TP, we’ve got to get it a little bit narrower. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close. The Women’s is pretty much fixed. So we’re pretty much there, nice and narrow.”

Men’s Team Sprint — Is Ross Edgar the team’s Man 1 now?

“That’s not done and dusted. As I said, that’s one of the areas that we’re looking at. It’s exploratory at the moment. Crampton’s over riding for Sky this week. He’s been trialled at Man Two and he’s done a good job at Man Two in the Revolution on the back of a long night. So, we’ve still got options there but it’s narrow. We’ve only got four athletes for three places, as it were, in the Team Sprint for men. So I think we’ve got the four and that’s the core group at this minute, and I can’t see anyone from outside that four making the team.”

And when is the final decision made? “I think it’s July. It’s late, the 14th or… We don’t own the team, the BOA own the team, so I think they announce it around about the 14th.”

“It’s a big opportunity for Ross Edgar this weekend. People will look at this and they’ll be very judgemental if we don’t perform in the Team Sprint. But, what you’ve got to remember is that we’ve got a guy stepping up. He’s put his hand up, he’s stepping up to the plate, he’s not a Man One, he’s not a natural Man One, but he’s giving it his best shot. As far as the Team’s concerned, I think everybody needs to get behind that. Ross has gone Man Two and did 12.8 at Man Two.”

“We all know that if Ross had ridden Man Two in Beijing, he’d be Olympic champion. They won it by a country mile. Ross was nudged out by a very, very fast young kid on that trial that we had in Newport by a tenth and therefore we obviously went with Jason Kenny, he’s an Olympic champion now. Ross sat on the side-lines, unfortunately. So I don’t see this being the end of the road for Ross by a long shot.”

“I think if he misses it and he doesn’t hit a good time, then it’s the same pathway Jason Kenny took. He trained the whole year for Man One – he was going quicker than Jamie Staff in 2008 in Denmark. He did 17.6 or whatever – can’t remember the exact time – but then ended up the best Man Two in the world; he did a 12.5. So Ross is not out of the team by a long shot if he doesn’t perform this weekend.”

Ben Swift — Track or Road
Riding the Omnium after two or more months doing track work is the job for Ben Swift in London this weekend. Asked about Ben and whether its the track or the road for him, Sutton replied “It’s a difficult one for Ben at this moment in time. It concerns me, that Ben just hasn’t hit his straps in this block. The guy’s already posted a ’55’ to his name in Denmark at the Worlds, lost the World Championship by not even a tenth of a second, I think, to the team that’s virtually racing here.”

Ben Swift (second from the left) with the GB Team Pursuit squad with their Silver medal – L-R, Steven Burke, Ben Swift, Andy Tennant and Ed Clancy.

“That line-up that we’re racing here is the team that Swifty, Burkey, Andy and Ed virtually dead-heated with in Denmark. So I’m a bit concerned that Ben hasn’t stepped back up to that level. The problem is perhaps he’s too versatile? He could go out and win Pro-Tour stage races and he’s a Tour rider – he can do everything. He just hasn’t come back to the boards the way I thought he would have.”

“But that doesn’t rule him out for the Worlds either. He’s going to ride the Omnium here, so a bit more board time….”

“If you take Ed, a pure track rider who’s gone round all the World Cups basically, the Team Pursuit should not be judged here. They will perform well, I’m sure of that, but ultimately, we’re just getting into that phase now where we need board time. We’ve got G (Geraint Thomas) back off the road. He’s come back from the Tour Down Under, so the more board time we get with him, we’re just going to get better every week.”

Individual Sprint – Sir Chris Hoy versus Jason Kenny?
Asked what selection parameters there were for the individual sprint, Sutton explained “It will go down to evidence. You’ve got a very speedy, young athlete, super-fast athlete and current world champion versus the great Sir Chris Hoy, triple-Olympic champion, power to burn. You’ve got power versus speed, so how do you pick? Do you race them off?”

“At the end of the day, we’ve just got to get through this process, get through this World Cup. Obviously the Worlds is a big one for both of them – that’ll be a big event and it will go a long way towards Olympic selection. But we’ve not really sat down and thought exactly what would happen if they both made the final of the Worlds, they went one-all and someone just went to sleep in the last one – who would still be the best? You don’t know. That’s an on-going process, how we’re going to deal with that situation. But it’s a beautiful situation to be in.”

“Given what I’ve seen from Sir Chris of late, he’s coming back to his best. Then again, Jason’s on fire, so it’s going to be a tough decision and there is no dead-set formula. There is a discretionary line in there as far as selection’s concerned. But there are certain parameters, and one of them would be who performs best in the Worlds has probably got the first foot in the door, as it were.”

Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny talk over their sprint match at Revolution this year. 

Does the discretionary aspect play into Chris Hoy’s’ hands? “No, no, no. We’d look at everything across the board there. We’d probably leave it as late as possible as well, because of fluctuations in form. Some people can get themselves right up for a trial if we were to trial. But then, if you look at our history and our data from trials, we don’t get anywhere near what we can get on race day. So, we’d look at form and form comes via evidence.”

“We’d look at the evidence and what sort of powers they’re producing, what sort of times they’re producing in their training. Because they train on same wheels, same bikes, same versions of everything. So you get a consistency within your evidence on the pathway to actually finalising your selection. But it’s a difficult one, that.”

Asked if the team could leave out a great name in British sport, Sutton replied “You remove yourself from the person, that’s how you do it. You don’t look at the person, you look at the numbers. What we do is get a graph and all there is, say for team pursuit, are four different colours. That’s all you’ve got. The colours are then your evidence. So you’re removing the name from the person. You’re just seeing the speeds, the powers, all the traces that you need to see.”


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