Track su­per­stars

How Team GB have be­come the great­est velo­drome cy­clists on the planet

Cycling Weekly - - Rio Olympics 2016 -

t’s safe to say that Great Bri­tain’s cy­cling team doesn’t like be­ing boiled down to buzz phrases. How­ever there was one phrase that buzzed around the velo­drome cen­tre like a mos­quito over the fi­nal few days of track com­pe­ti­tion in Rio, as jour­nal­ists and rivals tried to get to the bot­tom of Great Bri­tain’s ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess.

The GB cy­cling team — the ath­letes, coaches and mechanics in the track cen­tre but also the army of coaches, sports sci­en­tists and per­for­mance an­a­lysts whose work of­ten goes un­seen — were “con­trol­ling the con­trol­lables.” It meant de­ploy­ing new skin­suits, rid­ing new bikes, and prac­tis­ing starts, changeovers and splits so much in train­ing that they could treat their pre­olympics New­port hold­ing camp as a dress re­hearsal for the real thing.

Laura Trott’s sec­ond com­pe­ti­tion of the Games — af­ter helping GB to dom­i­nate the women’s team pur­suit — is about as un­con­trol­lable a track cy­cling event as you’ll find at the Olympics. The om­nium takes place over two days, in­volves six tests of en­durance and fea­tures three bunch races where just about any­thing can hap­pen. But just you try telling that to the 24-year-old from Cheshunt.

“I felt in con­trol, I felt strong, I felt good out there,” Trott said af­ter win­ning gold and, in so do­ing, be­com­ing Bri­tain’s great­est ever fe­male Olympian. “I’ve done so much hard work for the points race [the fi­nal race in the om­nium], train­ing and do­ing race stuff with [women’s en­durance coach] Paul Man­ning that I knew com­ing into it that I would have the legs for it.”

She had the head for it as well. There are mul­ti­ple races go­ing on within a points race as a rider’s target varies from rac­ing for the hell of it, chas­ing a medal, to de­fend­ing a podium po­si­tion. Each rider’s tac­tics will de­pend on what they feel is the more achiev­able out­come based on their form and what they be­lieve their op­po­nent’s form is. Keep­ing tabs on all of this and watch­ing as tac­tics change mid-race, while rid­ing on the limit, is a task that few riders ever mas­ter.

Trott’s form in Rio was so hot that it al­most off­set the un­pre­dictabil­ity of bunch rac­ing. She held the elim­i­na­tion race — Trott’s spe­cial­ity — un­der her thumb. She fin­ished sec­ond in the open­ing scratch race to Tat­siana Sharakova, mean­ing the Be­larus­sian would be her quarry in the pur­suit and she’d ben­e­fit from a cou­ple of laps of her slip­stream. By the time the points race came around, she made the highly ex­pe­ri­enced Sarah Ham­mer look ragged through­out the 100-lap race, as she wres­tled a bike that looked too big for her.

Track events, Au­gust 11-16

Track cy­cling medal ta­ble Coun­try Gold

Great Bri­tain Nether­lands Germany China Italy USA Aus­tralia Rus­sia New Zealand Den­mark Bel­gium Canada France Malaysia

6 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Sil­ver 4 1 0 0 0 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 Bronze 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 1 1 1 1 To­tal 11 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 1 2 1 1 1 1

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