all know that if they’re going to the Olympics with a GB jersey on people expect them to come back with a medal.
Katie Archibald said recently that every day she’s training with world champions. Even though your efforts might be different to someone else’s, there is still internal competition. Have you given 100%? Have they trained more effectively? Are you riding as well as she is? So it has been about just reflecting a little bit, remembering what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Cyc: Is it hard to balance high performance with athlete welfare?
SP: Well, yes, arguably it is. But if you look at industry, commerce or banking, people have that challenge all the time. There will be peaks and troughs and we shouldn’t get away from the fact that cycling is a tough sport. But that doesn’t mean we can’t deal with people appropriately or that we need to have coaches at the side whipping athletes.
We know some people do need to be pushed. Others need to be supported, guided and coaxed. Some need to be left to their own devices at times. It’s about how to get the best out of people. It’s about trying to support the emotional intelligence of riders and staff so they can have a wholesome experience without diluting performance.
And that’s what the riders are here for anyway. They’re not conscripts. People come here because they want to see how good they can be and they want to be the next Victoria Pendleton or Chris Hoy or Bradley Wiggins. And being involved in the GB cycling team is the best way to do that. People want to focus on winning, but that doesn’t mean it should be a horrible experience. Cyc: UKAD cleared British Cycling and Bradley Wiggins over the unverifiable ‘Jiffy bag’ medication. But were there lessons to learn?
SP: For sure. With regards to UKAD, it’s quite a difficult situation. Clearly we all look at what is going on with Russia, for example, in the Winter Olympics where they received a ban. We all want to operate on a level playing field, and there needs to be policing.
However, it becomes quite damaging for people going through investigations because people put two and two together and come up with five. That makes it quite unpleasant. We’ve seen some of that with Bradley Wiggins and I really feel for him in that regard.
But British Cycling was criticised for the quality of its medical recording and nobody is disputing that. We appointed a new head of medical services in Dr Nigel Jones. We have a new medical administrator who’s responsible for ensuring all those records that weren’t in place are backed up in the right manner. Right now we are putting together a form of medical governance committee to have oversight. It will challenge us about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That’s the right thing.
Cyc: What are the key areas for progress ahead of Tokyo 2020?
SP: Some of our biggest areas of opportunity are in the new BMX Freestyle Park event. With very refined events like the team pursuit, the margins become smaller. But with BMX Freestyle Park, the transitions from now to Tokyo will be huge. After that, the big area is coaching, in terms of empowering the athletes to really own their own performances. That’s not to say I don’t think that has been happening, but I think there is still ground to cover there.
Cyc: Would you be happy to maintain British Cycling’s level of success or are you aiming for more?
SP: Emotionally, yeah, absolutely I want to do better. We want to win everything. But logically, we also know that lots of those big jumps have gone. The performances in Rio and London were outstanding, and whether they will ever be achieved again I don’t know. But every day I think, ‘What can we do better?’ I’m never satisfied. It’s probably one of my faults. ]
Park has also made changes to the way British Cycling manages its medical records following the ‘Jiffy bag’ controversy, including the setting up of a committee to oversee medical governance. ‘It will challenge us about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That’s the right thing’