Great Britain coach Rod Ellingworth talks to Cycling Weekly about how Shane Sutton's exit from the GB set-up may affect the team going into the 2016 Olympic Games

Renowned Team GB coach Rod Ellingworth has lamented the controversial exit of British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton but said it won’t negatively impact on Rio Olympic aims.

Ellingworth, speaking from the Tour de Yorkshire where he is with Team Sky, was responding to reports of the national body being in crisis after successive days of explosive allegations.

Sutton stepped down on Wednesday after claims of sexism, bullying and inappropriate language toward female and Paralympic athletes were levelled at the long-serving and hardnosed Australian.

The furore was sparked when track sprinter Jess Varnish reacted to being dropped from the sprint programme following performance reviews.

>>> Sir Chris Hoy on Shane Sutton: “I have never met anyone who gave so much”

“I’ve always said Shane is a hard man, you know, he’s renowned for being strict but so many people get a lot from that and that’s how he motivates people sometimes,” Ellingworth said. “He drives a hard line and I think that’s really important as well. I believe in it wholeheartedly. Most of my coaching ethos is what I’ve learnt from Shane Sutton.

Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton at the 2012 Olympic Games

Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton (left) at the 2012 Olympic Games

“I’ve heard him be really tough to the lads but that’s part of his job and that’s what you have to be to be,” he continued. “[Predecessor] Dave Brailsford is a hard guy on the decisions but he has a slightly different approach and a different method because he’s a different person. That’s how it is.”

Ellingworth stopped short of saying British Cycling was at a crisis point less than 100 days out from the Rio Olympics and summarised its turbulent week within a broader context of the nature of professional sport.

>>> How British Cycling’s nightmare week unfolded

“It’s not a nice time for them,” he said. “But it is elite sport and it’s been a real successful programme and it will continue to be a successful programme.

“It’s not easy to get people performing, trying to get human excellence, and at times the most successful sporting teams are not the happiest places. That’s got to be clear, that’s the message, it’s not just British Cycling.

“What I will say is there is a hell of a lot of good stuff that goes on at British Cycling and the reason why they have got good results is because of that work from coaches,” Ellingworth continued.

“Shane Sutton has been absolutely in the heart of that for a long time now so I think for him, from a personal point of view, from me to him, this is a real big blow because Shane is a bloody good coach, excellent coach, world class coach.”

>>> Geraint Thomas: Shane Sutton has done more than most for British Cycling

Sutton has not publicly spoken about his exit and there has been speculation that more staff departures could be in the pipeline.

“Shane has proved he’s always thinking of the riders first and I think he’s done that so he doesn’t cause more hassle for anybody,” Ellingworth said. “Obviously people are pointing the finger at him.”

Ellingworth referred to British Cycling’s coach-driven structure when asked if recent events could potentially hurt Rio prospects. He was clear that would not be the case but added Sutton’s presence would be missed.


Watch: racing news – Dave Brailsford and Rod Ellingworth


“This is relatively late in the game in terms of Rio so I think in terms of preparation all the coaches know what they are doing,” he said. “British Cycling’s way of doing it, it’s a coach-led programme and head coach Iain Dyer is still doing his job leading into Rio so I don’t think there is a lot of change there to be honest. All the programmes have been set, everyone has their way of working and the riders know where we are at.

“The issue is more Shane will be missed in those final moments, that’s where his next step would have been, when they’re in holding camp,” he continued. “That final, there will always be a bike rider who is not feeling as good as they should and Shane is fantastic in those situations, so he will be missed there.”

  • Dave2020

    You don’t get it do you? I’m a persona non grata with the BC regime, because I DARED to raise a critical point or two. I’m not even a coach. Why on Earth would they ‘knock on my door’? You are obviously not aware of what happened to anyone on the team who was not happy to conform. The disgraceful treatment of Jess Varnish is just the most public example of an endemic belief that the methods employed (brute force and ignorance) are infallible and not to be questioned. The regime is imposed by a management clique that will countenance no dissent. Now we see the result.

    Sutton is ONLY the figurehead, who also happens to be an ‘abrasive’ character, to put it mildly. A culture of fear (you could lose everything you’re striving for) permeates the rotten system.

    Do you seriously believe that Jess was kicked off the squad “on performance grounds”? Wake up man. If her data over the past three years was a cause for concern, she would have been told that before the 2016 Worlds. She wasn’t, but incredibly, after she truthfully explains the reasons for GB’s failure to qualify for the team sprint (errors of management), she is suddenly “too old” and all her times aren’t good enough!!

    Haven’t you noticed – coaches are very quick to claim credit for any successes and very slow to accept any responsibility for the failures, such as not qualifying. (mainly due to Becky’s injury.)

    Nobody, not even Jess, is permitted to see the data – go figure. All the evidence must be open to independent scrutiny, then we could learn the truth. If the data does show the deficiencies claimed, we can lay the blame for that where it belongs. 3 years ago Jess was forced to take four months off with a back injury, caused by BC’s ill-conceived weight-lifting. Go figure – this regime has been “tried, tested” and found to seriously damage your health. Any coaches unconcerned about that should have their contracts terminated. Athletes in pain don’t perform very well, if at all. . . .

    “I’m in a constant state of fatigue. My legs always feel tired.” – Victoria Pendleton. That sounds like a great way to get results!! All in an atmosphere of bullying ‘encouragement’. “If you want to be an Olympic champion you need to roll up your sleeves and get involved.” – Dave Brailsford. Athletes who have never experienced the joy of racing ‘in the zone’ don’t know what they’re missing. (mind and body as one.)

    See also the CW articles: – ‘Sir Chris Hoy’s golden training rules.’ and ‘My week in training: Jessica Varnish.’ for plenty of evidence of the incompetent training regime.

    “Minimise pain if you wish to maximise gain.” – Words of great wisdom.

  • Chris

    OK I think you have made similar comments several times before. Your coaching theories are different, you have put them forward and they were rejected. Now SS has gone, why are B.C. not knocking on your door? Perhaps the other coaches are happy to stick with the tried, tested and successful.