After Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant lay the blame on the coaches for Britain's failure to qualify the women's team sprint for the Rio Olympics, Shane Sutton says the athletes need to take ownership

British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton hit back at criticism from team sprinters Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant, saying everyone needs to be accountable for Great Britain not qualifying for the Olympics in the event.

Varnish and Marchant finished fifth in qualifying on the opening day of the UCI Track World Championships in London on Wednesday, not high enough to guarantee them a place in Rio in August.

With Olympic qualification starting in 2014, Varnish said the decisions of the coaches to field development athletes rather than the ‘A team’ at major events is the reason why Britain has failed to reach the required standard, despite riding a personal best in London this week.

“That was a brilliant ride by them, a personal best, and it shows how they have progressed under their new coaches,” Sutton said. “But this programme is about taking ownership and looking at the group, they’ve collectively not qualified. They’ve not been good enough.

“A big factor in this is Becky James being out for so long, that’s been a drain on resources and in certain World Cups we’ve fielded different lineups. I’d like to think every athlete on the programme would take responsibility for their performances.

“The resources put into them are unmatched and to shift the blame is unfair on the support services around them. But you have to remember that emotions were running high.”

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Varnish pointed to the decision to send development rider Rosie Blount to partner her at the European Championships in 2014 as one that has played a part in their failure to qualify.

The pair finished outside the medals just months after Varnish and James won bronze at the World Championships in the spring.

“It should not be their job,” Varnish said of the development riders. “To have to qualify for the Olympic Games, it should not be a development programme. It should be A team, A team, A team. It’s not happened. This is through absolutely no fault of our own. We’re fifth in the world, we’ve beaten so many of the teams, this is the best we’ve ever competed and we’re not going to the Olympics.”

Finishing fifth in qualifying means that Great Britain did not contest the medals in the evening’s final, which saw China relegated to silver medal after an illegal changeover, handing Russia the gold.

Great Britain’s men also finished outside the medals, qualifying in sixth place on Wednesday.

  • gr1nch

    Well said

  • ummm…

    Thank you for the response. I understand that these very talented women wish they could have gone to every event and presumably qualified prior to the final event. Thats not how a team works. Possibly strategy could have been better, but they could have still qualifed if they beat france by two spots and did well. I dunno, im no expert. I think it is poor form to blame the coach in such a public and self interested way.

  • Peter Handy

    I think the point people are trying make is that the Worlds was just one event in the qualifying series, and that THEY were NOT the ones on the bikes for some of the qualifying events and therefore did not qualify. I don’t know the qualifying criteria but presumably they could have won the Gold medal at the WC and not qualified for the Olympics if the qualifying events had not been ridden? Maybe someone who knows the system could tell me.

  • Peter Handy

    If BC wanted to send a team to the Olympics, they could have done so by entering the best team into the qualifying events, thereby qualifying. They didn’t.

  • Michael

    I’d reply but last time I disagreed with you, you started crying and it was embarrassing for everyone to watch.

    Maybe you should just enjoy the pictures and wait for mummy and daddy to pick you up.

    The change in BC results is not “sudden” (and really has nothing to do with this result in isolation) – once again you show that you don’t have any knowledge of cycling as a sport because you’re not watching it or following it, you’re just posting on articles.

    It’s notable too that the experienced stalwarts who don’t really need coaching are still producing the goods.

  • ummm…

    would they have qualified if they podiumed? We have to understand that in many sports young talent needs to be nurtured and put in game situations.

  • ummm…

    not cutting it for the olympics. but i say that in service of highlighting that THEY were on the bikes and didn’t qualify. not sutton

  • So being 5th in the world championships isn’t cutting it ?!?!? They make a valid point as does Bruce.

  • Yes you are right you don’t understand or seem to have read the article. Qualifying for the Olympics was a points based league table and started back in 2014. What the girls are saying is that had they been allowed to race at every race then they would have qualified for the Olympics but British Cycling sent riders who were not as good to some of these events and they did not come away with the points needed so the British girls failed to qualify despite being 5th in the world at this time.

  • ummm…

    I think you may be overreacting. I think it is fine to audit executive management when there are perceived under performances. I think it is a completely different animal when we are doing so at the behest of two employees that just dropped the ball. What should have been done was an internal conversation, or wait a little while and leak a story to the press later. Right now they just look like they are sore losers on the track and trying to blame everyone but themselves. Did they not get a best time even as they lost?

  • ummm…

    Hasn’t BC dominated for some time? The resources they receive are unmatched! Suddenly two sore losers start throwing blame at everyone NOT riding a bike and we ahve a full blown problem. You bring up interesting points, but this is a large operation and these twerps want to throw the baby out with the bath water because they couldnt cut it

  • ummm…

    i dont understand how they were good enough, didnt win, and blame the guys are the sideline not on the bike. Didn’t they hit a personal best? Your comment is baffling. What am I missing?

  • Michael

    This is bad not because they didn’t qualify but that they are both pointing fingers at each other.

    What seems self-evidently clear since 2012 ended and Brailsford left his role is that Sutton – no matter how good he was as Brailsford’s right-hand guy – is no match, nor replacement or substitute, for him.

    Indeed, if Sutton were better he’d have recognised this and done something about finding someone to do the role that Brailsford did and he cannot. If he’d done that 2 years ago when the Brit results were already sliding, they might have turned things around for Rio. Instead Sutton always acted as though nothing was wrong.

    Which is a pity. Because British cycling has been a huge success. Which not only has given Britain a big boost at the last 2 Olympic games, it’s helped increase the use of cycling as a means of fitness and transport amongst the general population in the UK too.

    Of course Brailsford’s abilities in some of these regards is still evident in road cycling as Team sky continued to achieve things with riders like WIggins (albeit he’s doing his own team now) and Froome.

    I think it too late for Rio. Hopefully British cycling will replace Sutton (keeping him on at what he can do well) soon afterwards though. Worse thing though cycling could lose the funding they enjoy if they don’t get the results this year.

  • Bruce Daly

    We have no idea what is going on, but there are some facts that are worrying…… What happened to John Paul – Junior world champion 3 years ago? What happened to Danielle Khan Junior World champion 2 years ago? What happened to Mathew Rotherham who has increased his speed by 2/10’s since being asked to leave BC? Why isn’t the fastest GB sprinter this year(Lewis Olivar) included in the squad? Why were Rosie Blount and Danni Khan sent for ‘experience’ to important qualifying races?
    There’s a lot more questions that need to be answered and hint at the fact that things are not right at BC.

  • Well the girls were good enough so yes looks like the coaching staff were to blame.

  • TimSE

    Can’t see how this washing of the dirty linen in public is helping anyone.