GB faces tough battle at 2020 Olympics but can still be confident, says head coach

Nations are being forced to narrow their ambitions to be successful at the Olympics

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Great Britain faces its biggest ever challenge in its quest to dominate the cycling events at next summer’s Olympics, its head coach believes.

In each of the last three Olympics, Team GB’s cycling squad have oppressed the strength of other nations with their own power and talent, topping the medal table at Beijing, London and Rio.

In eight months’ time they will head to Tokyo seeking to add to their 22 gold medals won in the last three Olympics.

But a change in tactics from rival nations during the current Olympic cycle is threatening to end the dominance by British Cycling’s athletes.

Iain Dyer, head coach at BC, told Cycling Weekly: “We are not experiencing one nation that is dominating across the board. Instead we have pockets of excellent from given nations, who in certain disciplines are - by luck or by strategy – excelling in those positions.

“Those nations pose the biggest threat to domineering nations or to the concept of one nation dominating.

“It is getting increasingly difficult for a better resourced nation to be strong across all disciplines. That is not to say that the bigger nations or better resourced ones are falling behind, it’s just a challenge to these nations.”

Dyer listed three examples: “Holland are dominating the men’s sprint events, but they have dropped their men’s team pursuit squad,” he said.

“It is similar with the Canadian women’s team pursuit team. They have galvanised their resources and have put all of their efforts and concentration around that medal chance.

“Denmark’s team pursuit men’s team is amazing, but their team sprint team doesn’t exist.

“Other nations are more tactical with their placement of resources. If resources are more limited, it is a wise decision to make.

“We’re trying to push on all fronts, but others are galvanizing around pockets. It is driving performances forward in those events and performances are getting better across the board in all disciplines.”

In four seasons of World Cups and three World Championships since Rio, there have been many new world records set, including in the men’s team pursuit. Dyer continued: “We are experiencing a huge development in speed and endurance that is being reached outside of the Olympic Games.

“In recent cycles, the Olympics have provided world record times and there would be the odd outlier, or a new record set at altitude.

“But day in and day out, performances at World Cups in this cycle have been staggering. There’s been a massive step up.”

In spite of the cautionary message from Dyer, he was keen to remind fans and rivals that GB’s riders have a proven track record of performing at Olympics.

“There are reasons to feel optimistic with where we are right now,” he said. “We are seeing very encouraging signs that we remain on the right track in chosen disciplines.

“We have shown in the last Olympic cycles that you won’t see our best until the day, and irrespective of how we do in the Worlds at the end of February [in Berlin] I will say the same: judge us on the day in Tokyo.

“A lot of nations haven’t delivered in the Olympics that have delivered at the Worlds before in the same year.

“We do a very good job of making sure we are right on top on the day. The only pressure we put on ourselves to ensure that we are at our best on the day that counts – nothing else matters.”

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.