CW’s British Riders of 2012: No. 18-17

Cycling Weekly is revealing the top 50 2012 British Riders of the Year, counting down every day until December 19.

The top 10 will be revealed in Cycling Weekly’s Christmas issue, on sale from Thursday December 20.


Olympic and world team pursuit champion

Steven Burke is the quiet man of the team pursuit squad, at least in terms of his public and media profile.

Four years ago, as a 20-year-old, he was the surprise package of Great Britain’s track squad – travelling to Beijing as back-up for the team pursuit, getting a ride in the individual pursuit and astonishing everyone by winning a bronze medal.

In the spell between Olympic Games, Burke developed into a fixture in the team pursuit squad so seamlessly that it is easy to underestimate how difficult that was to do.

Think back to Pruszkow and the 2009 World Championships, where Burke, Jonny Bellis, Ed Clancy and Peter Kennaugh qualified third fastest and lost to New Zealand in the bronze medal race for an idea of how far he progressed.

Because the team pursuit is not as simple as slotting Geraint Thomas back in for the important races and hoping everything works out okay.

Burke became an integral part of the unit, as important to its success as his more famous team-mates.

Looking at 2012, the shock of being defeated by Australia in the London World Cup in February may just have been the best thing to have happened to them because a few weeks later, the British broke the world record at the World Championships in Melbourne.

At the Olympic Games, they operated like a machine – breaking the world record in qualifying and then doing it again in the final. The time – 3:51.659 seemed unthinkable even four years ago. Now Great Britain’s target is to go below 3-50.

And Steven Burke may not be as well-known to the man in the street as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Sir Chris Hoy or even Clancy and Thomas, but he was one of the men who made that happen.


Olympic and world team pursuit champion

Take a look at Pete Kennaugh’s silhouette when he’s off the bike and you’d swear you were looking at a specialist mountain climber. He’s small, lightweight, compact and perfectly built for the climbs. He’s only 5ft 8in and he tips the scales at 62kg. He’s built for the Alps and the Ardennes.

Now consider the power output required to be a member of Great Britain’s world record-setting team pursuit squad.

It seems the two are incompatible.

And yet the 23-year-old from the Isle of Man established himself as a key part of the team pursuit squad.

Partly that’s because Great Britain has reshaped what it means to be a team pursuiter. It used to be all about brawn but now it’s an event of such sophisticated subtlety. It’s for pure pedallers and those with the innate ability to judge their effort to the watt and the second.

Kennaugh has always been a team pursuiter, of course, winning European titles as a junior and under-23. He’s been schooled on the track, winning the under-23 Ghent Six-Day a few years back.

This year Kennaugh was part of the World Championship winning squad that went to Australia and beat them in their own back yard. Then, at the Olympics, they broke the world record in qualifying and in the final. For the first time, a sub 3-50 ride looks possible.

But Kennaugh has more to do. This year he rode the Giro d’Italia purely as preparation for the track. In the next three years, it will be fascinating to see which direction his road career takes him. Together with Geraint Thomas and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, the potential appears limitless.

Don’t agree with our choice of riders? You can vote for your top 10 British Riders of 2012 on the CW website. When Tweeting about our countdown or your nominees, use the #ridersoftheyear hashtag. We’ll be running your choice in a future issue.
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Related links

Cycling Weekly’s 2012 British riders of the year index

Riders revealed so far…
December 15: Numbers 20-19 – David Millar and Lucy Garner
December 14: Numbers 22-12 – Steve Cummings and Ben Swift
December 13: Numbers 24-23 – Ian Stannard and Helen Wyman
December 12: Numbers 26-25 – Annie Last and Scott Thwaites
December 11: Numbers 28-27 – Mark Colbourne and Alex Dowsett
December 10: Numbers 32-29 – Sharon Laws, Liam Killeen, Neil Fachie, Rachel Atherton
December 9: Number 33 – David Stone
December 8: Number 34 – Emma Pooley
December 7: Numbers 36-35 – Nikki Harris and Russell Downing
December 6: Numbers 38-37 – Anthony Kappes and Andy Fenn
December 5: Numbers 40-39 – Josh Edmondson and Matt Bottrill
December 4: Numbers 42-41 – Luke Rowe and Michael Hutchinson
December 3: Numbers 44-43 – Sam Lowe and Jon Dibben
December 2: Numbers 46-45 – Rebecca James and Jessica Varnish 
December 1: Numbers 50-47 – Alex Peters, Kristian House, Richard Handley and Wendy Houvenaghel