Sutton remains bullish over Rio

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Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Shane Sutton plans to address a few home truths after a disappointing showing at the Track World Championships, but maintains success at the Rio Olympics is not beyond the Great Britain team.

Three silver medals in a first Track World Championships without a British gold since 2001 saw them finish a lowly 10th in the medal standings, which were led by hosts France.

Britain won seven out of 10 Olympic titles at both the 2008 Games in Beijing and four years later in London.

Sutton admits a repeat of that haul is unlikely, but anticipates five medals, not necessarily golds, in Rio in 18 months’ time.

“I’ve always said we’ve had a glorious era,” said British Cycling technical director Sutton, referring to Britain’s dominance of the last decade.

“We will get to Rio and we’ll be the best that we can be. Whatever these athletes have got, we will get that out of them.

“As a team, if we can go there and bring five medals away in the track programme, we’d be over the moon.”

Three-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny appears some way short of his best at present.

Kenny was among the biggest disappointments as his championships came to a premature end when he tumbled out of the sprint competition in the first round.

Four years ago at the same point in the London 2012 Olympic cycle he was world sprint champion.

Sutton refused to criticise the 26-year-old from Bolton, yet it was not too difficult to determine Kenny will be spoken to on the squad’s return to Manchester.

“There’s certain riders that probably just need to look at their hunger a little bit,” Sutton said.

“If anything’s going to make them hungry it’s the way they performed here (in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, near Paris).

“I was critical last year and I don’t want to do that, I want to praise the riders.

“(But) there’s one or two people in there that need to look at – has the journey come to an end for them or are they still hungry for it?”

Sutton refused to name names, but defended Kenny, who has more gold medals from the quadrennial Olympics than he has titles from the annual Track World Championships.

“He didn’t execute well in racing. He knows that,” Sutton added.

“He knows he has the ability. My belief in Jason Kenny won’t go away.”

Kenny has often floundered in competition, but peaked in Beijing aged 20 and in London four years later, where he was selected for the sprint ahead of defending champion Sir Chris Hoy and delivered gold.

Hoy retired after six Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles and latterly was pushed hard by Kenny in training.

“I personally believe Jason needs to race a bit more,” Sutton added.

“Every day he was coming in and he was competing against the man himself (Hoy) and they were beating each other up on a daily basis.

“He doesn’t have that any more. You’ve got to go out there and seek that competition. He probably needed that stimulation.”

British Cycling head coach Iain Dyer, who has worked closely with Kenny in his role as a sprint coach, added: “Jason is a very competitive character, he has a habit of rising to big ones, maybe this isn’t big enough for him.”

Kenny will have to find his competitive edge for the final Track World Championships before Rio, which take place in London next March.

Four years ago Phil Hindes, who won London 2012 team sprint gold with Hoy and Kenny, had not even made an impact in the British team.

Hindes solved a dilemma which is repeating itself in the three-man, three-lap event, with Britain still seeking a capable replacement for Hoy.

Callum Skinner struggled in France, but Kian Emadi is highly thought of and only missed out on selection after a back injury.

Sutton does not expect anyone to emerge like Hindes pre-Rio, although there is the tantalising prospect of Sir Bradley Wiggins’ return to the track.

Wiggins is aiming to sign off from his glorious career with a fifth Olympic gold in Rio, but faces a challenge to break into a team pursuit squad which improved from eighth at the 2014 World Championships to silver a year on.

Sutton said: “The first thing I had was a text message from Brad saying, well done to all the boys, bring it on. He wants it.”

Britain would have been returning as gold medallists with Wiggins in the line-up, according to Sutton, and should have done anyway had they followed the instructions of endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel and saved themselves in the semi-final.

As it is Britain return without a gold medal for the first time in 14 years, but Sutton remains bullish.

“I don’t care what anybody says. I know we are at the races,” he said.

Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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