British riders relishing chance to shine in front of home crowds
Great Britain Cycling Team riders are relishing the opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd at next week’s TISSOT UCI Track World Cup in London, Performance Director Stephen Park says.
With qualifying points for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on the line, London will host the fourth round of this winter’s world cup series next weekend.
Park’s riders have made a strong start to the series, bringing home impressive medal hauls from the opening three rounds in Paris, Milton and Berlin, and he says that the prospect of home support is always a big draw.
“Support for the Great Britain Cycling Team in this country is incredible,” he says. “Since I started in this role I’ve been fortunate enough to witness a number of home events, and the roar of a British crowd really creates a boost that just spurs our riders on – they know that the country is behind them.
“We’ve got a great sporting public who are massively supportive of our athletes in their efforts to compete with the best in the world, and for all of our riders, knowing that the country is behind them really makes a difference. That home event, that boost – it’s going to make a big difference.”
The venue for the event, the Lee Valley VeloPark, has hosted some of the most iconic moments in British cycling’s recent history. In 2012, Great Britain won seven out of the ten available track gold medals at an Olympic Games which made household names of the likes of Laura and Jason Kenny, who will both compete next weekend.
Park continues: “Returning to a velodrome where so much British cycling history has been written will certainly be special for our riders. Not only riders who competed in 2012, like Laura and Jason, but also the riders in our squad now who watched that Games on television, with dreams of their own.
“It will certainly make the heart beat faster when they walk into that velodrome. But when we come to racing and the visas go down, we will be focused on delivering our best performances on the day, and hopefully that will be a performance that raises the roof in London.”
Four years after London, in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, Lee Valley played host to the 2016 UCI Track World Championships, which were once again laden with British success.
Perhaps the most enduring image of those championships was of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish combining to win the men’s Madison on the final evening.
“Everyone will remember the excitement of watching Bradley and Mark win the Madison in London,” Park says. “A few years on, the Madison has now been added to the Olympic programme, and we have a number of pairs – for men and women – that we could field in Tokyo.
“We’re going to trial a number of those pairings over this world cup season, and we will hopefully be very competitive in the event. It’s a great event for spectators and one we’re really looking forward to seeing return to the Olympic programme.”
Great Britain have dominated the track events at the last three Olympic Games, and will be looking to continue this dominance in Tokyo. Midway through the world cup series though, Park believes that the standard of competition now is higher than ever.
He adds: “Over the last 12 months or so, one of the things I’ve heard from our competition and our coaches is that the level of competition internationally is higher in these early years of the Olympic cycle than it has ever been before.
“We’re seeing more people competing at a higher level, and faster times that we’d normally see at this stage of the cycle. We want to keep an eye on the opposition, but we can’t control them. We have to think about our own game, or own performance, and make sure that we’re on the trajectory to ensure that we’re going to be in the right place at the right time.”
The London round of the TISSOT UCI Track World Cup takes place at Lee Valley VeloPark between December 14 and 16. There are still a limited number of tickets available, and they can be purchased here. The full Great Britain Cycling Team squad for the event is listed here.