Olympic gold medallist Jamie Staff has cast doubt over Great Britain’s ability to match their Beijing medal haul in London with Dave Brailsford’s focus now on Team Sky.
Staff joined forces with Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny to take Olympic team sprint gold in China, with Team GB emerging with 14 medals.
British Cycling performance director Brailsford has since turned his attention to the Team Sky road racing operation – and Deloitte have been tasked by UK Sport, who part-fund British Cycling, to investigate a potential conflict of interest.
Staff called time on his cycling career in March this year and now heads up the United States’ track cycling team.
But the 37-year-old believes Brailsford’s split-role will take its toll when the Games arrive in London in less than two years time.
“I would like for them to do well in all events but with Dave Brailsford’s attention turned to the road, I think it’s having an effect on the track team,” Staff told VeloNation. “You need a leader.
“If your leader goes off and leads something else, you get consequences. At the end of the day it comes down to the riders obviously, but having someone to lead the army is the key. It gives the rider the belief they have the backing.
“If you remove that and the riders feel like they are on their own, then cracks can appear. I see some cracks appearing.”
But Staff’s claims have been disputed by British Cycling, who insist a professional British road team allows home-grown track stars to enjoy a tailored road programme with 2012 in mind.
“The British Cycling partnership with Sky has been in place since just before the Beijing Olympics and to suggest it is having a detrimental effect on our track team is simply not true,” said a spokesman.
“The fact that young, talented British riders such as Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and Pete Kennaugh are able to benefit from the partnership no doubt boosts our road presence, as highlighted by Geraint’s white jersey success at this year’s Tour de France.
“It also means the British track riders in Team Sky can benefit from having their road-race programme fully tailored to optimise their Olympic ambitions, something which might not be the case if Team Sky was not in place.
“Success in London in 2012 is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, most notably Dave’s, and nothing will ever distract us from that.”
Staff’s retirement came despite a team sprint silver medal at the 2009 World Championships, but the former BMX world champion insists he has no regrets about jumping ship.
“I wanted to leave racing on top,” he added. “I was getting older and knew I would have my work cut out to even get to London. I’d lost the desire. Once you lose the desire, you’re wasting your time.
“You have to want it more than anything else in the world – and I didn’t anymore. I have been looking forward to the next chapter of my life for a while now, and so I have absolutely no regrets.
“My riders will come out fighting to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016. I said up front that we would be lucky to even get a plane ticket to London, but in six years time I will have had a lot more time to develop riders and put them in a position where they can score points easily.
“I don’t believe the UCI is going in the right direction in terms of attracting people to the sport of track cycling. If you make it so restricted in terms of how many participants there can be, then that does the sport no good.”