British Cycling’s Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, is the man responsible for taking the GB squad through the Athens Olympics and World Track Championship.
Under his guidance, British riders have stuffed their trophy cabinet with more medals than ever before, bringing the British success on the track into the mainstream media lime-light.
We grabbed a few minutes with Brailsford at the recent Revolution event, where many of the riders under his wings put in very impressive performances. That, and Brailsford’s obvious determination to succeed, is enough reason that we’ve got a lot going for us heading into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
How is everything going at the moment?
Very well. I think more than anything we’re starting to see the emergence of younger riders now actually coming up and getting to that level where they can perform in the senior ranks, and I think that’s hugely encouraging for us all. When you see the youngsters, they change so quickly and develop so quickly, it’s just a fantastically popular thing to see. And of course it’s not taking anything away from the older lads who are still performing fantastically well, and did really great in Sydney. So really couldn’t be happier to be honest. I mean, if somebody said you’ve got to be looking at Beijing, and where would you want to be right now, I would want to be exactly where we are. And looking at London, where would you want to be, we’d want to be exactly where we are now. We’ve still got a lot of work to do on the Women’s side, and mountain biking, there’s a lot of work to do there. But I think in the main, we’re starting to see such a stream of young talent come through in British cycling in general, that it’s just fantastic.
You touched on MTBing there, both Steve Peat and Tracy Moseley have had a good season?
Yeah yeah brilliant. It’s such a shame, I just wish DH mtbing could be in the Olympics, and we’d be right up there. It’s just a credit to them that they’ve done it on their own essentially. Obviously they’ve got their sponsors, but you know, it’s just fantastic. For me one of the things I think we have here is our British mentality, everyone says we’re great losers. Bullshit. Absolute bullshit. I’d like to think we’re not like that at all, and if you look at our recent history, we’re an island, we’ve got an island mentality. And now we’ve got all these lads, all the young lads, Steve, Tracey, everybody else. They’re warriors you know, they get out there and they do the business every time. I’m starting to really sense, I mean a good thing would be to, five, six years ago, young riders used to come in and you’d ask them, what’s at the top of your tree? What’s at the top of your mountain? And they go, “I’d like to go to the Olympic Games”. And what do you want to do when you get there, and they’d look at you and go, “Well, win a medal”. And you know they’re only saying it to please you. Whereas now, with the confidence they have now, these young lads walk in and ask what’s at the top of your mountain. And they look at you and say, “Well I’m going to be a World Champion. What are you on about? What a stupid question. I’m going to win the Olympics, what are you asking me that for.” And it should be so obvious and that shift, I don’t know whether it’s a confidence thing because we keep winning, and the guys are then rubbing shoulders with the guys who have been winning, and it just permeates to everything that we do. It’s a great situation to be in. I couldn’t be happier.
It sounds like everything’s going to plan then?
Absolutely. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not being complacent, we still work every single day and really leave no stone un-turned in our pursuit of excellence. And we’ll always do that. But, we’ve got a great team, we’ve got a great staffing team as well, we’ve got some new young lads who’ve just joined the team, and they’ve got this contagious enthusiasm. They work their bollocks off. They’re just so full on, they think about it all day every day. You know, we might get a phone call Sunday night, quarter to twelve at night or something with, “I’ve just had an idea”. Perfect. It’s what you want. It’s brilliant. So I think we’ve matured as well as the programme, we had quite a few upheavals in the start as you’d expect I guess. But we’re starting to mature and settle down and push in the right places. Always pushing, trying to find those little marginal gains, if you aggregate them all together they’ll actually give you that performance enhancement. So, yeah good.
The Revolution series has done a really great job of bringing track racing to a bigger audience. Would you like this format and style being applied elsewhere around the country?
I think so. It’d be great to see it at Newport, and when other Velodromes get built, you know London. And there’s talk of a Velodrome in Glasgow and Belfast actually. And if that happens, then why not move it around the country. But I think as a big thank you to everybody who’s put it together and made it happen, because they’ve done such a brilliant job. The guys from the Velodrome, the organisation guys, Face partnership have done an awesome job, and it’s just great to see. And the fact they actually had to turn people away because there’s too many people here, it’s unbelievable. It’s great. And it showcases our talent doesn’t it.
Living in London, I’m looking forward to the opening of the new Velodrome. You must be too?
Yeah yeah I know. We want it built sooner rather than later, so that we can train on it for two years. We’ve want to have made a groove in that track by the time we get there [Beijing 2008].
[A sprint heat finishes and the commentator and crowd go mental, causing a large smile to break across Brailsford’s face, as another young British Cycling wins again]
That put a smile on your face then?
Absolutely. You know, it’s something about working, or seeing a youth, the development of youngsters, giving them opportunities, and how they just grasp it and you have to hold them back because they’ll work to hard. I love every minute of it. It’s just a great thing to be involved in. And I think now we’ve got a good and stable enough staffing structure so that these guys can get some real good guidance about how to live their lives. How to resist the temptations of doping and all that kind of stuff and I’m pretty convinced that with the education, we’ve tried to teach them, show them, that they can win clean. And that’s massively important, that support structure around them. And even now when they turn pro like Geriant [Thomas], and all these guys turning pro, we’ll always be there for them, they always know they can just pick the phone up and talk about the most difficult things.
Drugs are a tricky issue. Do you think we’ve reached a critical mass yet?
To me anyway, with the young lads now, clean is the new cool. It’s cool to be clean, and that’s fantastic. Ultimately it’ll only ever change from within. If the riders decide they don’t want to do it anymore, that’s how it’s going to change. And these young lads want to win clean, and they want a method to authenticate their results. To demonstrate, “look I’m clean; this is how I show I’m clean”. And we have our own testing protocols; we take blood from everybody obviously, on a regular basis. And we’ve now got the whereabouts system (the system through which out-of-competition testing of individual athletes takes place), with UK Sport, and it all works. We’re just about to, in UK Sport there’s an anti-doping programme called ‘100% ME*’. We’ll soon be launching, we haven’t done it yet, an academy team, and these academy riders, when they ride domestically or track, will ride for ‘100% Me’. So we’re going to have the very first anti-doping cycling team in the world.
[*100% ME was launched in May 2005, and seeks to create a generation of sportsmen and women who know they don’t need to use prohibited substances or methods to be successful. It is an athlete-centred campaign designed to increase understanding and promote the benefits of drug-free sport to the who sporting community.]