Much-changed Great Britain track cycling team head to Munich

·3-min read
The Great Britain track cycling squad heads to Munich undergoing an overhaul (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
The Great Britain track cycling squad heads to Munich undergoing an overhaul (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

Great Britain’s track cycling team head to Munich for the European Championships barely recognisable from the squad that topped the medal table at the Tokyo Olympics 12 months ago.

Only five of the 18 riders who travelled to Germany competed at the Izu velodrome while three of the four sectional head coaches have changed in the last year and the one remaining – women’s endurance coach Monica Greenwood – will be at her last event before stepping down.

Fresh faces at the mid-point of an Olympic cycle are not unusual and several big names missing here – Dame Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Ryan Owens among them – are expected back. But the overhaul in the coaching ranks points to bigger changes.

Sir Jason Kenny’s appointment as men’s sprint coach made the most headlines, while Australia’s four-time world champion Kaarle McCulloch has taken over the women’s sprint team and Monica’s husband Ben Greenwood has replaced Iain Dyer as men’s endurance coach. Monica’s replacement has not yet been named.

“It’s been busy!” performance director Stephen Park said of the turnover. “As with athletes, there are certain times where you kind of have a change in the guard.

“There are some people within our team who we’ve maybe felt were getting longer in the tooth, maybe they’ve got a way of working that we don’t think is necessarily appropriate with the direction of the culture that we want. Equally… there are others who have taken other opportunities to move on.”

Speaking to riders during the Commonwealth Games it was clear several appreciated hearing fresh voices, though the women’s endurance squad will be sorry to lose Monica Greenwood, only appointed last year but already stepping back as she continues to race on the road herself.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

The new coaching team is an inexperienced one. Ben Greenwood spent three years working in British Cycling’s academy before stepping up in March, but both Kenny and McCulloch are in their first coaching roles since retirement.

With qualification for the Paris Olympics starting next year, they must hit the ground running.

“Clearly they don’t have the years of coaching knowledge and coaching experience that some of our outgoing coaches have,” Park added. “We’ve got work to do to support them as we go through that programme, but I think the spirit and the mood in the camp was fantastic.”

Given the changes, Park warned Great Britain must “manage our expectations accordingly” looking ahead to Paris, though the Scot said much the same before watching his team dominate across all disciplines in Tokyo.

While track undergoes an overhaul, the BMX freestyle squad is headed by Olympic medallists Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks, and mountain bike champion Tom Pidcock targets European glory ahead of his main target in the world championships at the end of the month.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Munich will be the second time the European Championships of several sports have been brought together as one event, four years on from the 2018 Games jointly hosted by Berlin and Glasgow.

Keely Hodgkinson and Jake Wightman are aiming to add to recent world and Commonwealth success, while stars of Birmingham like gymnasts Jake Jarman and Joe Fraser are back for more as they change into Great Britain kit just a few days after the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

Athletics, cycling, triathlon, artistic gymnastics and rowing all return from the 2018 edition, while beach volleyball, canoe sprinting, sport climbing and table tennis have been added to the programme. Swimming and diving are instead hosting their own championships while golf does not return.

Between Thursday and the end of competition on August 21, some 4,700 athletes from 50 nations will compete for 177 titles across the nine sports in what organisers say is the bigger multisport Germany has hosted since the Munich Olympics in 1972.