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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 09:41 GMT
Cycling sets gold standard
By Simon Austin

Ed Clancy and Bradley Wiggins
Ed Clancy (left) and Bradley Wiggins claim gold at the World Cup
Cycling has set the standard for Britain's other Olympic sports to aspire to in the run-up to London 2012.

It looks certain to be Britain's best hope of gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Since 2000, British cyclists have won 15 golds at major championships, and they will hope to add at least another five in Beijing in 2008.

At the heart of this success is the sport's exceptional ability to identify and then develop young talent.

It is little wonder that the performance directors of several sports have travelled to British Cycling's headquarters in Manchester to try to learn their secrets.

Mark Cavendish, 21, is one of the many success stories. The Isle of Man-born rider has already won world and Commonwealth golds and is embarking on his first season on road racing's pro tour this year.

GB'S BIG 2008 GOLD HOPES
Women's road: Nicole Cooke
Men's team pursuit
Men's team sprint
Individual pursuit: Bradley Wiggins
Women's sprint: Victoria Pendelton

OTHER PROSPECTS
Men's mountain bike: Liam Killeen
Men's sprint: Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Jason Kenny
Women's sprint: Anna Blyth
Men's madison/points race/scratch: Mark Cavendish, Gerraint Thomas
Women's BMX: Shanaze Reade
The T-Mobile rider told BBC Sport: "The way the sport is structured in Britain is a recipe for medals and things are looking incredibly golden for the next couple of Olympics.

"We've also got the best support staff of any team of any sport in the world, I truly believe that.

"We've got everything from psychologists, masseurs and nutritionists to people who work in a wind tunnel to get aerodynamics right."

The structure starts with the "talent ID programme", which aims to identify promising 12 to 16-year-olds and give them access to top-level facilities and coaching.

Cavendish, along with triple junior world champion Jason Kenny and Ed Clancy, who won gold in the men's pursuit at last month's World Cup, went through the scheme.

He then graduated to the Olympic Academy in Manchester, which is headed by Rod Ellingworth.

606: DEBATE

Cavendish said: "Rod gave me a massive chance and has taught me a hell of a lot, not just on the bike but in life skills. I've improved immensely in the last four years."

The most talented cyclists from the Academy then progress either to the Olympic Podium programme, which aims for success on the track, or join a professional road racing team.

After winning gold on the track at the world championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games, Cavendish is now concentrating on road racing.

He joined T-Mobile as a full-time professional last year and will compete on this season's pro tour.

Phil Ingham, communications manager for British Cycling, remembers Cavendish as "a short, dumpy rider who looked like he would never make it" when he first arrived at the Olympic Academy.

Mark Cavendish celebrates winning at the 2006 Commonwealth Games
Cavendish won gold for the Isle of Man at the 2006 Commonwealth Games
Now he is arguably Britain's best sprinter and Ingham says: "I would be very surprised if he doesn't compete in a Tour de France and win a big stage".

Ingham told BBC Sport: "He's got a rare and precious asset - a burst of speed that could win him stages in the big tours. It should make him a lot of money on the pro tour."

Peter Keen, who is now UK Sport's performance consultant, put the system in place when he was performance director for British Cycling.

Dave Brailsford took over from Keen in 2003 and has brought in the organisational and analytical skills gained during his previous career in the cycle trade.

Cavendish says: "Dave has got it so right and the riders and staff work so well together. I've got nothing but respect for him."

Facilities are obviously also crucial. Britain has three indoor velodromes - in Manchester, Newport and Calshot near Southampton - with a fourth planned in London for the 2012 Olympics.

The Manchester velodrome is the busiest in the world, with cyclists using it from 8am to 10pm most days, and the track is now practically worn out.

Mark Cavendish
The whole set-up will lead to lots of medals in 2008 and 2012 - just watch

Mark Cavendish
It is also one of the most democratic, with Olympic gold medallists sharing the facility with kids who have come in off the street.

For just 20, anyone can hire a bike, use the track for an hour and have one-on-one coaching.

Success at the 2008 Olympics could encourage even greater participation in the sport.

And Cavendish is confident the British team can provide that catalyst. "The whole set-up will lead to lots of medals in 2008 and 2012 - just watch."

SEE ALSO
Gold medallist supports velodrome
23 Dec 06 |  Isle of Man
Cavendish secures T-Mobile deal
03 Sep 06 |  Cycling
Cavendish second on dramatic day
02 Sep 06 |  Cycling
Cavendish relishing Tour battle
28 Aug 06 |  Cycling
Cyclists geared up for 2008
17 Apr 06 |  Cycling


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