Project Rainbow

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Authors: Rod Ellingworth
their lives. Everyone who’s gone and lived abroad and experienced that loneliness has that in common, even complete strangers. It was the same concept. The Aussies were coming all the way to stay in Europe, living in each other’s pockets. They would have a bond. They would live and die for each other. When it comes down to a key moment in a bike race – for example, when someone is doing a big lead-out for you – you want to know what that guy is thinking. You’ve got to trust him. That was what I wanted. The question was how to create that within a team.
    From the British Lions – and from the time the school gave me that cycling jersey at assembly – I got the idea of having a welcome ceremony for the riders. When a player joins the Lions, he is awarded his Lions cap in front of his teammates. Everybody is there and they all applaud and so on. So at the start of every year I would do a presentation for the academyriders and all their families. I would tell them what we were expecting, set the targets, lay out the plans for the season, and so on. I wanted them to feel that they were joining a family. We took them on a tour of the velodrome; it was a way of saying ‘Welcome’ and getting the riders’ families to buy in. I wanted them and the riders to have the background on how we worked, and the parents could take the information pack away and refer back to it. And the new riders would be awarded their jersey there. I knew the importance of that first jersey because I had kept mine, one of the classic GB ones in blue with red sleeves, which I may have been supposed to return!
    The long-term goal was that the academy would produce at least two riders who would progress to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In the short term, however, the whole set-up was to be based around preparing riders to be professionals with European teams. The two objectives were completely compatible. I’ve always felt that the track is a young man’s game: it’s fast, it’s about enthusiasm, it’s punchy, intense. An athlete can’t do that for ever. I see track racing as a stepping stone to being a pro on the road. The track is a good way in for a young rider, because you learn all your skills and you can become an Olympic champion; throughout that time you can learn, which is fantastic, and then you can go on and earn your money by becoming a pro. At that time there weren’t too many pure team-pursuit specialists like Ed Clancy and Steven Burke. Nowadays, the discipline has moved on in terms of sheer speed, but back then the team pursuit was for riders like Rob Hayles, Chris Newton, Paul Manning, Jonny Clay – we all know they could have been fantastic pros on the road in the Bradley Wiggins mould.
    At the time, Simon Jones was very much in favour of puttingthe team pursuiters in top-level road races, because Brad had gone on to be a pro and so had Rob, and you could see the benefits in other areas of track endurance as well. So the idea with the academy was to start the riders on the track, then move them onto the road. Getting them to progress to being pros was in the plan. It was overt. Peter Keen had said before he founded the World Class Performance Plan in 1997 that it was about ‘building a team that was ultimately a prelude to a full professional team … preparing people for life in teams where they will earn a lot of money’. Even then Dave Brailsford had the idea of running a pro team off the back of the track squad.
    So there were many different things that went into the British Cycling academy plan. In drawing it up, what I concentrated on was this: you’ve got twenty building blocks to be a road professional or a world champion on track or road, so how do you tick them off? By riding at under-16 level you get the first couple of blocks, in the juniors you do the next two or three – but what do the blocks look like, what do they consist of? They include things like personal organisation, bike mechanics, being

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