The British team for the World Championships this week in Geelong, Australia, is one of the smallest, but Performance Director David Brailsford is confident.
“Even though we have smaller numbers,” he said, “it is probably as competitive as it has been for a long time.”
Brailsford arrived in Geelong this morning at 9:30 local time, nine hours ahead of British time. He had a chance to greet his riders before they departed on training rides and then drive the 15.9-kilometre circuit for the first time. He paid close attention to the climb up to the Ridge, the descent, the new bridge’s narrow passing and the smaller, final climb.
Mark Cavendish leads the British men’s team after an impressive season this year: winning five stages at the Tour de France and three stages, plus the green sprinters jersey, at the Vuelta a España. The topic of the discussion in the car, though, was if Cavendish could remain in the group over the two climbs to sprint for the Worlds win. Brailsford said, yes.
“Ever year, we go through it, where we worry about the course being hard. Then afterwards it is not as hard as everyone thought it was going to be,” said Brailsford. “There tends to be a lot of strength and depth at the Worlds, and they tend to be able to get to the finish together.”
He acknowledged that “Mark is somewhat exposed” because he only has two helpers, David Millar and Jeremy Hunt. However, he said that the British team will align themselves with other nations who have the same goals.
“Smaller nations, who have fewer representatives, have to realise they have the same goal,” Brailsford continued. “It is not collusion in anyway, but just that they all want the same thing and have to work together.”
Brailsford also believes Great Britain stands a strong chance of winning in both the men’s Under 23 time trial with Alex Dowsett and the women’s road race. Dowsett has raced this year with America’s Trek-Livestrong team alongside American star Taylor Phinney and will likely debut as a professional with Brailsford’s Sky trade team next year.
“It has really helped him by going away and experiencing something totally new. Being in that environment with Taylor Phinney, they have had many great successes. That has been motivational and they have started to gain confidence from it. When you are rubbing shoulders with one of the best riders on a day-to-day basis it pulls you along.”
Brailsford added that the women’s confidence should be high, as well. Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead racing all year together on the Cervélo TestTeam, he said, can only help when it comes time to race as a national team. Joining them 2008 world champion Nicole Cooke, Katie Colclough, Sharon Laws, Lucy Martin and Catherine Williamson.
The World Championships start on Wednesday with the Under 23’s and Women’s time trials.