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By Martin Ayers, VeloNews Correspondent
Riding the coattails of its performance at the 2000 Olympics, British cycling hit the jackpot when it was announced that money from the National Lottery will fund a four-year development program at the rate of 4 million pounds (approximately $5.6 million) annually.
Cycling, for many years the redheaded stepchild of British sport, is reaping the reward for its medal-winning efforts at Sydney 2000. The team emerged with one gold — won by Jason Queally in the 1km time trial — a silver in the Olympic sprint; bronzes in the team pursuit and women’s pursuit, plus a couple of fourth place finishes.
The person behind this turn-around in cycling’s fortunes is Peter Keen, ex-coach of Chris Boardman and performance director of the World Class Performance Plan.
The WCPP operates within British Cycling (the new name of the re-branded British Cycling Federation) and is responsible for all disciplines — road, track, mountain biking and cyclo-cross.
Since Keen took over five years ago, Britain’s success rate has soared particularly on the track. Now Keen has convinced UK Sport, which allocates Lottery money, to fund an ambitious development plan. It will start at the grassroots by introducing children from eight years old upwards to the cycling as a fun activity and a sport.
They will also be provided with a structured coaching and development plan leading from the beginner stage through to Olympic level.
As one of the most generously funded British sports, cycling will have to deliver results at international level.
“It’s an extremely ambitious plan,” said Keen. “We have to improve our strike rate at world championships and Olympic Games three-fold. However, I believe it is possible, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”