For the previous three Olympic Games, Great Britain have topped the cycling medal table. Our track and road riders have flourished in Beijing, London and most recently, Rio.
But it wasn’t so long ago when the idea of Britain being a cycling powerhouse would have been a ridiculous proposition.
You see, although almost every kid gets a bike for Christmas during their childhood and almost half of UK adults own or can at least access a bike, cycling in Britain just hasn’t been that big historically. We’ve certainly never had the glory we’ve become accustomed to in the last decade.
But since National Lottery funding was introduced in the late 1990s, with British Cycling (the national governing body) being one of the recipients, our track and road riders have excelled.
The first glory came in Sydney, when Team GB collected four medals, including a gold for Jason Queally in the 1km time trial. Four years later in Athens, there were the same number of medals, but now two golds – one apiece for Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins.
The fact that those two, later to become Sirs, kick-started the gold rush is as romantic as it is inspiring; their success inspired the next generation and made British Cycling believe that it could conquer the world.
Move aside, traditional cycling nations Belgium, France, Spain and Italy: Great Britain was ready to join and better them. It was after the fantastic haul in Beijing of 14 cycling medals – including eight golds – that Britain’s road scene dramatically improved.
British road cycling
Two years later Team Sky was born, the UK’s first WorldTour team, and, as we all know, four British Tour de France victories have followed in the form of Sir Bradley Wiggins and (soon-to-be-Sir?) Chris Froome.
But it’s not just Team Sky and the greatest sprinter of all time, Mark Cavendish, at the front of Britain’s revolution as one of the top-ranked road cycling nations.
The lower ranks of the sport are replete with young British cycling talent: riders like Tao Geoghegan Hart and Owain Doull have recently joined Sky; climbing sensation Hugh Carthy is joining Cannondale-Drapac in 2017, the same team who have taken Jon Dibben on as a stagiaire.
Riders like Scott Davies and James Shaw (of Wiggins and Lotto-Soudal U23, respectively) also have bright futures ahead in cycling. And there’s sprinter Dan McLay, breakaway supremo Steve Cummings, time trialist Alex Dowsett and national road race champion Adam Blythe all competing and winning at the very pinnacle of the sport.
The phrase ‘unprecedented success’ was true in Beijing and London, but after the exploits in Rio and the road scene, the word unprecedented has been replaced with expected.
We’ve got used to our cyclists being the best in the world: and after having to wait decades for it, we never want it to end.
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