Michael Bailey , London Olympics correspondent
Friday, August 10, 2012
We were stood in the calm blue oasis inside the frantic boards of London’s magnificent Olympic velodrome. It was barely a few minutes after the tears flowed from, and for, Chris Hoy on top of the podium at Olympic gold number six, while Queen Victoria of Pedalton had just ended an era with her own silver lining…
So the next question for British Cycling’s Taverham track sprint coach Iain Dyer seemed a fairly straightforward one – but it never got asked. It didn’t need to be.
On recounting the final leg of a journey that took him from a childhood through Acle and Hingham, the moment British Cycling’s London Olympics was complete, the enormity of the success Dyer has played a part in realised – the words of the 40-year-old dried up as he choked back tears.
No question – it just simply meant everything.
“It’s been one hell of a journey,” said Dyer, moments before. “I was a very, very green coach when I started on the programme in 2002.
“My first day at work was January 3, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting on a plane to Perth, Australia, for a training camp with Jason Queally and Chris Hoy – and they knew a million times more about sprinting than I ever did. I had a fantastic learning opportunity that very few coaches ever have the good fortune to experience. I owe a lot to them…”
No doubt that is the case – but the way performance director Dave Brailsford runs his good ship British Cycling, everyone owes everyone else something, if not everything.
And Dyer’s role has helped deliver the greatest British sporting success story of the last 12 years, if you’re being modest. In a lifetime, if not.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the sight of Chris Boardman winning individual pursuit gold on his revolutionary Lotus carbon fibre monocoque superbike was momentous – but it was also GB’s only track cycling medal from the 10 events on offer, and incredibly the first track cycling gold since Thomas Lance and Harry Ryan’s tandem success in Antwerp 72 years earlier.
In 1996, one gold medal headed for Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in Atlanta and that was the only Olympic title Britain had to celebrate – alongside a couple of road cycling bronzes from a medal tally of 15, worth 36th in the medal table.
From there, the picture is unrecognisable.
Seven golds in a tally of 12 medals were brought home from the 10 events at Beijing’s velodrome alone in 2008.
And despite the UCI attempting to curbing GB’s dominance by limiting each country to one entry per event, the track action closed on Tuesday with seven London 2012 golds, one silver, a bronze and disqualification from an almost certain eighth title.
British Cycling is setting the bar every sport is trying to reach.
“This has been better than we ever dared to dream,” said former Taverham High School pupil Dyer, whose parents Alan and Ann now live in Lowestoft – Alan creating the Norwich Flyers BMX Club. “We knew coming into the Games we were going well but you never have a good handle on exactly how your opposition is going until things get started.
“I think credit goes to the guys on the road as well for really producing the momentum over the course of the summer. We were at our training camp in Newport before the games and you see guys you’re used to seeing at the track maybe a year or two ago, guys like Brad (Wiggins) doing it on the road in great style gives a really good feeling. These guys have all come through our programmes and it’s fantastic to see them doing so well.
“Brad really got it all started with a great job in the time trial, and Lizzie (Armitstead), who was a member of our development programme on the track, she’s gone on to big things on the road which is great to see.”
Dyer – now based in Northwich, near Manchester’s National Cycling Centre – added: “If you look historically at how British Cycling has grown, Chris Boardman in Barcelona brought it to the forefront of the powers that be in terms of where lottery funding was going.
“And let’s not forget, Chris’ relationship with Peter Keen as rider and coach brought success at a time when British Olympic success was pretty hard to find. Those guys really lit the way.”
The secret to success is simple for Dyer – the recognition from elsewhere genuine.
“It’s attention to detail and executing the process – that’s not sexy but it wins bike races when it counts,” Dyer stated with unnerving conviction.
“We’ve had fantastic messages and congratulations from lots of other teams as well.
“I’d like to think anyone interested in athletic performance and excellence, achieving your goals, is interested, motivated and inspired by what we do.”
London was quite possibly the end of the road for Hoy – and certainly for Pendleton. But not for Dyer. His next chapter has already started with the next generation.
And given the exploits of Jason Kenny and double gold medallist Laura Trott, the success story seems set to continue.
“I’m not going anywhere – this is the best job in the world,” beamed Dyer. “To be honest, it doesn’t feel like the end of an era. I’m really heartened by the performances of so many of the younger riders in the team. If you think about it, Jason is a three-time Olympic champion and he’s only 24 – I feel old saying I’ve been working with him for eight years.
“So certainly it already feels like one chapter has begun before the other has even closed. But that’s a testimony to the talent and shear dedication of Vicky and Chris that they can still complete the job, do a fantastic job, and the young ones are coming through.
“This is their legacy – a legacy that started a long time ago.”