A tougher track ahead for John Paul

I had missed the news back in April, reported by Susan Swarbrick in the Herald that John Paul had been dropped from the British Cycling Academy programme.

He’s a rider that most trackies will know about, but maybe others won’t. A young Scottish track sprinter has the ‘next Chris Hoy’ tag to deal with but he seemed to be progressing well.

image © Larry Hickmot / British Cycling.

After a poor 2012 though, where he failed to meet qualification times, he was let go abruptly from the performance programme but Shane Sutton, British Cycling performance manager, said:

“John Paul has left the British Cycling Academy Programme as he didn’t reach the performance targets set out for him. The door is not closed for John to return to the programme in the future, and we wish him well with his cycling career.”

It just shows how stiff the criteria are, and how ruthless the world of elite sport can be, that a very talented young rider can be dropped just over one year after winning European and World titles – the palmares count for nothing unless you are still meeting the targets. 0.1 of a second is a long time in track racing and doing a 10.4s flying 200m wasn’t good enough in 2012.

The door isn’t closed of course – you wonder whether that is lip-service being paid by BC or intended as a motivator for the athlete – but it’s a bit anodyne.

The drive to train properly and succeed is there, but as John explained to Susan Swarbrickin a recent piece in the Herald again, he ‘wanted it too much’ and may have overtrained or expected too much after his European and World success. If it was overtraining, surely BC would take some responsibility for that?

But losing his funding is what makes it really difficult to stay focused – having to fund your own equipment and travel, while training full-time with no income. 170-mile round trips from Oxfordshire to the Newport velodrome remind me of the stories of Chris Hoy’s early career, where finding the petrol money to get down to Manchester from Edinburgh was as important as the track sessions themselves.

This also reminds me of another story of a track cyclist battling against funding challenges to make qualification criteria – that of Chris Pritchard, which I picked up on in the early days of this blog following an article by Chris Sidwells in Cycling Weekly. He too was short of funding but coming close to the BC selection criteria, at that time doing 10.5s flying 200’s.

This certainly won’t be the last we have seen of John Paul – he is still supported by Braveheart and I’ll be watching out for him at the British National Track Championships, presumably riding for City of Edinburgh RC, to make the Glasgow 2014 qualification standard for the sprint events.

See also: video interview with John Paul 2011 by Mark Young