I am delighted to have another Clyde Street guest blog post by Greg Blood.
Greg has an interest in the ingredients of a successful high performance program. He is researching successful Olympic and Paralympic high performance programs. This post is his book review of Project Rainbow – How British Cycling Reached the Top of the World .
Since the 2008 Olympics, British Cycling has become a leading and feared cycling nation. I eagerly looked forward to reading Rod Ellingworth’s book ‘Project Rainbow’ to see if it provided an honest insight into this high performance sport success story.
The book takes you through Ellingworth’s journey from a development coach to playing an important coaching role with British Cycling and the Team Sky Cycling teams. Ellingworth documents how he established British Cycling’s Academy squad in 2002 and how this has borne significant results at the Tour de France, World Championships and Olympic Games. This coaching journey particularly focuses on the career road cycling sprinter Mark Cavendish and his win in the road race at the 2011 World Road Cycling Championships in Copenhagen.
Ellingworth’s account has provided a good insight in the rise of a British cycling. The main factors I gleaned from the book were the strong leadership of Peter Keen and Dave Brailsford, financial support from UK Sport, development of strong cultures, and attention to detail. Ellingworth discusses how the Australian and Italian cycling systems have influenced the British model and the role of two key Australians – high performance coach Shane Sutton and physiologist Tim Kerrison. Ellingworth highlighted the importance of psychiatrist Steve Peters in assisting him to establishing rules and consequences when establishing the British Cycling Academy for U23 cyclists.
Ellingworth stated in setting up the British Cycling Academy: “My goal was to produce a crack squadron of bike riders, mentally drilled, and trained like the SAS. In cycling terms, they could go in and kill anybody at any moment. I wanted a driven team.”
The focus on Mark Cavendish’s development throughout pointed out some of the difficulties in managing his behaviour but Ellingworth noted early only his desperate desire to win. Ellingworth notes that his relationship with Cavendish was close because he believed in structure and discipline and was intensely interested in the history of cycling.
Ellingworth provides a good insight into the development of Team Sky cycling program and the difficulties in establishing it. The philosophy of Team Sky `was “to listen to our riders more than any than any other team – not just the one or two big hitters but every rider’. Team Sky has become a dominant force in international road cycling with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome winning the last two Tour de France.
Ultimately Ellingworth’s planned journey in assisting Cavendish to win 2011World Road Cycling Championships road race was successful. This insight into the many years of planning will be useful to other coaches embarking on such a journey with a team or athlete. Cavendish failed to win the Olympic Games road race due to the nature of the course and what Ellingworth described as ‘our 5 trying to control 135 others’. This highlights that high performance plans do not always succeed due to external influences.
Whilst I am not a cycling aficionado and did not fully understand some of the coaching and training discussed in the book, it did provide an excellent view on how long term planning in high performance sport can lead to the end goal of championship success. I recommend this book to coaches and high performance managers to who want to gain a better insight into developing high performance cultures.