Rio Olympics, Team Pursuit: Ed Clancy, Steve Burke, Owain Doull and Bradley Wiggins | Ian MacNicol/ Getty Images
Title: The Medal Factory- British Cycling and the Cost of GoldAuthor: Kenny PrydePublisher: Pursuit BooksYear: 2020 Sheets: 308 Order: Profile BooksWhat it is: A look at British cycling and its transformation in its first year since Lottery funding came alongStrengths: Pryde appears to offer a balanced look at British cycling’s bumpy recent autobiography, accepting the analysis levelled at the national federation, the funding body, coaches, and ridersWeaknesses: Pryde is disdainful of most all assessment but exclusively reinforces many of the complaints in the manner of his argument
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London, February 2011: Dave Brailsford and Seb Coe, surrounded by members of the British Cycling track squad including Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Jason Kenny, celebrating the commencement of the 2012 velodrome
“Was ever a play so fulsomely praised before being brought to its knees as rapidly as British cycling? Gleefully celebrated in the national media as a award plant then pilloried as a lair of cheating sexist bullies in the space of a few weeks, British cycling and equestrians were subjected to a forensic public inquisition. Having cultivated its direction to the top of world cycling after approximately twenty years of struggle, British cycling’s coaches, equestrians and honour were all but destroyed in a six-month horrow[ sic] present of grotesque headlines and allegations. How did it happen, to come so far and to fail so quickly? ”
Like the apocryphal inn doorman who questioned George Best where did it all go wrong, Kenny Pryde’s The Medal Factory- British Cycling and the Cost of Gold expects the same question of British Cycling and its still-mounting haul of bangles, baubles and assorted jumpers. The tally to-date is worth recalling: “over fifty world champs on track and road, ” says Pryde, “three Tour de France wins, six Safaruss de France, two Vueltas, one Giro, a fortify of one day classics, a world term contest championship, three world-wide entitles( Cooke, Cavendish, Armitstead ), four Hour Records and knighthoods for Sir Wiggo, Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Dave B.”
Some will remember that the story of British cycling’s dizzying ascending has already been told in part by Richard Moore, twelve years ago in the half-good/ half-rotten Heroes, Villains& Velodromes- Chris Hoy and Britain’s Track Cycling Revolution, with its superior sequel-of-sorts Sky’s The Limit- British Cycling’s Quest To Conquer The Tour de France picking up the tale three years later as the establish went on the road. The fib of the rise and rise and rise of British cycling has also been touched upon in the many instantly forgettable’ Great British Bike Story’ bibles from the likes of Chris Sidwells, Ellis Bacon, Robert Dineen, Ned Boulting and more. And, of course, there’s the two dozen or so chamoirs telling parts of the inside story.
With the story of the Rise having already been told so many times, The Medal Factory’s USP must therefore be how it tells the story of the Fall, right? Time to recall that dizzying descent.
The Medal Factory – British Cycling and the Cost of Gold, by Kenny Pryde, published under Pursuit Books
In the same way that the traditional cycling season start with the Race to the Sun and conclude with the Race of the Falling Leaves, there is an element of equality in the story of British cycling’s Rise and Fall: both places begin in the Palace of Westminster, with questions asked in Parliament about the confederacy in 1996( Pryde tells us it was 1995) and the heads of British Cycling and Team Sky look before a Commons Select Committee in 2016. Like Moore in Heroes, Villains and Velodromes, the background to those parliamentary questions in 1996- the coup that culminated Tony Doyle’s brief reign and resulted in the rise to power of Peter King, Brian Cookson, and Peter Keen- is somewhat glossed over by Pryde( regrettably, as Doyle’s tenure is one hell of a fib, and some of their own problems foreground then are also alleged to have been happening two decades later ). The 2016 questions, of course, are key to the story Pryde has to tell.
The Fall, Pryde tells us, began with Jess Varnish and a “seemingly minor outburst from a frustrated rider” at the March 2016 World Track Championships in London. As the media “followed up and enlarged her criticisms”, Pryde tells us, “social media buzzed with indignation and support.” In April Varnish was thrown from British Cycling’s Olympic Podium programme and “just two days after her deselection became public knowledge, a back-page lead story on Varnish appeared in the Daily Mail highlighting accusations of sexism and bullying that would, in the end, cost[ Shane] Sutton his job.” Varnish, Pryde tells us, had “opted to go out swinging, with a bash rather than a whimper.” In a theme that runs throughout The Medal Factory, Pryde tells us that “social media feeds glowed with scheme assumptions and resentment, while the story was widely shared.”
Within daylights, Varnish’s allegations were followed by fresh allegations of bullying, from Paralympian cyclist Darren Kenny and a couple of anonymous insiders who spoke to the Mail’s Martha Kelner( a correspondent who infringe various of the storeys recited by Pryde but who, unlike her male peers, Pryde feels no need to credit ). In addition, Pryde tells us, Nicole Cooke had already “added her voice to the chorus of high-profile critics”, as had Victoria Pendleton. Before April was out Sutton had quitted, after having been put on gardening leave pending an investigation into Varnish’s charges.
Around the same time as all this was happening, it was revealed that Simon Yates was facing time on the naughty pace for the wrong consume of an asthma inhaler. Some writers would use this to foreshadow the drama to come with Chris Froome but not Pryde, for whom the incident isn’t even worthy of comment.
May, June, and July overtook without major incident. Then came the Armitstead affaire, when “the media revealed that Britain’s reigning world road race champion Lizzie Armitstead had been tasked with an anti-doping violation following three infractions in a year.” When the CAS ruled that one of Armitstead’s whereabouts downfalls wasn’t her flaw, she was cleared to compete in the Rio Olympics but, Pryde tells us, once again “British riders were in the news for the worst reasons.”
Eric Gaillard/ Getty Images
Lizzie Armitstead exclusively determined it to Rio after convincing the Court of Arbitration for Sport that one of three whereabouts collapses she had accrued should be struck out.
If this was really British Cycling’s annus horribilis- and Pryde tells us it was- that initial descend was followed by a fantastic dead cat bounce, with Chris Froome adding another maillot jaune to his collect before the Armitstead affaire became public knowledge and the UK’s Olympians bringing home a dozen medallions from the Rio Olympics, six of them gold, while the Paralympians mustered twenty-one, a dozen gilded hued.
Things took a turn for the worse come September, after Russian hackers broke into WADA’s database system and released information relating to TUEs obtained by a number of Olympic jocks. “The Fancy Bears’ conflation of TUE-regulated use of’ medicines’ with the State-sanctioned administering and covered under of erythropoietin( EPO) and anabolic steroid consume was risible, ” Pryde tells us, although it’s not made clear where the hackers originated such demands. The initial liberate of data flooded high-profile players Simone Biles and Serena and Venus Williams. Subsequent liberates threw the spotlight on cyclists including Emma Johansson, Fabian Cancellara, Jacob Fuglsang, and Stephen Cummings, Jack Bobridge and Laura Trott, and Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. Of all the athletes worded- cyclists and non-cyclists alike- simply one suffered any lasting reputational detriment: Wiggins. One could ask why this is so but Pryde doesn’t.
Then came the Jiffy bag 😛 TAGEND
“Someone nursing a resentment- or with little sense of what would ultimately be unleashed- contacted the Daily Mail journalist and serial British cycling tormentor Matt Lawton and suggested to him that he should ask questions and find out what was in a Jiffy bag that had been delivered to Wiggins and Team Sky at the French Criterium du Dauphine stage race. […] If Varnish’s story had been a relatively localised thing- women’s race inside British cycling- the Jiffy bag imbroglio explicitly held British Cycling to Team Sky, as medical organization, records, storage and transport crossed unhindered and apparently unrecorded between the two entities.”
Who could this anonymous source with a antipathy possibly be? Pryde has absolutely no interest in revealing his identity, even though by now most all of us know his figure: Shane Sutton.
Adding insult to injury, the Mail went on to reveal that Wiggins had had a Whereabouts violation before the Rio Olympics and prompted readers of mentions he had offset criticising Armitstead simply one month earlier. Pryde chooses not to mention this incident in The Medal Factory.
Pryde does tell us that “these narratives all played out during a febrile summertime, when numerous British sporting organisations were constructing news for the most difficult reasons. An privileged GB Canoeing coach-and-four was under investigation for sexual gaffe with players, as was a coach from the UK Sport-funded Archery GB. Around the same time, the GB Bobsleigh squad was being investigated for intolerance, its funding administered directly by UK Sport rather than its national federation. And, speaking of racism, the English women’s national football director was accused of the same, and lost his job.” Unfortunately for Pryde- and whoever edited this diary- none of these narrations end until the subsequent year, leaving open to question just how fevered the atmosphere at the time actually was and whether it’s fair to insinuate- as Pryde seeks to do- that the allegations levelled at British Cycling and British cyclists were the product of some form of fever-induced mass hysteria.
Pryde goes on to tell us that “such was the flow of bad news throughout 2016- principally for cycling and athletics- that the select committee of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport( DCMS) decided an inquiry was required.” This is another claim that is not quite faithful to world and the DCMS Committee’s doping inquiry actually began in 2015 with its initial focus being tellings made by the Sunday Times and ARD concerning such IAAF. British Cycling only got swept up into the investigation following the TUEs and the Jiffy bag stories.
In December Shane Sutton and Dave Brailsford both performed before the Committee to give evidence, along with British Cycling’s Robert Howden. This followed images in 2015 by UKAD’s Nicole Sapstead and David Kenworthy, WADA’s David Howman, the IAAF’s Sebastian Coe, and earlier in 2016 UK Athletics’s Ed Warner, amongst other. Pryde tells us that the Committee’s broadcasted evidence-gathering discussions “made for grisly viewing in which various anatomies were quizzed and found wanting by a collection of legislators goal, at the very least, on talking tough to people who mainly sounded underprepared.”
In March 2017 came more bad news when it was revealed that a consignment of Testogel sachets had been delivered to the British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman at the Manchester velodrome. Freeman had already become something of an embarrassment for British Cycling and Team Sky, first when he skipped out of a scheduled DCMS Committee appearance and then when when his poor record-keeping and stolen laptop were exposed. While those fibs could be shrugged off, the story that he had been in receipt of a delivery of testosterone was a serious charge.
As if all this and its on-going fallout over precede months wasn’t enough to be dealing with, in December 2017- a year after Brailsford and Sutton’s DCMS appearances, during which time Sky had added another Tour de France victory to their haul, as well as a triumph in the Vuelta a Espana, the first Grand Tour double since 2008- it was revealed that Chris Froome was fighting an anti-doping charge.
The affairs above even up the first assembly of The Medal Factory, with Pryde frequently forgetting that, earlier today in the book, he has certainly just be to work out his stalling and instead leaping in feet first to litigate the allegations originated, leaving the reader bogged down early in detail and so blinded by the trees it becomes hard to see the forest. We then fall back in time twenty years to the story of where it all began, with the by-now familiar story of how Keen, King, Cookson and co rebuilt the Federation and how Dave Brailsford came to be its public face. After that there’s a by-the-numbers chronological walk-through of some of the awards prevailed until, two hundred sheets later, we finally get back to what should be the book’s meat and two veg, the fall from grace.
Does Pryde bring much hindsight to the retelling of British Cycling’s renaissance? Not genuinely. He certainly doesn’t question where the culture that Varnish and others complained of came from, whether it was baked-in from the start or developed last-minute. Certainly there is evidence it was baked-in. Graeme Obree’s autobiography contains moves suggesting that, even before the onset of Lottery funding, British Cycling placed success ahead of athlete welfare. Or there’s the case of Wendy Everson who- like Varnish more than a decade last-minute- made the federation to an employment tribunal. Pryde does mention this case, but exclusively to indicate lessons weren’t learned about the employment status of equestrians( who, throughout, Pryde refers to as employees of British Cycling ). What Pryde forgets to tell the reader is that Everson’s case had more in common with Varnish’s than time the question of employment status. It also included allegations of bullying.
Martin Rickett/ PA Images/ Getty Images
For Kenny Pryde, Shane Sutton is a man more sinned against than sinner.
Overall, Pryde has little or no time for such allegations. In his learn “Sutton had been a controversial and abrasive character” but there was an almost unanimous belief “that he had been cruelly being addressed by equestrians whom he had helped enormously.” In fact, according to Pryde, Sutton was more sinned against than a sinner and it’s his critics who really is essential to put under the spotlight.
Cooke, she can’t be trusted because she didn’t talk about the Halfords women’s road team in her autobiography, the same women’s road team that Tom Southam and Rob Hayles were members of.( And no, before “youre asking”, Hayles’ heightened haematocrit bout a few weeks after the Halfords unit was launched isn’t mentioned by Pryde, even though it was serious enough to fix Brailsford consider ceasing. And yes, Hayles is one of Pryde’s generators ). Pendleton, she can’t be trusted because she didn’t talk about Sutton decorating her flat for her, which act of kindliness is taken to mean that Sutton can’t really has become a bully. Here’s a thing about bullying that Pryde either doesn’t understand or doesn’t be concerned about: if you really want to make a success of it, get the other person to need you, personally as well as professionally. Be their friend even as you torment them. Pryde, he’s more interested in turning the tables and telling us that it was actually Pendleton who was the bully.
If Pryde had been even-handed in his care of Cooke and Pendleton perhaps his appraisals would carry some force. But he’s not. Pryde quotes this review of Cooke from an anonymous British Cycling insider 😛 TAGEND
“The thing that parties “ve forgotten” is that Nicole fell out with every team she ever rode for- she altered teams just about every season. There’s no doubt that she could have been better managed, but there are too many parties ready to judge what happened a decade ago by today’s standards.”
Falling out with just about every team they journey for is also true of Bradley Wiggins, who wandered through a succession of artery units without ever seeming to find himself at home. But does Wiggins get the same treatment as Cooke? When Chris Boardman and Simon Jones have to arrest Wiggins’s post-Athens alcohol problem( or “a booze-fuelled bender” as Pryde scolds it) is that seen as questionable? No “its not”. When Wiggins again goes off the rails at the end of 2010 and has to be wet-nursed by Sutton is that seen as questionable? No it is not. Instead we get’ Wiggy Stardust’ as a section title, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive” as an epigraph, and enough inhale blown up the arse of the Kid from Kilburn to give him lung cancer. Why? “In spite of the legends that started to seep out about Wiggins being difficult to deal with when things weren’t exiting his style, ” Pryde informs us, “Wiggins still’ connected’ with British cycling supporters; he somehow disseminated a sense in which he was still’ one of them’.”
That Wiggins’s primary the purposes of the supporters was through the media somehow seems lost on Pryde, a veteran of the British cycling media- he’s a onetime editor of Winning magazine( also the alma mater of Rupert Guinness) and Cycle Sport( which weighs among its graduates William Fotheringham)- and has been around the sport long enough to know much of the narration he tells in The Medal Factory without having to waste his time checking facts in archives, or carrying on business as new interviews.
In the 1980 s, for English-speaking cycling supporters, Winning was the essence of what a good cycling magazine is advisable to
That connection with the fans seems to be what matters most to Pryde and The Medal Factory certainly doesn’t feel designed to rock the boat by deliver awkward truths. Pryde offers the figure of counterbalance by recognizing commentaries levelled at British Cycling but is so contemptuous of those concluding the analysis that he yields them soften. Rather than a nuanced look at the fib, Pryde is simply leaning in to the denunciations realized before batting them apart dismissively.
Whose story is Pryde actually telling us in The Medal Factory? Some 70 -something people who spoke to the author are listed in the book’s Acknowledgements. Unlike road.cc’s reverenced literary critic Richard Peploe, for whom a cycling book worth little than four out of five idols is a rare thing and who wrote of The Medal Factory( 4.5 wizards) that he “struggled to think of countless profitable interviewees who are missing- with the exception of Bradley Wiggins”, my knowledge was abuzz with all the tones stillness by Pryde. Take, for instance, Steve Peters, the monkey spank specialist. who, along with Brailsford and Sutton, is seen as a cornerstone of British Cycling’s success. Ahead of The Medal Factory’s book he gave evidence at Richard Freeman’s MPTS tribunal hearing that not only depicted quite a negative picture of Sutton but also announced into question the diligence of those who completed the UK Sport inquiry into Varnish’s bullying accusations when he noted that he was not interviewed in connection with it, despite being the man Sutton reported to, and to whom British Cycling equestrians and staff complains that him.
Other silenced expressions are more jarring when you consider the gender disparity within Pryde’s sources. Would it surprise you to learn that all bar two of the 70 -something people thanked are men? If asked to guess the women who would you name? Varnish, Cooke, Pendleton? Emma Pooley? Rebecca Romero or Wendy Houvenaghel? All six of these have publicly discussed British Cycling’s drawbacks. All six others were overlooked by Pryde when he adopted those he needed to talk to when experimenting The Medal Factory. The only brides he thought to turn to were Debra Brown and Fran Millar. Millar is the now former Team Ineos CEO, Brown has been Brailsford’s PA since his British Cycling years. Neither is known for requesting critical questions of the cost paid for the bangles, baubles and jumpers collected during British Cycling and Team Sky/ Ineos over the last two decades.
Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images
While she may have fuelled the starting pistol on British cycling’s annus horribilis Jessica Varnish – seen here in action in 2014 during the London round of the World Cup series – is not listed by Kenny Pryde among those he spoke to while researching The Medal Factory.
Go back to that tally of medals and jerseys won over the last 20 times. Where are the major women’s road hastens in that roster? Where are the time trial World Championships acquired by females? Where are any of the honours triumphed in MTB, BMX,’ cross? Where are the Paralympians? All of these Pryde tells us in The Medal Factory have been ignored by British Cycling. But how well served are these studies by The Medal Factory itself? Shanaze Reade isn’t interviewed. Sarah Storey isn’t interviewed. Rachel Atherton isn’t interviewed. Helen Wyman isn’t interviewed. You’ll struggle to find their achievements in BMX, the Paralympics, elevation biking and cyclo cross even acknowledged by Pryde. He’s terribly, very good at demonstrating the problem by being their own problems: the failures of the Manchester medal factory are summon sizable in the very nature Pryde tells its legend in The Medal Factory.
In Pryde’s audit of the cost of gold- and let’s remember, the cost of gold is part of the book’s full deed- does he make the time to actually look at the athletes as human being and consider the toll all those bangles and baubles and jumpers have taken on “peoples lives”? Does he discuss Pendleton’s mental health issues and how British Cycling did or did not deal with them? Or how about Joanna Rowsell Shand? Or what about Wiggins? No, he does not. Because Pryde- despite his book’s sub-title- clearly isn’t actually interested in questioning the cost of success. He simply wants to retell time-worn fibs of honour. Storeys we’ve heard dozens of days before. And will doubtlessly hear dozens of ages again.
Meanwhile, the legend Varnish burnt the starting pistol on is still thriving, with British Gymnastics the most recent feature torso to find itself having to face reality and answer questions about the true cost of gold. This is a story that can’t be easily rejected, despite the best efforts of people like Pryde.
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