Great Britain’s cyclists will not dominate the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as they have in previous Games after the “shock” of the Track Cycling World Championships, says Sir Chris Hoy.
Elinor Barker won the team’s only gold in Berlin and they finished seventh in the medal table with four, their worst haul in an Olympic year since 2000.
“It’s not a time to panic but, at the same time, there has to be significant change to get where they want to be in Tokyo,” said Hoy, who is Britain’s joint most successful Olympian. “
Speaking to BBC Sport, the six-time Olympic track cycling gold medallist added: “There are some positive things to take away but, on the whole, I think it was a bit of a shock.
“They were expecting other nations to raise the bar and to be impressive and to come here with 100%, but I think the 100% of other nations have exceeded anything they were expecting.
“At the moment, the odds are that Britain are not going to dominate in the way they have.”
Barker’s points race gold came on the final day of the championships in Germany, with silver medals coming in the women’s team pursuit and men’s team sprint, while Matt Walls won omnium bronze.
But GB’s men’s team pursuit team – Olympic champions at the past three Games – finished seventh despite setting their fastest time in qualifying.
However, that was almost four seconds slower than the world record set by Denmark in the opening round, before the Danes lowered that by almost another two seconds to win gold.
“They’re going to be feeling the hurt,” said Hoy. “But sometimes that hurt and that pain can inspire you to work even harder and produce the goods when it counts.
“I felt really bad for Ed [Clancy] because this is most likely his last World Championships. The interview he gave after the team pursuit, you could see he was absolutely devastated, because I think they felt they actually rode quite well.”
‘It feels like GB have plateaued’
Since lottery funding began in 1997, Britain’s track cyclists have won 40 Olympic medals, 24 of which have been gold.
The Rio Olympics in 2016 saw Team GB win medals in all but one event – the women’s team sprint – while Tokyo 2020 will see the addition of a men’s and women’s madison to the programme. Britain did not win medals in either madison in Berlin.
“British Cycling is certainly not dominating in the way it used to, but they’re not underperforming. It’s that the world has moved on, that is the bottom line,” added 43-year-old Hoy.
“Every generation raises the bar. Every generation learns from the previous one and the times get faster and faster.
“What’s different is that Britain have always been the ones doing the raising of the bar, they’re the ones improving before the rest of the world then responds.
“It feels like we have plateaued a little bit. There hasn’t been this rate of improvement we have traditionally come to expect.
“Things ebb and flow. It’s not that it’s over or that’s it’s the end of an era, it’s just the reality that the rest of the world is catching up.
“They could turn up in Tokyo though and excel again, and I really hope they do. They will still win a couple of gold medals.”
‘We should temper our expectations for Tokyo’
Despite so few medals in Berlin, British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park says the team are “not a million miles” from where they expected them to be in the run-up to the Olympics.
In addition to the men’s team pursuit setting their best time in qualification, the men’s team sprint – Jason Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens – set a new national record en route to the final.
There were also fourth-place finishes for Laura Kenny and Walls in the women’s and men’s scratch races, and Carlin in the keirin.
“We think we’ve had a lot of really promising performances,” said Park, who was made performance director in December 2016.
“People are coming back really positive about the progress made and where they think they are on the trajectory to Tokyo.”
But Park acknowledged that the “goalposts have moved” in the men’s team pursuit, adding that a “reassessment” was needed for the GB team.
“We’re not a million miles away from a medal, but right now you’d have to say we’re a fair distance from a gold medal,” he said.
Looking ahead to Tokyo, Park added: “We should temper our expectations.
“I don’t necessarily expect any country is going to run away with the medals. That represents a healthy sport.
“We’re as keen to win medals now as ever but we’re also keen to make sure the sport grows, that we’re winning in the right way and progressing for the longer term.”