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LONDON (AFP) — Dave Brailsford, the man behind British Cycling’s Olympic success, is leaving the national program to concentrate solely on his role as principal of Sky, it was announced Friday.
As performance director of British Cycling, he oversaw eight gold medals at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
The 50-year-old Welshman was also the driving force behind the creation of Sky, which has provided the last two winners of the Tour de France in Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013).
“This is a big step but it is the right decision for the team and for me,” Brailsford said Friday.
“Since London 2012, we have worked hard on succession planning and that has meant we’ve got to a point where I can move on, knowing the team will go from strength to strength.”
Shane Sutton, previously Brailsford’s deputy, has been promoted to technical director while Andy Harrison will continue as programs director.
A new role of head of performance support will be created.
Meanwhile Professor Steve Peters will step down as the team’s psychiatrist.
Peters now works with a range of leading sports figures and teams, including snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan, Premier League leader Liverpool, and the England national football team.
‘Transformation of cycling’
Brailsford added: “My role at Team Sky will mean we’ll still work closely and support the aims of British Cycling.
“I’d like to thank all the great staff who I’ve worked with and of course the amazing athletes who ultimately deserve all the credit for their success.
“I have some extraordinary memories — not just from Olympic Games and world championships but also just day to day seeing cycling go from a fringe activity to a mainstream sport.
“I’ve always said that, more than any of the medals, the transformation of cycling in Britain is the single thing I’m most proud of having helped achieve.”
Sky’s success led Brailsford to conclude he could no longer combine that job with his British Cycling post.
Recently, he missed two successive track world championships due to Sky commitments, including February’s event in Cali, Colombia where a disappointing performance prompted a fresh review of the British setup ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Brailsford joined British Cycling in 1998 and took over as performance director when Peter Keen left in 2003.
He became known for concentrating on “marginal gains,” such as harnessing all possible technological advantages in bike design, as well as mental preparation.
Brailsford was knighted after the London Games.
British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said: “I want to thank Sir Dave Brailsford for his enormous contribution to British Cycling — the organization he leaves behind is transformed from the one we both joined in 1998.
“In that time, the Great Britain cycling team has not only set the standard by which British sporting success is judged but also inspired millions of people to get active through cycling.”
Sutton paid tribute to Brailsford by saying: “He leaves a big hole but we have a fantastic system in place from playground to club to podium with a great team throughout the organization and I am very confident looking ahead to Rio.”