‘It’s not personal but there can only be one winner’: Meet the ex-British Cycling allies – and former rider and coach – plotting to end Team GB’s ‘medal factory’ velodrome dominance in Tokyo with Holland and Denmark
You have to go back to Athens 2004 for the last time Team GB did not win the men’s team sprint at an Olympics.
The event has been one of the bedrocks of Britain’s success in track cycling, with legends like Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny leading the charge.
On Tuesday, however, Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens face their biggest battle yet to hang on to gold. To make matters worse, one of the best cycling brains in Britain is plotting their downfall.
Team GB’s men’s pursuit riders are aiming to bag a fourth straight Olympic gold in the event
Former GB track rider Dan Bigham is now working with Denmark ending to stop the British
‘It’s not personal but I want my team to win and there can only be one winner,’ former British Cycling coach Mehdi Kordi tells Sportsmail.
The 36-year-old is now working with Team GB’s biggest rivals the Netherlands, who have won the last three World Championships.
‘I enjoy a friendship with a lot of the British riders,’ says Kordi, who still lives in Manchester. ‘I worked with Ryan and Jack when they were in the academy. Ryan was at my wife’s baby shower!
Bigham’s Danish riders are a big threat for the British after breaking their Olympic record
The Netherlands’ team sprint female riders fell just short in the bronze medal decider in Izu
‘People think you’re there to crush them, show them what they are missing, but there is no animosity. I want to see them do well. But it’s not like a test where you get a percentage and everyone’s happy. We’re after one thing.’
Kordi, born in Loughborough to Iranian parents, started out as a rower. After briefly working as an accountant, he did a Masters in physiology and applied to be a PhD researcher for the English Institute of Sport, at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
He also started working voluntarily for Team KGF – an independent cycling team who raced in World Cup events and has morphed into Huub Wattbike.
A young squad of Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Ollie Wood and veteran Ed Clancy ride for GB
Kordi gave the role up after British Cycling deemed it a conflict of interests. By then, though, his innovative ideas had caught the eye of other nations – including the Dutch, who he joined in 2019.
‘I do analysis and tactics,’ Kordi explains. ‘I came in with fresh ideas, using the knowledge I gained from KGF and my PhD; things I’ve always wanted to try but never had the opportunity.’
Team GB’s trio won silver behind the Dutch at the worlds last year and are set to be even more competitive in Japan, with their new bike and skinsuits.
Team GB have a huge budget for their track setup and arrive at the Games with a radical bike
Jason Kenny rides in GB’s sprint trio on Tuesday aiming to become Britain’s greatest Olympian
‘They’ve got weapons-grade technology they can roll out,’ adds Kordi. ‘It’s going to be way better than what we’ve got and their budget is about six times bigger.
‘They have come into Olympics previously saying they’re not going to win and won, so I’m not counting my chickens.
‘We’re up against it. But we have to be creative and I love that.’