Here’s the latest column from Brendan Gallagher, reflecting on the departure of Sir David Brailsford, and looking ahead to The Women’s Tour with Lucy Garner.

ONE of the many pressing reasons we badly need the imminent Women’s Tour is that it will give unheralded young stars like Lucy Garner a stage to perform on and a chance to shine in front of a home audience. Even in these times of plenty how many double World junior champions does GB boast in a truly global sport? Not many is the answer and it does British sport little credit that so little is known about the 19-year-old from Leicestershire.

Garner, possessor of a blazing Cavendish like sprint, won the World Junior Road Race at both Copenhagen in 2011 and Valkenburg in 2012 when she received a superb lead out by another young British star Elinor Baker who two days earlier had won the Time Trial event. Garner has got pace to burn, obviously, but consider also that in 2012 she was also a key member of the GB Team Pursuit that won the gold medal at the European Junior Track Championships. There is an endurance element to her make-up that suggests she has got the all-court game to suggest she could make a significant impact at senior level. Garner could become ‘box-office’ and a bit further down the line look out for her younger sister Grace who is tearing up trees with the GB Olympic Development programme.

Straight after the 2012 World Garner senior signed for Giant Shimano, one of the biggest and best founded of the Women’s teams, and spent much of 2013 learning her business as a professional. That included, at the age of 18, moving over to Holland to live – commuting from her home in Cosby just wasn’t going to work – and getting used to a wide range of races. The only tangible reward for that was a stage win at the Tour of Chongming Island near Shanghai but that was against a field of World Cup strength and this year her best result is a second place at the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo, just ahead of Britain’s Olympic silver medal winner Lizzie Armitstead.

“Last year was really tough physically and mentally, being part of a professional team and living abroad. It was a very steep learning curve but I feel like it has really put me in good shape for this year. I did so many different races last year – not always the sprints – and have got experience now of all sorts of racing scenarios. Already this season I feel more at home, I am entering some of the races for a second time, I know the climbs and when the technical sections are coming up and when we hit the cobbles sections. I am definitely a sprinter at heart but I am working on every aspect of my riding, I need to get over those climbs!

“I enjoyed my time on the Track and had thought I would try and keep it going through this last winter but actually the weather was generally so good that I didn’t feel the need to find a velodrome and go inside. I managed regular 3-4 hour endurance rides right through the winter. I will probably still do some track work occasionally just to sharpen my top end speed but I’m a roadie at heart.

“A big appeal for me is being outside in the weather and experiencing everything a region has to offer from my bike. It’s almost a lifestyle thing for me and is one of the reasons I have loved my time over in Holland so far. It is such a bike-friendly society with all its lanes and quite road once you get away from the town. The only problem, if you can call it that, I have encountered is that I am very keen to learn Dutch but when I open my mouth and reveal myself to be English everybody talks to me in perfect English. They are such fantastic linguists the Dutch.”

Giant Shimano are one of the few top squads not riding the Women’s Tour owing to a prior commitment, but she is being released to ride for a Great Britain team and given five flattish stages around East Anglia and the East Midlands there would seem every chance of her getting involved in some of the finishes.

“There is a real buzz about the race and among other things I believe it will showcase British women’s cycling. It’s a bit of golden period but the British public don’t often get an opportunity to come out and support us. Personally I’m particularly looking forward to Stage Two, Hinckley to Bedford, which virtually goes past my family’s front door. It will be great to see some friends and family on the road supporting me that day. It’s normal so difficult and expensive for them to get across to the Continent to support me although my Grandad, who was a bike racer, did get across for both my world junior races.

“Personally I’ve been very lucky at Giant Shimano where there is absolutely no difference in the way we are treated and the attention and time give to us than from the Men’s World Tour team but you only have to look around and talk to the other girls to know that is not always the case. And even in Holland there is very little media coverage unless Marianne Vos had been involved in a big race. Women’s road racing has such a lot to offer and hopefully The Women’s Tour will be the start of something big in this country.”

THE news of Sir Dave Brailsford’s departure from his role as Performance Director with British Cycling had been well signposted and openly talked about in recent months and there is not the slightest doubt we won’t see his like again, both in style in substance. Has any British sporting manager and Director has ever seen the bigger picture with more clarity? I make it 18 Olympic gold medals on his watch – 16 track and two road – if you include the often overlooked gongs from Chris Hoy and Brad Wiggins at Athens in 2004.

Away from the Olympics there simply isn’t time or space at this juncture to list the various world titles that Brailsford has directly or indirectly overseen. It’s a monumental record that transformed cycling in this country and has provided a coaching and management model that many sports around the globe are currently mimicking which. Imitation, as we know, is the sincerest form of praise.

Just one other fleeting thought at this stage though. Logging onto Twitter today I was amazed at those doubting that Shane Sutton –who has been confirmed as GB’s technical director – is the man to take GB cycling forward. Well it’s not going to be easy for sure – the experience of David Moyes at Manchester United shows how difficult it can be to fill big shoes – and Brailsford and Sutton formed a unique double act, a ying-yang combo that covered every base. Repeating that chemistry is going to be difficult, and perhaps he needs to find a sidekick of his own, but anybody remotely connected with GB cycling in the last decade will be well aware of Sutton’s coaching qualities and passion for the sport.

Some fingers were pointed in Sutton’s direction in February this year when GB, sans Braislford, managed ‘only’ two Golds at the World Championships yet not a word was uttered a year earlier when GB, again with Sutton in charge, garnered a miraculous five golds at the Worlds in Minsk with a tired and much diminished squad just a few months after London 2012. That was one of the finest coaching and motivational performances I have ever witnessed.

And talking of London 2012 Brailsford himself will tell you that Sutton was the hands on, day to day, coaching presence with the GB Track squad throughout the build-up to a Games when nobody expected a repeat of the Great Haul of China four years earlier. Already by that stage Brailsford, deeply immersed in trying to mastermind a Tour de France win for Bradley Wiggins, was the hands on the tiller. Brailsford’s greatest ability of all was, and is, a willingness to delegate responsibility to those he trusts.

It was Sutton down in Perth with the GB Sprint squads in the winter and it was Sutton getting up at 5.30am every morning and getting down to Manchester Velodrome to help Dan Hunt and Paul Manning produce the best Men and Women’s Team Pursuit squads the world had ever seen. Despite being Brad Wiggins personal mentor and coach Sutton allowed himself just two days at the 2012 Tour de France, the rest of the time he was spending 18 hours a day overseeing the final preparations for Great Britain’s Olympic competitors.

Replacing Brailsford is going to be fiendishly difficult and perhaps it can’t be done but if you were a head-hunting agency tasked with drawing up a short list of those in the greater cycling world capable of pulling it off Sutton would be the first person to be interviewed.

NOBODY would like to see the Isle of Man or Northern Ireland involved in The Tour of Britain more than me, heaven knows I have banged on about it enough over the years, but I was rather impressed last week when Jonny Clay from British Cycling made the case for the new stricter implementation of shorter transfers – 90 minutes driving time – which is very much going to shape The Tour of Britain in years to come.

Yes, you can point at the Tour de France and Giro in particular and their massive 3-4 hour transfers which have become the stuff of legend and that’s before you even take into consideration their regular overseas Departs both those Grand Tours indulge which are huge logistical exercise. This year for example Stage Three of the Tour de France ends on The Mall in London on the Monday morning and the entire circus will be on parade against the following morning in Le Torquet on the other side of La Manche.

But the whole point, surely, is that the brave new world of professional road cycling post the ‘naughty noughties and nineties’ needs to pay way more attention to rider welfare and cut down on unnecessary exhaustion, fatigue and stress. Historically the doping culture started because everything involved in professional road racing was so extreme and close to the limit of what the human body can endure and it surely makes sense to make even the bigger stage races slightly more compact and logical. By doing that some of the temptation is removed from ambitious riders.

There is no point paying lip service to that notion only to keep piling on the agony and as major players in the cycling world now Great Britain has the opportunity to take a lead rather than to mimic old, flawed, race models. By keeping the transfers down it will make The Tour of Britain more compact and, unless it can become a ten day Tour, it will to a certain extent have to move around Great Britain in a three year cycle to make sure everybody is involved. But if that is the new model and reality of modern day stage cycling so be it.

“We could go down the route of comparing ourselves with other event on the calendar but there is an ideological element here,” said Clay at the 2014 Tour of Britain launch last week “We are a major player now and we don’t need to ‘follow’ in this country we need to lead in terms of best practice. I think we are capable of leading best practice. If we want The Tour of Britain to be one of the best events in the world you must ‘lead’ and not follow

“From a British Cycling point of view we have put a lot of pressure on the organisers (SweetSpot) over rider welfare, reducing the transfers, and I fully appreciate that is a big pressure and it makes the unique British model even more difficult work. It’s an imperfect science and will be difficult but these guys are the best for the job, they were up against the biggest names in the world when they won the tender last year. The Tour of Britain if our national tour and we want it to be one of the best stage races in the world, one of the top ten. There are 26 races of HC category or above around the world so already it has reached that level but we want it to grow further.”

There is no danger of the Tour of Britain not growing but it should not fear going its own idiosyncratic way, an approach which has served it well. If short transfers are the future the trick is to become the absolute masters of working the system to the full. And I’ve done my maths. With a little co-operation from the Red Funnel Ferry people Mick Bennett and is team might still be able to stage an off-shore stage on the Isle of Wight!