Coltman swaps Manchester for Glasgow

There’s a new face at Scottish Cycling this week.

Gary Coltman has swapped one city with a velodrome, a reputation for bad weather and a passion for football, for another.

The 47-year-old is departing British Cycling in Manchester after a decade to take up a newly created role as head of performance at Scottish Cycling’s base at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow.

His task is to coach the coaches, to help identify young talent that can win Commonwealth medals for Scotland and Olympic medals for Team GB.

It’s a daunting task but few could be better qualified for the post, which covers road, track, BMX, mountain biking, cyclo-cross and cycle speedway.

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The facility is inspirational, it will provide that impetus to go on and be world class

Gary Coltman on the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome

Coltman held a number of roles in Manchester but, for the past six years, he has been performance manager of British Cycling’s Olympic talent programme.

Cycling’s contribution to Team GB’s medal haul at London 2012 suggests he wasn’t exactly wasting his time.

Prior to that, as a track cyclist he won a bronze medal for England at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986, riding beside Chris Boardman in the 4,000m team pursuit.

That was the year he also broke the one kilometre track record.

His range of cycling talent is highlighted by his winning, five years later, the first ever official National MTB Downhill Championships, then three top-10 stage finishes in the Tour of Britain in 1994.

What’s more, he later built the Team Raleigh mountain bike team into one of the best in Europe.

That he should now wish to do join Scottish Cycling for the next five years is viewed as a major coup by the organisation’s chief executive, Craig Burn.

“This is a tremendous appointment,” he said.

“Gary has played a leading role in helping to establish British Cycling as one of the most successful sporting organisations in the world.”

Coltman told BBC Scotland the role is to “lead the coaches and give them every opportunity to be the best coaches in the world”.

He explained: “Just like we want to give the riders the support and opportunities to be the best they can be – hopefully world class – I’ll be doing exactly the same for the coaches.

Gary Coltman

Coltman in action at a Rutland Recreation Ground mountain biking event in 1996

“That means challenging them. We are talking about a high-performance environment, and that can be tough, but it’s supportive as well.

“We have to make sure we’ve got the programmes and processes right to bring youngsters through and into the senior ranks, not just for Commonwealth success but Olympic success as well.”

With the sensational achievements of Sir Chris Hoy and the imposing presence of the velodrome that bears

the now-retired Olympian’s name,

it is easy to imagine that the focus for Coltman is purely the track.

But with his remit covering all disciplines, he prefers to speak more generally of the velodrome’s broader value.

“The facility is world class, it’s inspirational,” he said.

“It’s part of the package, if you like, of what I think is a very inspirational opportunity for me and the cyclists in Scotland, not just for track cycling but for every discipline.

“It’s a real tangible facility that can pull people together in a high-performance environment.

“It will provide that impetus to go on and be world class.”

Scotland’s top young cyclists will tell you of the step up in class when it comes to competing across the UK, rather than just in their own country.

Come 2018, when his contract expires, Coltman won’t be satisfied if he has merely produced more young riders to battle on to the podiums of UK-wide races.

When he talks of Scots being “world class”, the riders can be in no doubt about the standard he is striving for.

Currently, the best riders, like Inverness mountain-biker Kenta Gallacher and Peebles’ Grant Ferguson, are cherry-picked to go on to the talent programmes that Coltman used to run in Manchester.

And for all he is determined to nurture the talent in Scotland, the new head of performance thinks it would be madness not to take advantage of the links into the world-beating system in England’s north-west.

“We have to be sensible and realise that the Great Britain cycling team and the system is the best in the world,” he said.

“We would be crazy not to take advantage of that. Definitely the aim will be to put young riders on to those programmes. The support that is there for the riders is just incredible.

“Having said that, I think the level of rider to get on to that programme is increasing all the time.

“There will be some excellent young riders from Scotland that may not quite make it on to those programmes so we need to have programmes that will support them throughout their career.

“It’s a bit of both, really. We want to continue to put riders on to the system in Manchester but have high-quality systems for them to stay in Scotland as well.”

Coltman’s new employers hope he raises the Scottish standard.

If that means a Scottish flag being hoisted in Glasgow 2014 or the Gold Coast in 2018, their appointment will have been a success.

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