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Simon Jones: “I’m here to watch, listen and learn”

Simon Jones: “I’m here to watch, listen and learn”

‘Winning Edge’ is the policy of the Australian Sports Commission and winning is what Simon Jones believes sport is all about. Kenny Pryde sat down with Australian cycling’s high performance director at the world championships…

High performance director: under pressure?

  

– By Kenny Pryde

 

“I don’t believe that increased success will come from status quo or the comfort zone.”

– Simon Jones

 

Sitting in reception of the Quality Hotel near Bergen airport in Norway, Australian high performance director Simon Jones is surrounded by the buzz of the road cycling world championships. The Italian, German and Spanish national teams are all berthed at the same hotel and the building vibrates with nervous, excited energy.

“I love my job, I love this,” remarks Jones, still new to the Australian job, but vastly experienced in the world of high performance sport, a field he’s been working since 1997 when he was a humble sports scientist with British Cycling.

“I love the fact that I go to work every morning and am never sure what problems I’m going to have to deal with or what puzzle we’re going to have to try to solve.

“I feel really lucky.”

It’s just as well Jones has this attitude, because in his first few months in the job he has been subjected to fierce criticism for some of the choices he has made.

“It’s hard to read,” admits Jones, “because the decisions haven’t been easy to make, but I think they are the right ones.

“Historically Australian riders have sort of been known as ones who win at world championship level but not so much when it comes to the Olympics and I want to build a team that has that ambition and purpose. That’s the job I’ve been brought in to do,” notes the man known by many, almost inevitably, as ‘Jonesy.’

He is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task facing him and his team of riders and coaches, given the fierce competition at the very top of cycle sport on both road and track. (There are other disciplines involved, but these are relatively new to Jones and we’ll cover how he’s managing MTB and BMX in future features.)

Katrin Garfoot earned two of Australia’s four medals in Bergen… bronze in the TT and silver in the road race (above).

Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“I think a lot of countries are getting on top of rider preparation and using technology and sports science now and there’s not a lot of margin for error,” said Jones.

“To that extent I think we need to really focus on the areas where we have the best medal probability because, again, that’s the objective I’ve been asked to do.

“We need to look at the best way to prepare riders and work with the coaches to help them win and, in the short term, if that means making some unpopular decisions, well, that’s part of my job too.

“I don’t believe that increased success will come from status quo or the comfort zone.”

In Norway, Jones was moving in the background well aware of the fact that there were riders, managers and coaches who had been preparing for these championships for a while.

“I’m here to watch, listen and learn,” he told me.

“I’m certainly not here to be the big boss and try to impose myself – not here, not now – and this isn’t my style,” insisted Jones, well aware that changing perceptions and attitudes isn’t going to happen overnight.

“I think, from an outsider’s point of view, it may seem like Aussie teams [is] about good fun more than, necessarily, actually winning. But in the end, when it comes to high performance – professional sport – winning is what it’s a about.

“Some might have a bit of a moan about the way Chris Froome wins the Tour de France but, in the end, all most people will remember is that he won – that’s what we’re ultimately here to do. And, I mean, what rider doesn’t want to win?”

 

 

– By Kenny Pryde

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