- 18 Jun 08, 04:34 PM
Deep in the bowels of the National Cycling Centre in Manchester lies one of the keys to Britain's Olympic hopes - and it's hidden under a coffee machine.
"Yeah, we may have to move that", Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion, and now head of research and development at British Cycling, told me, before using it to unlock a wooden door, and reveal an Aladdin's cave of cycling technology.
Everything from tyres to cogs, riding suits to handlebars are all neatly labelled, all ready to ship to Beijing.
"Film that and you won't leave this building alive", he said, pointing to a piece of carbon fibre. "It's the new Mach 2 design."
To the uninitiated, it doesn't look any different to last year's component, which is sitting alongside.
But when you've spent a million pounds on building the lightest, strongest, fastest bikes in the world, you don't want to give too much away.
"Our mission is to ensure that our athletes go to the line and know for a fact that nobody has got any advantage over them from any equipment or clothing point of view" said Boardman.
"That every watt of power, every bit of work they do to gain that extra advantage, or lose a gram of weight, will go towards them going faster. We're pretty confident that we have achieved that."
And they've done it thanks to grants worth £500,000 from UK Sport. The money has been spent on 26 different projects. Everything from pedals to helmets has been either refreshed or redesigned.
UK Sport has also brought in research experts from other industries, including aerospace and motor racing.
I visited one project in Guildford, in a laboratory used normally for MotoGP and Formula One engineering.
Designers from the Kenny Roberts MotoGP team were using a £125,000 servo-hydraulic test machine, capable of exerting 10 tonnes of pressure, to test the breaking point of BMX bike forks.
Their plan is to build six new forks, two of which will go with the BMX world champion, Shanaze Reade, to Beijing. What about the other four? You guessed it - they get to break those as well.
"We can go away, redesign these forks using this information to be more efficient, and hopefully to be half the weight as this one" says Chris Finister, one of the designers.
"The weight is so important. Getting off the line, who's going to get the best start? Every tiny piece, every gram counts, and we are just trying to give the British athletes the best possible advantage."
British Cycling has matched UK Sport's funding to buy 250 individual components, the fruits of all that labour. And only one rider, the reigning sprint and keirin world champion, Chris Hoy, has used the full kit in a race.
""It's quite exciting and when you are talking about thousandths of a second between winning and losing, these are the things that can make all the difference." said Hoy.
"But ultimately it's about hard work, time in the gym, getting ourselves into the right physical state to produce to push the bike around."
And if it does all come together in Beijing, what can Britain expect?
"As far as gold medals go, nobody wants to make a prediction," Boardman told me. "But from purely a personal point of view, I think it is quite feasible that we can come away with as many as five."
Given that the entire British Olympic team won only nine gold medals in Athens, that's quite a target.
And if the technology buried inside the Manchester Velodrome helps to achieve that goal, it'll be £1m well spent.
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