• Australia in action during the men's Team Pursuit first round at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin (AAP)Source: AAP
Performance director Simon Jones has spoken publicly for the first time since a Cycling Australia restructure sparked significant backlash on social media last month after seven staff members were given their marching orders.
By
Cycling Central

9 Jun 2020 - 5:36 PM  UPDATED 9 Jun 2020 - 5:56 PM

Jones was a guest on the Stanley St. Social podcast yesterday where he answered questions on a range of topics including the restructure and athlete selection. 

After Jones said he wasn't 'overly concerned' about the track team's performance at the world championships in Berlin early this year, he was asked why there was a need to restructure last month if everything was on target to earn four to six medals across all cycling disciplines at Tokyo 2021, his main 'KPI'. 

"The main reason for that is I guess two-fold," he answered. "I didn't think the restructure would have a negative impact if anything (it would have) a positive impact on Tokyo.

"And also we've got to plan part of our budget, (of) the $10m that we have, we have to provide development pathways as well and I think part of the changes enable us to do more around our development pathways for the future. 

"A big part of my role is thinking beyond the next Olympic Games and have like an eight-year view. So I was thinking about how we could boost some of our development strategies and that was a big part of it."

Asked if that would 'rock the ship' in light of Jones emphasising earlier in the podcast a successful high performance program had the athlete at the centre with key ingredients including the 'right support,' he said 'change is uncomfortable.'

"Change is uncomfortable," he repeated. "I think it's necessary, I think we gave it a lot of consideration and yeah it will unsettle.

"But I think given where we're at I think given the bigger picture I think we had to do it now and have some short term unsettling."

Jones said he completed the restructure this year and not later in the Olympic cycle, because he looked at the COVID-19 affected schedule and 'the next couple of years got busy all of a sudden' with track worlds and Olympic/Paralympic Games in 2021 and a home road world championships in 2022. 

'Thankyou Simon!' - sacked coach's open letter hints at broader Australian Cycling Team discontent
Sprint coach Ross Edgar says he has just under 60 days to leave the country with his partner and four-month old son after he and several other Australian Cycling Team staff members were shown the door in a restructure.
Seven staff members to go in Cycling Australia restructure
Seven staff members will leave the Australian Cycling Team with a further four offered 'refocused' positions following a review of Cycling Australia's high peformance strategy and operations.

Last month, sprint coach Ross Edgar posted an open letter on social media after he was laid off in the restructure. 

"No consultation, no compensation, no remorse," Edgar said. "This gives us 60 days to leave Australia with our 4-month-old baby boy in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. Thankyou Simon!

"We were not consulted about these changes and neither were the (other) redundancies. Nor it seems any other head staff or athletes and those that remain employed and not a part of this facade were promptly informed by Senior Management after our departure."

Edgar also said he believed the shake up would cause unncessary instability among athletes and staff he will now no longer mentor through to their biggest objective, the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. 

"Continuity is vital at this stage of an Athlete Centric Program, the relationship between Athlete and Coach having been carefully honed and understood over the previous three years of an Olympic cycle.

"Simon's 'restructure' is a major change and will see a reduction in support for all coaching rolls (sic) which will impact heavily on the resources available to Athletes and fundamentally changing how all coaches work leading up to the games.

"This shows that there was little to no consideration for the athletes themselves and with Simon's program strategy purely based on Olympic success."

But Jones believes the restructure would cause minimal impact as athlete support was still the main goal. 

"We're, to be honest, we're not still back in full training properly as well. We're just starting to re-enter the training environment so it is an adjustment. I think it's the right adjustment to make I think it's going to improve ultimately I think the planning and the coordination and the delivery to the athletes.

"We've got a better, tighter support team and it also sets us up for the future as well," Jones said, although he did not go into specific detail. 

In regards to consultation, although Jones was asked about athlete selection, his answer is relevant in the light of Edgar's accusations.

"We consult on appropriate things. But some things you can't because they're personal, private matters which you can't consult on. We won't be consulting on everything because it's just not appropriate, sometimes we (just) can't. 

"We give everything that we do serious consideration (and) consult appropriately around context. We (have) good intent around the pgoram, a good culture (that is) challenging at times and we have to make tough decisions." 

At the time, Edgar's social media post prompted a number of discussions on social media including this tweet from 2011 omnium world champion Michael Freiberg. 

This follows a number of high profile riders being dumped from the track program in the past few years resulting in two defections (Shane Perkins to Russia, Jordan Kerby to New Zealand) and Caitlin Ward's Instagram post after she was cut from the program. 

But Jones says decisions, especially around selection, are not something done 'lightly.'  

"We have a panel, the coach provides recommendations but we actually select through a panel (and) I make the final decision from a five person panel for major events and we've got an independent selector. So I think we've sort of broadened the accountability of selection. A shared accountability."

The former Team Sky coach was also asked about disgruntled athletes who take to social media. 

"People I guess are entitled to say what they want to say. We all can make mistakes around that but I think there's ways of giving feedback which we do at times and we listen to people. I think it's best to be kept private, to be honest, those types of things."

"It is interesting isn't it. It's all too easy to say...I think we have to make some tough decisions at times.

"But I do think we do that with compassion. I think we do that with thought and we do it with support as well.

"And how people want to convey their thoughts and feelings and emotions (publicly) is really down to them."

Jones was criticised by many within Australian cycling earlier this year after his tweet (now deleted) surfaced where he colourfully addressed critics of the track team's performance at the world championships in Berlin.