22 September 2011London 2012 Olympics: Ed Clancy will lead Team GB's defence of the pursuit without thought of past glories
By Duncan White
I’m quite unusual in that most people who do this come from a cycling family and I don’t. I was just a kid who used to enjoy messing around on a BMX. My mum will tell you that the first thing I got excited about when I was a little kid was a plastic tractor with pedals on it.
I was born in Barnsley and grew up near Holmfirth and I and a group of mates started messing about on mountain bikes. At school there was a design tech teacher called Graham Huxley who challenged us to compete in a 10-mile race. I’d got a road bike for my birthday and even though he beat me I just kept going back. I was pretty average as a junior and it was only when British Cycling picked me up at 17 that things started to happen.
I was not doing anything phenomenal until I was in the second year of the academy, in 2005, when I and Geraint [Thomas] started to break into the team. In the winter of 2007 we were not just in the team but the strong guys in it. That was it, we were on our way to Beijing.
I started working with Dan the following year. I had heard rumours that he was coming over from the women’s team to coach the men’s and then he took me and Geraint out for coffee. Apparently he went away thinking we didn’t need his help but that wasn’t the case.
I work closely with Dan because I’m the old man of the team now. It’s inevitable that Geraint and Bradley [Wiggins] would go off and do their road thing. So my role changed a lot. The thought that some of the younger guys would look up to me as a leader was a bit strange.
Paul [Manning] had always been my role model, the sensible big brother while I was just one of the lads.
Dan will be down by the side of the track and he’ll be our point of reference to how we are doing. A lot of team pursuit is about pacing. If you go out like a bat out of hell you’ll be in bits by the end of it. Dan gives us the feedback we need from trackside. If we are down on pace he’ll walk towards us, if we’re up he’ll walk back. I don’t even look at his face, just at his feet in my peripheral vision.
There isn’t really a typical week for me. Before a major competition I’ll do as little as two or three hours a week. Big weeks on our training camps I’ll be doing more like 25 to 30 hours a week. There isn’t really a different training regime for the omnium, it’s more about working out my tactics, talking to Dan about different strategies.
Giving 100 per cent on the track is not the hardest thing. You get used to the pain. It’s not nice but it’s part of it. Once you’ve gone flat out a few times you’ve done it a million times. There is a point in your body that will not let you go any harder than that.
I do it every day of my life. The hard thing for me is what you can’t do: drinking and socialising with your mates, pulling wheelies on your motorbike, eating good food.
Things have changed in the past four years. There’s just this big wave of expectation. I wouldn’t change what happened in Beijing for the world but it has brought heavy expectation and anything other than winning is going to be seen as not such a great thing. The bike is the same and the training is the same but outside the velodrome it’s different.
After Beijing, I was really happy for four or five days but after a week I was thinking about what was next. You don’t want to live in the past. You don’t think about how good you were or what you have won, you think about how good you can be and what you want to win.
There’s something I really don’t like about the thought of not being as good as I was.
Ed is the best team pursuit racer in the world. If you were making your all-star team from racers around the world, Ed would be 'man one’. He’s important as team captain too. As captain and coach we decide what we’re going to do in a training block and then roll it out to the team. We don’t have just one person dictating things, it’s more of a joint thing.
I studied at Bristol University, did my masters there, and then got a job at the University of Bath in its human performance unit. I was working as an assistant sports scientist, with lots of different sports. I moved to the Institute of Sport in 2002, working with triathlon and a bit of athletics and swimming.
In 2005, I was putting up an altitude tent in somebody’s garden when Dave Brailsford rang. He asked me to start coaching the women’s programme. Up to that point I’d never coached anybody at anything. I’d been around coaches for five and six years but I did not even have a coaching qualification. I went through the whole Beijing cycle with the women’s team and learnt a lot.
I knew Ed from all the training camps – I think we’d first met when he was in the academy in 2006 – but I’d never had anything to do with him on a work front. Then in 2009 I was asked to start coaching the men. I worried how I’d be received as the women’s coach. These guys were Olympic champions and while I’d coached it at world level with the girls I had a lot to learn.
It was pretty daunting. When I took the girls on I was quite relaxed because I couldn’t have made them any worse but this was the fastest team in the world and there was scope for really messing things up.
I don’t see the role of the coach as beating motivation into somebody. Your job is to help and support, and even push. Sometimes you have to tell your athlete the brutal truth.
But if you are the kind of athlete that needs to be shouted at from the side of the track to go well then team pursuit is not for you.
It is very different going into London after the success in Beijing. It is hunters turned hunted. The other teams – Russians, Aussies, Kiwis, Danes – they get out of bed every day wanting to beat us. They want to come to London and beat us on our home turf. While you don’t spend too much time thinking about it, it’s always there.
The higher profile has brought greater expectation but I think that’s fantastic. I remember a Manchester World Cup when what felt like four people came to watch. Now it is standing room only. Nothing beats the sound of 10,000 people here in the Manchester velodrome with six seconds to go. Silence. You can hear a pin drop. As soon as the beeps go, you can’t hear a thing.
Yes, there is an expectation to win but from a sporting perspective that is healthy. What we have created is an environment where if they won an Olympic silver medal the lads would be gutted. Unless we achieve the epitome of excellence we are disappointed. In Manchester this year the team clocked the second fastest time ever outside of Beijing and yet they were disappointed not to have gone faster.
That is what is incredible about Ed and the team: they are constantly chasing something just out of reach.
Click here for the original article (The Telegraph)