On Saturday night, in the Lee Valley Velodrome, Ed Clancy will close the curtain on a long and gloriously golden career in track cycling. Apart from – possibly – the Manchester velodrome, he could imagine no better venue to bid farewell to the sport that has brought him three Olympic and six World titles.
“Twelve years ago I remember walking into this place when it was just a building site,” he Clancy told Laura Kenny, on media duties for Eurosport, ahead of the first night of the London double-header. “Then two or three years after that… It was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, racing in a home Olympics.”
“This is the first time I’ve done a big international race on this track since London 2012, and the omnium there. It seems like yesterday, and it’s nine-and-a-half years ago. I’m feeling my age,” he says, with a smile.
“It was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, racing in a home Olympics”
The 36 year-old officially retired at the Tokyo Olympics, but was persuaded to pull on a skin for one (or four) last time(s) by this brand new competition.
“Tokyo was really my last big push,” he says. “That team pursuit, the lads, the event, that meant everything to me. It didn’t quite work out this time like it did on the three previous occasions. I’ve enjoyed the track champions league as a warm-down, but I’m done.”
Clancy admits that he hasn’t “been leading the life of a professional cyclist since Tokyo.” That is perhaps reflected in his results in the competition so far, but also the high standard of the competition itself. No-one has been able to just turn up and pick up results.
“The thing with an elimination race is you’ve got to be pretty motivated to get stuck in,” he says. “To be honest I didn’t have that motivation out there in Lithuania.” Clancy was the first rider knocked out of the elimination in the Cido Arena, last Saturday.
He has promised to try his best in front of the British fans in London, however:
“I’m going to get stuck in this time. I’ve got my carbon shoes out and put some special tyres on. This will literally be my last weekend of racing, and what a way to finish.”
The competition, Clancy feels, has got off to a great start, achieving the long sought-after balance between pure elite sporting competition, that can be somewhat exclusive, and an accessible entertainment form that modern audiences demand.
“Maybe I’m biased but track cycling is a great thing,” he says. “The racing is short, intense, there’s a gladiatorial atmosphere. I really feel like over the last ten, fifteen years something like this [Champions League] is what it’s been missing. World Cups and World Championships are obviously great tests of human performance, and how people perform under pressure, and I still think you get that here, but with the entertainment atmosphere as well. From everyone I’ve spoken to back home they love it on TV. It’s coming across really well and I hope it continues for decades to come.”
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Sadly for cycling fans, it will be doing so without Ed Clancy, as he assures Kenny that this really will be the last time he competes in a track cycling race. He won’t be turning his back on cycling entirely, and will be devoting more time to his Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy, set up eight years ago to help children develop their bike skills.
“It’s coming across really well and I hope it continues for decades to come.”
Nor does he rule out returning to British Cycling in a professional capacity. Just not yet, he says.
“The idea of being a coach, and helping those boys out, it’s something I’m passionate about, but I think it’ll be in a different role for the next few years at least.”
Whenever it comes, he’s sure to deliver results. This great servant of cycling always has.