Get to Know: Defending Men’s Endurance champion Gavin Hoover

Our new ‘Get to Know’ series allows you to find out more about the stars of the UCI Track Champions League. In this latest instalment we speak to defending Men’s Endurance champion Gavin Hoover. 

Gavin Hoover will be a man on a mission as he battles to defend his Men’s Endurance title at the 2022 UCI Track Champions League.

The 25-year-old American earned his place in the history books by edging out Spain’s Sebastian Mora in a thrilling finale to the inaugural series at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark and now has his sights set on repeating that feat.

We caught up with Gavin at his home in California to find out more about him – how he got into the sport, what he made of the first UCI Track Champions League series, and what his goals are for the upcoming campaign:

Gavin, tell us about your earliest memories of riding a bike…
GH: I can remember when I first had my training wheels taken off. I could ride just fine but I couldn’t start by myself so I’d pedal as fast as I could down to one end of the street and then wait for my parents to help get me going again.

What did bikes mean to you when you were growing up?
GH: Bikes were an avenue to independence for me. They represented freedom that I couldn’t find anywhere else. As soon as I was on my bike and out of sight of the house I felt an immense relief, knowing that no-one knew where I was. The ability to move through the world under my own power and go wherever I wanted was amazing.

What was your first introduction to track cycling?
GH: Growing up in LA, we lived close to the only indoor 250m velodrome we have in the States. That track hosted the 2006 UCI Track Cycling World Championships and my Dad took me along to watch. I immediately fell in love with the sport and signed up to a programme which introduced children to the track. From that point on cycling became a bigger and bigger part of my life and I progressed through the local track scene before beginning to compete nationally and internationally in my later teenage years.

Who inspired you the most growing up?
GH: I was a huge fan of Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, and watching the Spring Classics. Back then that was what I wanted to do in the sport.

Who is the person that inspires you most today?
GH: It’s difficult to choose a single person as there’s so many people in different walks of life that inspire me. If I had to pick one, I’d probably say Donald Glover. His ability to produce meaningful work across such a wide variety of disciplines and mediums is hugely impressive. It’s inspiring on a level that leaves me confused as to how it’s all possible.

You’d represented your country at the Olympic Games and also won national and Pan American titles before taking part in the first-ever UCI Track Champions League – how much did you enjoy being part of that 2021 series?
GH: It was the most fun I’ve ever had racing my bike! The UCI Track Champions League is huge for track cyclists like me. It’s created a genuine avenue and platform to grow the sport worldwide, which is very exciting. Being a part of that development from the start and getting to watch it grow year-on-year is something I’m very much looking forward to.

What do you think of the racing format?
GH: It’s fantastic and really easy for fans to understand. There’s always something happening on the track and the series promotes extremely fast and aggressive racing. That’s fun for riders to participate in, and for fans to watch too.

What was your favourite moment of the 2021 series?
GH: My solo win in the elimination race at the Lee Valley VeloPark. It’s rare for an endurance rider to get a moment like that and be able to soak it all in. The crowd was so loud and I could really feel the energy and excitement when I crossed the line.

How much do the crowds spur you on when you’re competing?
GH: They’re a massive part of what makes the series so special. Last year we didn’t get the same level of support anywhere else and when the crowds are loud it really lifts you and helps you find something special.

What impact do you think the UCI Track Champions League has had for track cycling?
GH: It’s been huge. Along with the UCI Track World Championships and Olympics, the UCI Track Champions League is now the premier event in track cycling. The race format is easy to understand and that will hopefully attract new fans of the sport. Creating a sustainable model where track cyclists can focus solely on the track is something I’m very excited about and this series is definitely at the forefront of that.

What have you been up to since last season?
GH: 2022 has been super busy so far. I’ve bounced between the US and Europe racing the UCI Nations Cup, where I became the first American male rider to win the Omnium overall. I’ve also been racing a lot of domestic criterium’s with the Legion of Los Angeles team, which has been incredibly fun to be a part of.

And what are you looking forward to about the 2022 UCI Track Champions League?
GH: The whole environment. Last year was such a different vibe from traditional track racing. It was fun and there was a real camaraderie in the pits. I got to know riders from other nations better than I had done in the several years we’d competed together previously. I’m looking forward to being back in that type of community.

What are your ambitions for the 2022 campaign?
GH: Obviously coming in as reigning champion, my ambition is to defend that title. I think this year will be a lot more competitive as riders will have figured out the different racing formats and more of them will be looking to participate. I’m confident though, that the preparation I’ve done this year will set me up well to try and be up there again.

Who do you think your main rivals will be?
GH: It’s difficult to predict. Anyone that has the ability to qualify for the UCI Track Champions League also has the ability to win it, which is a big part of what makes the racing so exciting. It’ll really depend on who has the form and gets the momentum early in the series.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?
GH: I’ve worked hard to not develop any superstitions around race day. I’ll normally throw some music on the headphones but other than that, not really.

Do you have any dreams or ambitions away from sport?
GH: Not really. I’m looking forward to life after competition, although I expect it to be hard. My post-retirement goal is to find something that makes me happy and fulfils me in the same way that cycling’s always done.

Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve before the end of your career?
GH: A world title would be the capstone that I’d love for my career. They’re not easy to come by but if I do get one I’ll definitely be able to leave the sport satisfied.

And finally, when you’re not competing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
GH: I’m currently working for a non-profit organisation called Bike Index which is a free bicycle registration service designed to help you recover your bike if it ever gets stolen. Being involved with that means my days are busy but it allows me to do something that interests me aside from being an athlete. There’s normally not much time or energy left after training and work, but I enjoy cooking, having friends over and trying to relax as much as possible.

The UCI Track Champions League is returning bigger and better in 2022 with the five-round series commencing in Mallorca on Saturday 12 November, visiting Berlin (Saturday 19  November) and Paris (Saturday 26 November) before culminating with a double-header at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark on Friday and Saturday 2-3 December.

You can buy tickets for the Mallorca, St-Quentin-En-Yvelines and London rounds NOW, with ticket information for Berlin coming soon. 

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