Ed Clancy OBE, Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist, talks to HBA!
Ed Clancy OBE, all set for Tokyo:
Holme Valley’s very own gold winning Olympian, Ed Clancy OBE, popped into Honley Village Hall for his Covid-19 vaccination. It means he’s now all set to head out to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympic Games, which start with the Opening Ceremony on Friday 23 July.
Ed has a hat trick of Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit and an individual bronze in the omnium, not to mention a trophy cabinet full of European, Commonwealth and World medals for track and road cycling.
Amazingly, it will be Ed’s 4th Olympics and he’s once again taking part in the team pursuit in a bid to defend the team title. He admits it’s a tough ask, with old rivals the Aussies expected to be (literally) hot on their heels (or rather wheels).
Despite a tough pre-Olympic training regime, Ed very kindly took the time to have a chat with us about the Olympics, cycling and life in general. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you get into cycling?
I loved cycling as a kid. After school, I’d meet up with friends and we’d make race circuits around the playground. That changed to riding over ramps and exploring woods when we were older. I loved the freedom and adventure. I also loved watching the Tour de France and Olympic cycling on TV, which inspired me to think of it as a sport.
I joined Holme Valley Wheelers and started competing. I didn’t try track cycling until I was 16 when I finally persuaded my parents to take me to Manchester velodrome. Cycling is one of those power sports, like rowing, where starting later in your teens isn’t a disadvantage. With cycling, there’s no impact on your joints – providing you stay on the bike – so fewer injuries. It means that you can continue competing at a high level for longer.
Were you immediately spotted as a future talent?
When I was with Holme Valley Wheelers, British Cycling were searching for future Olympians. They had a talent programme which visited schools, inviting young people to test their 3-minute power and sprint power on static bikes. Unfortunately, they didn’t visit my school but I tried out at Manchester velodrome and joined the programme that way.
Even then, I wasn’t particularly outstanding as a younger rider. But I loved racing and put in the work. I developed physically and as a rider. In my early 20s the work began paying off and I made that step up on to the international stage. It proves that success doesn’t always happen immediately, but if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, and take good advice, you can achieve your goals.
Did you always want to become a professional cyclist?
Cycling is my passion, but when I first started out only handful of people were lucky enough to make it their career. I received an offer to study engineering at Loughborough University the same day that I was offered a contract with British Cycling. Of course, I followed my dream but, at the time, I’d probably have been richer as a student!
Since then there’s been a lot more investment in our and many other sports. It gives more athletes the opportunity to make the most of their talent.
Where is your favourite place for training?
I do a lot of training, and racing on roads as well as the track. I’ve lived in Europe, cycled in the Alps and other parts of the world, but the Holme Valley is definitely up there as one of the best places for cycling. We’re not short of hills around here, but you can also find flat routes which you need for a full training programme.
Team pursuit is the event where 4 cyclists race around a track at breakneck speed with their wheels almost touching. How on earth do you cycle so close, so fast?
Hours and hours of practice is certainly part of it but, in truth It probably looks harder than it actually is. When we reach top speed, we’re travelling at around 65kph. At that speed, you’re in a rhythm and it’s easier to keep going at the same rate than it is to speed up or slow down.
You first competed in the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. How did that feel?
It was surreal. That year, we’d won the Team Pursuit at the UCI Track World Championships, so we were in good form. But we knew that everyone would step up their game for the Olympics and we’d have been happy to come away with a medal of any colour. As it turned out, we stepped up our game too, broke the world record twice and won gold.
Being on top of the podium was nuts, and we certainly made sure that we enjoyed it!
Tokyo will be your 4th Olympic Games. What advice would you give to anyone just starting out in their sporting journey?
Begin with the end in mind and decide what success looks like to you. It’s not always about winning medals, it might be a personal challenge that you set yourself. Above all, make sure you’re enjoying what you do and that it makes you happy. When you look back, that’s what’s really important.
Do you have any tips for anyone – old or young – who is thinking of taking up cycling?
If you’re thinking about competing, joining a club like Holme Valley Wheelers that’s affiliated with British Cycling is the best way forward. Through the club you can take part in local competitions and work your way up to regional and national events. It’s a friendly sport and usually club members and riders are happy to help if you need lifts or extra bits of kit.
For anyone who is new to cycling or taking it up in later life, the key is to make it enjoyable. A good starting point is Dunford Bridge where you can join the Pennine Trail. There’s a flat, traffic-free path that follows the old railway line to Penistone, where you can stop for refreshments before cycling back. After a few weeks of that, you’ll soon be ready for more challenging rides.
What will you do when you finally retire from competitive cycling?
I’ll continue to work as a consultant with Pro-Noctis, a coaching and mentoring organisation, which brings the principles of sports coaching to help people thrive in the business world.
But cycling is my passion and together with Graham Briggs, a member of the British peloton, I set up the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy. We offer expert coaching for those who are serious about their cycling, but the main aim of the Academy is to help young kids discover the fun and enjoyment of cycling.
I can’t think of a better way to keep busy!
At the time of writing the Olympics are still going ahead, so the only question remaining is how well Team GB will perform?
While we wait a few more weeks to answer that one, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ed for generously giving his time for this interview and to wish him, and the rest of the GB cycling team, all the best for Tokyo!
I know I’ll be screaming encouragement at the TV!
In the meantime, why not check out the starter cycling routes around Honley.
by Jeanette Dyson, CopyWrite