Great Britain’s gold rush in the Velodrome in 2012 may seem impossible to live up to in Rio next year, but six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy insists there is every reason to expect a repeat performance.
With a total of 12 cycling medals at London 2012, including eight golds, Team GB blew the competition away; just as they had done at the Beijing Olympic Games four years previously.
But with the British side in transition, Team GB’s performance at the World Championships earlier this year was cause for concern as they picked up just three silver medals in total and failed to claim any gold medals for the first time since 2001.
One of the main casualties of that campaign was the Women’s Team Pursuit, with Australia taking the event to a new level, somehow slicing three seconds off the world record and thrashing the British quartet of Laura Trott, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell.
Britain can no longer call on the services of the likes of Hoy or Victoria Pendleton, who were such a huge part of the ‘medal factory’ in 2012, but the 39-year-old Scot is adamant the humbling has served as the perfect wake-up call.
“I think in many ways that defeat will end up being the best thing that could have happened to them,” said Hoy, who is an ambassador for Six Day Racing.
“If you keep winning you become fearful of change as you feel like you have the ‘winning formula’, but the sport is constantly developing so you have to adapt all the time.
“They were basically forced into making those changes, rethinking their training and their ideas, and it will have given them a breath of fresh air. You can see a new lease of life in them and they’re all hungry for success now.
“With me, I found that every Olympic cycle I did, halfway through it you always needed a bit of a kick up the backside.
“When you step up to the top step of the podium at an Olympic Games, no-one remembers the silver medal you won the year before or the bronze the year before that.
“All people want to know about is that one day every four years that really counts, and while you want to be invincible, the odd blip every now and again can spur you on to better things.”
Hoy admits the Australians have laid down a daunting marker for Rio, but is also confident GB’s dominance on the track in recent history will give them the psychological advantage.
And with the men’s Team Pursuit side also making a marked improvement this year, Hoy believes the building blocks are in place for another British Olympic gold rush in the velodrome.
He added: “They’re going to put the willies up the Aussies again. It’s become a bit of a tradition that every four years the Aussies look so strong up until the last minute, and then the Brits come good, and I don’t see it being any different from London or Beijing.
“It will come down to an Australia vs GB final, and it will be a nail-biter, but every time it happens the Brits seem to pull it out of the bag.
“That will be playing on their minds even if it is a totally different quartet to previous years, it doesn’t matter.
“They’ll be worried about it happening again, and I’m sure it will be a classic final.”
Hoy has an association with Six Day Racing that stretches back to 2009, the year in with he was knighted, when he took to the boards in Rotterdam,
And it was there too that he took his final track cycling victory in the annual Six Days of Rotterdam Sprinters Cup.
And Hoy believes the London version of the event, which takes place in October, will help raise the profile of track cycling in the UK.
He added: “I think the Six Day in London will be pinnacle of track cycling in the UK, in terms of demonstrating to the public what the sport is about.
“From a spectator’s point of view, it really doesn’t get any better as you have all the best riders, and it’s an experience that is tailored to the audience.
“There are no long gaps between the races; it’s all action from start to finish. It’s the same guys you would see at a World Championships or an Olympic Games, but it’s all about the entertainment.
“It is a bit more about fun and showmanship, winning a race in style, but it’s still full-on, flat-out racing and that combination is brilliant.
“This definitely is an event that can take off, and after the London Olympics this is definitely the place to go to see the best guys in the World on the track.
“It’s vital to keep the momentum going in cycling in this country, and I’m sure this can turn into one of the country’s iconic sporting events one day.”
Six Day London is at Lee Valley VeloPark between 18-23 Oct – tickets now on sale at www.sixday.com. Come and see the world’s best track cyclists in action and be part of an electric party atmosphere at London’s Olympic Velodrome
Picture courtesy of Evans Cycles via Youtube, with thanks.