GLASGOW’S Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome will host its first major meeting next weekend, when the opening World Cup of the winter track season is staged in the new venue, writes Richard Moore. It follows the Scottish championships, held at the end of October to rave reviews.
Sadly, Hoy will be missing. The six-time Olympic gold medallist is on a two-week holiday, and embarking on a sabbatical of a yet-to-be- determined length. He has committed to take part in an exhibition race in Rotterdam in early January, but will skip all of this winter’s World Cups and next year’s world championships before possibly returning for the Commonwealth Games.
But the only other major British star of London 2012 who will be missing in Glasgow is Victoria Pendleton, who has retired to Strictly Come Dancing. Otherwise, the field is distinguished, unusually for the first post-Olympic World Cup, by several riders transformed by the London Games from unknowns to celebrities, including the women’s team pursuit squad of Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell, and the triple Olympic gold medallist, Jason Kenny. The most intrigue, however, surrounds the appearance of Ed Clancy, pictured right, who led the team pursuit squad to a gold medal and a world record in London – as he also did in Beijing – but is now taking the highly unusual step of reinventing himself as a sprinter.
For most pursuiters there is a natural progression from track to road racing, as Bradley Wiggins demonstrated after Beijing, when he turned his attention to the Tour de France. But Clancy is a different case. The 27-year-old from Huddersfield is a cross between a sprint and endurance athlete, and although most of his career has been devoted to an endurance discipline, the coaches at British Cycling have long suspected he has the “engine” of a sprinter.
Now that is being put to the test. Glasgow will be his first outing with the team sprint squad, and he faces the daunting challenge of stepping into the shoes of the rider after whom the velodrome is named. On Hoy’s “own” track, Clancy will join the Scotsman’s erstwhile team-mates, Philip Hindes and Kenny – who of course won gold with Hoy in London – as third man in the team sprint. Dave Brailsford, the British performance director, has acknowledged that Glasgow is the first step on the “road to Rio,” and that there is considerable experimentation in the British squad. Whether Clancy can fill the enormous hole left by Hoy in 2016 remains to be seen, but in other events there is a clear opportunity for talented youngsters to replace the old guard. With Pendleton gone, Becky James and Jess Varnish both have their chance in the women’s sprint events, and the men’s pursuit quartet is almost unrecognisable – only Steven Burke remains from the squad that won gold in London.
When they went on sale, tickets for the three-day meeting, which opens on Friday, sold out immediately, providing more evidence of the appetite for track cycling. That appetite is apparent in the use of the track, too, with Alasdair MacLennan, the president of Scottish Cycling, noting yesterday that “the only complaints are that people can’t get access to it, because so many want to ride there”.
On Wednesday evenings the track league has been attracting 100 riders, with talk already of adding a second weekly meeting. Yet that grassroots interest is not reflected by the international calendar, which is hardly bustling with events.
The next big meeting in Glasgow will be on 2 February, thanks to the popular Revolution series, and then the Glasgow track will stage the world junior track championships next August, which will act as the test event for the Commonwealth Games a year later.