TWO-TIME Olympic champion Ed Clancy believes Sir Bradley Wiggins is getting his timing spot on as the Rio de Janeiro Games approach.
Clancy was initially a reserve for the Track World Cup in London, which begins today and is his first competition in Great Britain skinsuits at the Olympic Velodrome since London 2012, after struggling with illness in recent weeks.
Wiggins was penciled in to ride, but his withdrawal – to instead focus on preparations for one final road ambition, April’s Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, before his return to the track in a bid for a final flourish in 2016 – has led to Clancy being restored to the team pursuit squad.
Clancy thinks Wiggins proved, in helping England to silver behind Australia in July’s Commonwealth Games after just a few weeks’ preparation, that his track pedigree remains despite leaving himself just one season in the velodrome ahead of Rio.
“Any doubts we had about Brad and his ability to get back to the track in a short space of team were put at ease at the Commonwealth Games,” said Clancy, who was a team-mate of Wiggins in winning Olympic gold in 2008 and in Glasgow.
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“Brad was pretty exceptional. In such a short space of time he managed to turn his road form into good track form.
“From what I’ve seen of Brad in the past, leading up to Beijing [in 2008], the way Brad was riding in the Commonwealths wasn’t far off his best. If he gives himself a few months, I think it’s quite an exciting prospect.”
Wiggins could be joined on the track in Rio by Mark Cavendish. Talk of Cavendish riding in the velodrome continues to resurface, particularly after his Six Day racing return in recent weeks, and the omnium event in which Clancy won bronze at London 2012 could suit the Manxman.
“I’d love to see Cav have a go at the omnium,” Clancy added. “My focus is on team pursuit and with the points race at the end and the points scoring system it’s more of an endurance rider’s thing anyway. I’ll try to persuade him to do team pursuit as well.”
Clancy is pragmatic about Britain’s team pursuit targets on today’s opening day of competition.
Olympic qualification points are the priority for Clancy, Steven Burke, Mark Christian, Owain Doull and Andy Tennant.
The five-man squad will be rotated for the three rounds of the four-man, four-kilometre event, with the proximity of the racing making qualifying well in the first ride all the more important.
“It’s a case of doing well, collecting points, rather than setting the world on fire, but it would be nice to get a strong ride out of us,” Clancy added. “It’s a bit more of an endurance test, how well you back up. The teams that have got five strong riders will have a significant advantage, swapping one guy around for the semi-final and final.
“If you qualify fastest and you’re up against the fourth fastest team in the semis, it’s quite a significant advantage, if you get through to the final from that.”
Looking forward to a home Track World Cup, in an arena where Britain enjoyed stunning supremacy in August 2012, Clancy added: “There’s something special about the place.
“When you walk down the steps into track centre itself, it does bring back memories.”
Clancy, though, is focused on the present. He added: “I’m not a very sentimental person. It feels like a home World Cup, but it doesn’t have that Olympic feel about the place, as much as you might think. Apart from getting into the track, there’s very little I recognise about the place.”
The women’s team pursuit also takes place today, alongside the men’s and women’s team sprints.
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