In 2002, Hoy prepared for the Games in Manchester, his training base, with a hunch but no wholesale conviction that he could be the best individual rider in the world.
He had won Olympic silver with fellow Scot Craig MacLean in Sydney two years earlier, but Jason Queally was the man to beat when it came to the 1km time trial and Jamie Staff the emerging threat. Pundits predicted that the muscular Hoy might split the English pair.
Staff, a recent convert from BMX riding, easily broke the existing Commonwealth record with his time of 1min 02.456secs, laying down a marker for a Scot whose individual credentials remained unproven. Hoy’s response was breathtaking, and it formed for the first time his reputation as the alpha male of track cycling. He timed 1:01.726, and in the moment he crossed the line with the number one flashing up on the screen, his father David leaped out of his seat brandishing the Saltire in such a spectacular expression of joy that he nearly fell into an adjacent exit.
At that point, of course, Hoy was guaranteed at least silver but he was helpless to stop Queally, who had been training with him that year. But, despite a brilliant second lap, despite shaving his entire body in the knowledge that his protege might just succeed him, the Englishman could not match Hoy’s time and came in at 1:01.947.
“Just to stand on the podium and hear them playing Scotland the Brave is a lifetime’s achievement for me,” said a tearful Hoy afterwards, unwittingly stating words that he would have to eat over and over again in a decade in which he became Britain’s most decorated Olympian. “To win it for Scotland is really unbelievable and if I can inspire any other athletes, then I’ll be really happy.”
Lee McConnell clinched a silver medal on the track the same evening, but this was the fourth day of the competition and Hoy’s gold – the first won by Team Scotland in Manchester – set the wheels in motion.
He went on to dominate the kilo, taking World Championship gold later that year and then confirming his supremacy at the Athens Olympics, whereupon the UCI decided to remove the thrilling event from the Olympic programme. No matter: Hoy stepped across the disciplines to excel in the sprint and the keirin, winning almost as he pleased for the rest of his incomparable career.