Track superstar Ed Clancy has given the first hint that his future may lie on the road beyond the next Olympics.
The 29-year-old Yorkshireman is going for a third successive gold medal in the team pursuit in Rio next summer, to complement the Olympic titles he won in the velodromes of Beijing and London.
This week’s track world championships in Paris are the first major stop on the road to Brazil, with Clancy and the Great Britain squad arriving in the French capital with a point to prove after their woeful finish of eighth at last year’s event.
That downspike on a timeline traditionally dominated by high points is why Clancy does not want to go through a full Olympic cycle again in the wake of Rio.
British Cycling place so much emphasis on Olympic results, that performances and practices slip in the two years after the Games. Such a drop in standards does not sit well with an individual as driven as Clancy.
And given he rides for British road team JLT Condor – albeit at a lower level than World Tour or even Continental Tour level – he is considering giving himself the option of leaving the boards behind in the run-up to Tokyo.
“I’m going to take two years after Rio to decide,” said Clancy, who with three medals to his name is Yorkshire’s most decorated active Olympian.
“I’ll have two years on the road, after which it will either be another two years on the road or two years on the track.
“I think it’s taken me this long to realise that once you get to this point in the Olympic cycle, whether we go on to do good things in the worlds or not – and obviously we’ll try our best – that this is the time when it starts to get exciting.
“We’re getting training camps, new sports scientists and it feels like we’re trying all of a sudden – and that’s what I like.
“I don’t like going to the worlds and thinking we’re an Olympic-cycle team, we’re just here to show our face – that’s why we get battered.
“I’m not saying that’s a bad attitude, I’m saying that’s how it is. It’s like a business that’s funded on one event, so understandably we put all our resources and funds into the last 18 months, two years of the cycle.
“But for me as a cyclist it’s a case of been there and done that, and it’s kind of demoralising to want to push and keep breaking world records when it’s hard to do it in those years.
“So I think it’ll be good to get on the road and I think it’ll do me good as well, to get a good aerobic conditioning. I don’t think I’ll be missing too much on the track.”
If the last two years were considered down years – and he still won two European titles and medals at world level and the Commonwealth Games – then 2015 is when the wheels start truly to turn towards Rio.
Whichever nation wins gold in tomorrow afternoon’s final will not necessarily win gold in 18 months, but with just a world championships in London to come next March, chances are running out to make an impression. And for Clancy and a pursuit squad strengthened by the return of Steven Burke, they need to make a statement after last year’s horror show in Colombia.
“We never ever want to go through that again, it was a horrible experience,” he said.
“I can’t promise we’ll go and beat the Aussies, but we want to go and show well.”
What heartens Clancy is the return of German coach Heiko Salzwedel, who worked with Clancy in the run up to Beijing.
His ‘old-school’ approach suits Clancy, and it is also the German who has prompted the Barnsley-born, Huddersfield-raised cyclist into a rethink over his dismissal of the omnium.
In December, Clancy – who won the fourth of his five world titles in the omnium in 2010, and an Olympic bronze two years later – told The Yorkshire Post that he was done with the multi-discipline event because the governing body had moved the points race, his weakest event, to the end and doubled the rewards on offer.
But he said: “Heiko has come in and given me a few ideas on how I can hang onto the sprint and speed which makes me a useful team pursuiter, but at the same time be a bit more competitive in the bunch races. So we’ll have another look this summer.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll do track for, maybe this is the last big push, maybe Rio might be my last one.”
If Clancy is a veteran at the big events, it is completely alien territory for Katy Marchant, 21, of Leeds, who two years ago was training in Toni Minichiello’s heptathlon group before switching to cycling. She makes her world championship debut today as the third member of the two-woman team sprint squad.