Yorkshire cycling star Ed Clancy is on the verge of becoming the most decorated Yorkshire Olympian in history.
Gold in the team pursuit in Rio would mark a hat-trick of Olympic victories following successes at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where the Yorkshireman also bagged an omnium bronze.
But even by boarding the plane to South America the 31-year-old says he’s already enjoyed one 2016 triumph after battling through a potentially career-threatening back injury to head for his third successive Games. Clancy is one of three Yorkshire cyclists bidding to shine in Rio alongside women’s road race world champion Lizzie Armitstead and Leeds’ Katy Marchant, who will compete in the women’s sprint.
At 23, Marchant is heading for her Olympic debut, a feat Clancy achieved at the same age back in 2008. Such was the Yorkshireman’s form in men’s cycling, Clancy admits he never had one second’s doubt that he would be boarding the plane to Beijing – or to London four years on. But it has been a rather different take four years later with Clancy admitting the prolapsed disc he suffered at the end of the Tour of Britain last September left him fearing the London Games would be his last.
Just five months later Clancy was selected for the World Championships in London and now the cyclist is heading to his third Olympics – a Games which could place him in Yorkshire folklore – but also a Games he is merely delighted to be going to. Clancy will join Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Owain Doull and Steven Burke in the men’s team pursuit and said: “I think it’s fare to say that even in Beijing and especially in London, I’d have been very surprised if I wasn’t selected.
“It was almost a bit of a given. But this time around, after the winter I’ve had, getting selected to ride the team pursuit was on the front of my mind pretty much every day until we got told. When I knew I don’t know whether it was a relief or I was just happy. I think I was just happy.
“To be honest I quite enjoyed the challenge and when it started getting better and you see improvements, even when you can barely walk, it was quite easy because for motivation you can look back and say last week I had to crawl out of bed. And then you remind yourself that this time last week you couldn’t walk around the reservoir and you could see massive progression.
“But getting to that point, around October-November time when we were doing training camps in Tenerife – your world falls apart and you start thinking about worse case scenarios and what you are going to do with the rest of your life.
“In London (March) that was about 70 per cent of my best. But I think if I go out now I could contribute a lot more to the team then I could do then. The selectors didn’t necessarily put me in the team for performance reasons, they just wanted me to be part of the team and they wanted to give me a bit of a carrot to be honest. If I didn’t ride the worlds it would have been a long time since I rode a world class team pursuit with the boys so thanks to selectors for that and thanks for taking me now.”
Clancy had also hoped to compete in the omnium event in Rio but lost out in a battle to Cavendish. There are no sour grapes from the Yorkshireman – who says Cavendish fully deserves his place in the men’s team pursuit squad.
“Until fairly recently he was really quite average,” laughed Clancy. “However, over the last couple of months he has made massive gains and I think right now, in terms of everyone – the whole pool of riders including the ones that didn’t get selected – you’d for sure have stuck Cav as man five and the fifth best team pursuiter.”
Both are now heading for their third Olympic Games – and Clancy is planning on grasping this latest opportunity with both hands. Clancy reasoned: “It’s the same mindset really. You’re not thinking about what you have done or expectations. The focus is just on being the best that you can be every day, every time you come in – just giving it 100 per cent in every single session. I think at this point in an Olympic cycle you cut out all of the noise from your life – you don’t go socialising at all, you don’t go visiting family, you just turn into a bit of a cycling monk to be honest and crack on with the job.”