Clancy has the hunger to sprint in for more golden glory

The wheels are forever turning for Ed Clancy.

With two Olympic titles and a bronze medal to his name, Yorkshire’s most decorated competing Olympian would be forgiven for getting on his bike and riding off into the sunset.

But standing still or looking back is not the mantra of Clancy.

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He is a ‘what’s next?’ kind of athlete. ‘That was London 2012, where do I go now?’

The answer is out of his comfort zone, in pursuit of something fresh to get his teeth into.

While ever he is moving forward, he may as well keep testing himself.

So the next challenge for one of the finest team pursuiters on the planet, and an equally-talented multi-discipline rider, is the team sprint and the individual kilo.

Having already claimed world titles in the team pursuit and omnium over the last few years, he begins the cycle to a third Olympics in Rio by trying to complete a sought-after quartet at the track world championships in Minsk, Belarus, in February.

If he were to do so, it would be an unprecedented achievement, yet that is not the driving force behind the county’s most prolific winner.

“The big motivation for me is the fact that I love riding my bike. Winning’s great, but you don’t always win,” he says.

“The love of riding a bike is motivation enough.

“And I haven’t run out of hunger. Look at Chris Hoy – why should he continue after Beijing?

“The day I run out of hunger will come and when that day comes I will move onto something else. But that’s not now.”

When pushed about those phenomenal four days in the London velodrome at the start of August – when he broke the world record twice in winning gold with the team pursuit squad, then won two races out of six to claim bronze in the individual omnium – Clancy does at last concede some ground.

But, as always, he soon turns the conversation back to the future.

“I remember it fondly and it will be hard to top it, if truth be told,” recalls the Barnsley-born, Huddersfield-raised cyclist of his London 2012 experience.

“Lining up with your three mates against your arch-rivals (Australia), doing the business in front of friends and family and a nation watching their home Olympics was a special moment.

“But it’s been and gone. I’m glad I’ll always have the gold medal and have had that experience and opportunity, but you quickly move on.”

In an attempt to articulate how his perpetual hunger for more might relate to the regular man in the street, Clancy adds: “Imagine if you’ve ever wanted a nice house or a nice car and you’ve saved up for a long time. Or there’s a promotion in your job you’ve been working for that you think will make you happy for ever once you get it.

“Well, achievements are like possessions, their appeal doesn’t last for ever, you quickly get used to it.

“After Beijing, I thought if I could do that again in front of my home crowd in London, have two Olympic golds and get another in the omnium, then I’d probably retire a very happy man after that.

“But as soon as you get it you look at Chris Hoy who has won six and you think ‘what’s next, where can I take my career, what can motivate me now?’

“You quite quickly become accustomed to the fact that you’ve won two golds.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’ve got them, but you quickly want to move on. I don’t spend that much time looking back and reminiscing. I’m not one for looking at photos, I’m always seeing what else I can do.”

That next step has seen him take over Hoy’s role in the team sprint.

There are no boots bigger in track cycling, but somebody has to fill them so why not Clancy?

Hoy’s two golds in London made it six overall, plus one silver, from four Olympics.

Clancy, at 27, says he has two more Games in him, and at the rate he is winning medals – three so far – he is on course to match the great Scot.

Clancy finished second on his first outing with the sprint squad of Jason Kenny and Phillip Hindes at November’s Track World Cup meet in Glasgow.

But with typical modesty he takes none of the credit himself, and knows there is plenty of work to do ahead of the next big challenge in Minsk.

“The start is make or break for me at the minute,” he says. “In terms of endurance and tolerance on the last lap, I should be good.

“I’m quick for an endurance guy, there’s no doubt about that. I’m quick once I’m up to speed, but it’s the acceleration those guys have. Because I’m smaller, more aerodynamic, when you’re going off the line it’s down to brute force, and that’s my weakness.”

His motivation for doing well in the team sprint derives not just from winning medals, but from keeping his mind fresh and his appetite sated.

“I’m doing the team sprint to try and bring a new dimension to it, to do it better than it’s ever been done before... or at least try,” he says.

“It’s a new challenge and I’ll give it everything up to the worlds, with the kilo alongside it. I’ll re-assess after the worlds what I want to do in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games (2014).

“I’d rather keep myself motivated and excited by the prospect of a new challenge for this winter at least.”

Beyond that is the prospect of success and glory at the one major event he has yet to 
succeed in – the Commonwealth Games.

He went to the 2006 edition in Melbourne as a relative novice and returned thinking he was in the wrong profession, such was his poor form.

He opted out of Delhi in 2010 because it did not fit into his schedule.

Glasgow in a little over 18 months, though, is very much on the radar.

“It would be nice to have a Commonwealth title, it’s the one thing that’s missing,” says Clancy.

“It might not be on the same level as the Olympics or the worlds, but the British love a Commonwealth Games, plus we can get the Brit-Aussie rivalry going again.”

What is striking about Ed Clancy is his laid-back nature. He could be talking about walking up the stairs, not competing against the world’s best for the greatest honours, such is his nonchalant manner.

Yet beneath the calm exterior beats the heart of a fierce competitor, one who right now, feels like he could go on for ever.