ED CLANCY'S GUIDE TO THE CYCLING: Three-time Olympic gold medallist talks you through each event


The Tokyo 2020 track cycling begins in Izu on Monday. Here, Sportsmail columnist and three-time Olympic gold medalist Ed Clancy – who is competing in the team pursuit – talks you through the different events and his team-mates…

KEIRIN

Up to six riders follow a pace motorcycle – called a derny – for the first three of six laps and then sprint to the finish.

Clancy says: ‘You have six weightlifters, big angry men and women, following a motorbike round with the idea that when they start the sprint, they are all absolutely fresh and ready to go. Then you get 20 to 25 seconds of absolute chaos.

‘It is an exciting event to watch because there are guys and girls who have put four to five years of training into an event that not only gets decided in 20 seconds or so, but is also a big roll of the dice.

The Tokyo 2020 track cycling competition will get underway in Izu on Monday

The Tokyo 2020 track cycling competition will get underway in Izu on Monday

‘You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. You are trying to pre-empt other people’s strategies and positioning. There are many ways you can win a keirin but there is no real obvious one.

‘In 2012, we saw Chris Hoy just get on the front and lead them out but that isn’t going to get it done these days. You’ve got to be canny, hold people up, push people high on the track, and it’s always chaos.

‘The keirin is huge in Japan. It’s like horseracing in Britain, but even bigger. Keirin is the way they gamble out there and there will be a massive focus on it in Tokyo.’

MADISON

Teams of two riders take turns in a tag team points race, with points awarded for lapping the field and for sprints every 10 laps.

Clancy says: ‘There is a lot of history and heritage with it. Big six-day madison events around Europe attract big crowds. It’s not an easy event to follow but it is worth investing a bit of time and watching it closely.

‘It’s very dangerous and it’s highly tactical. You can go for a big heroic lap take or you can keep chipping away on the sprint laps.

The Madison event sees teams of two riders take turns in a tag team points race

The Madison event sees teams of two riders take turns in a tag team points race

‘You’ve got to look around and see what the other strong teams are doing. It’s almost like a game of chess.

‘There are a lot of different pieces on the board that are all moving around at different points in time. And you are trying to do that game of chess whilst you are riding at 99 per cent for an hour.

‘If you are having a bad day in the madison, you will just take a kicking from start to finish and get a result that reflects that at the end.’

OMNIUM

Multiple-race event. Scratch race is where riders race over 30 to 40 laps to be the first to finish. The tempo race sees points awarded for winning each lap or lapping the field. In the elimination race, the last-placed rider is knocked out every two laps. The points race sees points earned for sprints every 10 laps or for lapping the field.

Clancy says: ‘From the very first race, you’ve got to be thinking about where your opposition is. It’s not that bad getting a terrible result as long as you are with your opposition.

The omnium is a multiple-race event consisting of scratch, tempo and elimination

The omnium is a multiple-race event consisting of scratch, tempo and elimination

‘The elimination race, that is just chaos. It is an event in itself. There are crashes and near misses. ‘There’s only one good place to be in that race and that’s in second wheel and everyone wants to be in second wheel. You don’t want to be at the front and you definitely don’t want to be at the back.

‘The omnium comes down to a big points race at the end which is more heavily weighted than the other events. Much like the madison, you’ve got to play that game of chess right when you are already knyeackered from previous events and you are riding your bike round the velodrome for the best part of 45 minutes flat out.’

TEAM PURSUIT

A 4km race between two teams of four riders starting on opposite sides of the track.

Clancy says: ‘It’s four riders, four minutes. You need every single rider to be on form. It’s a bit like a house of cards. If it goes well, it’s a beautiful thing. If you take out one card, the whole thing will come crumbling down.

‘It is not just four riders taking their brains out and going flat out. There is a real art to pace judgement.

‘You’ve got to get out of the gate fast enough to not lose enough time, but for every tenth of a second you go over schedule at the start of the race, you are guaranteed to lose that and more at the back end.

The team pursuit is a 4km race between two teams of four riders starting on opposite sides

The team pursuit is a 4km race between two teams of four riders starting on opposite sides

‘There is a lot of science and maths involved in calculating the best line-up, the best turn strategies. It’s all great in theory but it’s easy to get wrong on the day.

‘It’s about holding the right positions, nailing your changes under the lights on the big day. It is exciting at the moment because other teams are taking it to a place it hasn’t been before. The world record has been moved on.

‘There is a big element of man and machine in team pursuit at the moment. It’s not just horse power. There is a lot of engineering, aerodynamics. It’s almost getting to motorsport ways.’

SPRINT

A three-lap race where riders start side by side.

Clancy says: ‘They do a qualifying lap first, then that creates a seeding order. The faster you qualify, the easier it will be to get through the rounds.

‘When you get down to the semis, you get the Usain Bolts of the cycling world lining up for big head-to-head duels, trying to eliminate each other to get through to the gold and silver rides.

The sprint is a highly tactical three-lap race where riders start off side by side

The sprint is a highly tactical three-lap race where riders start off side by side 

‘Again, it’s highly tactical. It is just two guys or girls on the track. They have three laps. They usually spend at least a lap and a half trying to jockey for position, whether they want to be at the front or the back.

‘If they’re at the front, they don’t want to lead the sprint out early because the rider at the back will be getting a massive advantage. The rider at the back will be trying to force the person at the front to panic and go early.

‘It’s basically a lap and a half of bluffing before they get down to business on the last lap.’

TEAM SPRINT

A three-lap race between two teams of three riders starting on opposite sides of the track.

Clancy says: ‘The three fastest riders from each nation line up. In the man one position, you really do just get a weightlifter that is riding a bike. In man two, you’ll get a weightlifter that has got a tiny bit of endurance. In man three, you’ll get a Jason Kenny type that has got a bit of length to his sprint.

‘Trying to think of your line on the track and position on the bike, keeping hunched up and aerodynamic, is not easy on the big day when you have all that pressure and expectation.

‘They are really fighting for every 1,000th of a second. I think that’s what it will come down to this time.’

L-R: Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain celebrate with their gold medals during the medal ceremony after winning the team sprint at London 2012

L-R: Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain celebrate with their gold medals during the medal ceremony after winning the team sprint at London 2012

ED CLANCY ON TEAM PURSUIT TEAM-MATES… AND HIMSELF!

ETHAN HAYTER

We won the World Championships in 2018 and I said live on TV that he’s going to be the next Bradley Wiggins. I stand by that.

He is quite endurance based, very much like Geraint Thomas or Brad, so his weakness is the start. But once he is up to speed, he is the best man we’ve got.

Once he has finished in Tokyo with us and turns his ambitions to the road, I wouldn’t put it past him winning Grand Tours and so on.

We call him Mr Arrogant because he makes it look so easy. But he’s not arrogant. He’s a great lad with a lot of talent.

ED CLANCY 

What a top guy! I guess I’m the old man of the team. Physically, I am there to be man one or man two – great over three minutes but I don’t really have any talent outside of that.

Personality wise, I would say I’m fairly introverted but not overly so. I like mountain bikes, I like motorbikes, I like gadgets, I like my cat. I’m on social media but I couldn’t be less interested in it.

Sportsmail columnist Ed Clancy (pictured) is already a three-time Olympic gold medallist

Sportsmail columnist Ed Clancy (pictured) is already a three-time Olympic gold medallist

ETHAN VERNON

He is a youngster who has really just popped up in this additional year. He did some efforts with us two years ago and he just didn’t have it. He wasn’t at the standard we needed.

But things are different now. He is strong, he has a huge aerobic engine and he’s also got a decent turn of speed, which makes him pretty versatile in the team pursuit.

He’s very much like a new-born puppy. He has an abundance of energy. He has got wide eyes and is mad keen for everything. He just can’t wait to ride his bike every day.

OLLIE WOOD

He hasn’t got a family yet but he is more of a family man than anybody else on the team. He moans a lot but in a good way. I love it when Ollie has a good kick off. He’s probably a bit like Mark Cavendish in that sense and it cheers everyone up.

On the bike, he is a great all-rounder. He is very good at everything. He can ride the team pursuit from every position – man one, two, three and four.

He’s also a great road rider but he’s that committed to the track that he hasn’t had time to shine on that front yet. I know he’s interested in that after Tokyo. 

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