An interview with Chris Hoy, March 15, 2006
Chris Hoy goes into the Commonwealth Games as defending champion, Olympic record holder and favourite to take gold in the 1km time trial, an event he won at the last Olympic Games. After a big break following the Athens games he's back and feeling good ahead of the Melbourne Games. Cyclingnews' Les Clarke spoke with Hoy about Melbourne, the kilo and what's in store from the big Scotsman.
Tomorrow, reigning Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Chris Hoy will line up for the kilo after having spent the last few months in Perth training with teammates from the Great Britain squad who are now his rivals going into the Melbourne games. The big Scotsman says that Perth presents possibly the perfect training venue, with good weather, quiet roads and a quality track to train on - he's been training there during the Australian summer since 1999, when current Australian head track coach Martin Barras was based there and coaching the 29-year-old.
Hoy says that although he's training with his rivals, the atmosphere is excellent and actually helping with the motivation. "The whole British squad has pushed each other on; we're kind of rivals now, as well as teammates which makes it interesting," he explains. "It's helped us push the bar up so we're all kind of supporting each other but at the same time keeping an eye on each other, which is quite good fun."
Hoy believes it's been a big positive, saying, "The form's good, the morale's good, so I can't really complain." The main event in Melbourne will allow Hoy to gauge his progress towards Beijing in 2008, except for one factor - the kilo has been dropped from the Olympic programme. How has he coped with this blow? "I think part of me was just in denial [following the announcement] and I thought 'nah, there's no way that'll happen, they're bound to bring it back in again; they can't drop the kilo', and it suddenly dawned on me that it's happening," he says.
"It's just sad for the sport, really. I mean, obviously from a selfish point of view I would love the kilo to come back again - but just for the benefit of the sport; it's a great event for cycling, to promote it around the world." But it looks likely that's not going to happen, and Melbourne provides Hoy with the opportunity to race the event he's been so successful in and loves. Following his Olympic triumph Hoy was kept very busy with the usual engagements and functions, and the break from racing and training ended up being longer than expected - as a result he had a quiet 2005.
"I had so many things to do - so many appearances, and bits and bobs here and there - it was a brilliant time and I got to do things I would never have dreamed of doing," he recalls of his post-Olympic 'schedule'. "It was quite a big break, and the problem was that I went straight back into competition and I didn't have a solid foundation before I went into the 2005 season." But things have changed leading up to Melbourne, with Hoy's work ethic and drive for another gold medal making sure he's had the best preparation possible. "I've had a really good build-up towards the Commonwealth Games - the training here [in Perth] has been excellent, so hopefully I shouldn't have any problems this year," he explains.
Would Hoy ever consider taking up a more endurance-based programme, in the mould of what Ben Kersten's aiming to do leading up to the next Olympics? "It's a bit of a gamble really; the Aussies have got a strong team and we've got a strong team, so you have to be sure you can break into that squad," he says, before adding, "and it's not as if there's only four or five of them - there are eight or ten riders back in the UK who are fighting for the team pursuit spots in Beijing."
Hoy's sticking to the sprinter's lane, therefore, and with a record like his, who wouldn't? A switch to the team sprint would be a likely move, because the Scotsman knows it should suit him more. "For me, I still think the team sprint is the best chance of a gold medal, and it doesn't matter what event it is, a gold medal's a gold medal. I think it's unlikely to go that route [developing into a more endurance-based rider] at this stage," he says. "I just have to pick an event, like the team sprint (where we're world champions) that I can put 100 per cent of my efforts and energies into, which I probably will do after this season. I think I'll keep going with the kilo till world's in Bordeaux, then it's going to be team sprint and maybe a little bit of sprint and keirin, but we'll to wait and see."
With a strong cast of competitors lining up for the track events in Melbourne, Hoy isn't looking at who's in form at the moment, preferring instead to concentrate on where he is, that's all. "First of all it's about yourself and not about anybody else - that's the way I've always approached my events," he explains. "It's just about you against the clock and the track, and there's nothing you can do about your opponents. So I wish them the best of luck - there's Jason Queally, Craig Maclean and Ben Kersten, so I expect us to be top four, but in what order we'll have to wait and see."
The 'flying Scotsman' insists it's about individual focus, and if he were to take any other approach it just wouldn't work. "The kilo's the type of event where you don't get to see how anyone else is going - you just step up on the day and you've got one shot," he says. "You don't worry about your opponents because it just tends to distract you." And chances are not even a looming birthday [Hoy will be 30 on March 23] could distract the man who currently holds the Olympic record - one which will be etched in history forever - especially when a gold medal's involved.
Hoy thinks being that bit older will assist his riding, taking inspiration from Englishman Jason Queally's longevity in the sport. "The guys that inspire me at the moment are my teammates really; Jason Queally, who's 35 at the moment...he's just going faster and faster and there are no signs of him letting up," says Hoy. He's looking to use some of Queally's techniques to get the most out of training, which may require a few changes. "Instead of battering himself he's just being sensible - I think that's I've got to do; I've got quite a strong work ethic and I do push myself very hard. It's going to be hard for me to gradually back off - but if I'm looking to continue onto London in 2012 then it's something I'm going to have to address," he says.
Queally's reaping the benefits of his approach, which should make the kilo a great spectacle in Melbourne and serve as proof to Hoy that he can continue in the sport for quite some time yet. "I think it's just about being smart and using your head. He's probably doing about half the amount of training I am and he's going virtually the same speed if not faster in certain training sessions...he's putting in quality training sessions, looking to get the most out of himself but in small amounts," he explains.
The quietly-spoken big sprinter isn't afraid to let us know his preparations for Melbourne have gone well, and isn't holding his cards too close to his chest. "I really don't think I could've had any better preparation - that's the bottom line," he says. "If anyone beats me at the Commonwealth Games it's because they've done a really good ride." He's more than willing to accept that he's a favourite and has the ability to perform well, an example of mature confidence. "I know that if I can step up to the line and do the best I can then it's going to be there or thereabouts - that's all I can really worry about."