An interview with Chris Hoy, April 4, 2007
After taking gold in Palma on Sunday at the Track World Championships, Chris Hoy will do just one more kilo before reluctantly turning his back on the event. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes talked to the triple medallist in Majorca, Spain.
With his gold medal-winning event now gone from the Olympic Games, Scottish rider Chris Hoy has decided to stop riding the kilometre time trial and shift his focus on to other sprint races. Before then, he's outlined two big targets in order to finish in style.
The first of those was to win the world title for a record-equalling fourth time in his career, a feat he achieved on Sunday. The second is to beat the world kilo record of 58.875", as set by Frenchman Arnaud Tournant in 2001. He will attempt this on May 12, going for the time at the same open-air velodrome in La Paz, Bolivia. The high altitude there means less air density, which should translate into more speed.
Six weeks out from his record attempt, Hoy landed his fourth world title in a time of 1'00.999, close to the world sea level best of 1'00.711 he set in Athens 2004. If he continues that form and the thin air brings about the expected time savings, the record could well be on.
"It gets to the point where you have to say enough is enough. So this is my last competitive kilo." -Hoy would like to go for a fifth title in 2008, but wont.
Hoy outlined what he will do between then and the record attempt. "I will have a 48 hour recovery period and then I have got a four-day block on the road," he said, wearing his new rainbow jersey of world champion. "After that I will do all the work on the kilo bike because I haven't done anything on it until now. I really need to get more specific and focused on that. And do small things that I hope will help for the altitude."
Getting used to the conditions will be important, although he will make the initial adjustments in the US. "I will go to Florida for the week before for the attempt, having a training camp there to get over the time differences. After that, I will then fly south to Bolivia, hopefully going for the record the next day and break it."
While endurance athletes will often head to a high-altitude venue several days - or weeks - prior to a big event there, Hoy explained that this principle does not apply for sprinters. "When you go to altitude your buffering mechanisms for lactic acid drops. Everybody's physiology changes that way, so if you do that as a kilo rider you reduce your potential pretty fast.
"As a result, you can either go in there very early, spending about three weeks recovering from it, or you fly in the last minute. We have chosen to do it at the last minute because the environment, the food, everything is not ideal in Bolivia. The actual date [of the record attempt] is the 12th of May and then I will also be going for the 200 and 500 flying start records the following day."
Double gold at the end of a dream season:
Hoy showed great form at the world championships, landing silver in the team sprint and then showing excellent strength in taking gold in the keirin. The kilo title was achieved when he went 0.839" quicker than the time of Frenchman François Pervis.
He was pleased with how he handled the pressure of being last rider off, and having to beat what was a very fast time. "It went really well. About 10 minutes before the start of the ride I seemed to calm down, and really get focused on what I was doing," he explained. "The ride itself just seemed to flow, I was getting the fastest time after each lap. I felt strong right until the end, although I died a little bit in the second half and didn't expect to go that quick. I'm relieved and elated and just so happy that I finished on a high.
"Getting gold was perfect," he continued. "If I hadn't won this, then even if I had got the record, maybe it would be a bit discredited by the fact that I wasn't the fastest in the world at that time. So it was very important that I won here.
"I thought that Pervis had been going very, very well [before]…he didn't seem to go as well as I expected tonight, but it was still a very credible ride.
"For me, the big thing is that this year I have enjoyed riding my bike more, just taking it as it comes. I raced a lot more which is good and with the Olympics next year and the extra motivation, you never know [what can be achieved]."
Hoy's Great Britain team-mate Jamie Staff was second rider off and set a time of 1'02.074 which stood at the top of the leaderboard until Pervis recorded a 1'01.838. Hoy was clearly impressed by his teammate's ride. "That was a bit out of the blue," noted Hoy. "I made an off the cuff remark to him four or five days ago that he should ride the kilo. He said 'yeah, yeah, okay,' got the tri bars out, stuck them on the bike and rode a personal best, getting the bronze medal!"
Hoy was very close to taking a third gold, with the Great Britain riders just losing out to France in the team sprint by 2/1000ths of a second. They were actually 0.115" down with one lap to go but last man Hoy dug deep and took this right back, highlighting his sparkling form. Gold in the keirin made up for that disappointment, while his kilo win really put the icing on the cake.
"This was a big boost to the morale [prior to the record attempt]," he said, smiling. "I think it would have been the world championships of my dreams if we had gone 3/1000ths quicker in the team sprint. There is just that slight disappointment from the first night, but apart from that, it has been perfect.
"The team spirit here has been unbelievable. Really unified, no cliques, no disagreements. Just one big team, everybody supporting everybody else, win or lose," added Hoy. "It is kind of an infectious winning mentality; it is like a continuous momentum now, it seems like we are getting up there in every event. We got two medals in one event now [Staff took bronze] and with Vicky [Pendleton] in the keirin, Craig [Maclean] in the sprint and the madison still to go, we could have a couple more medals tonight."
Indeed, Pendleton did take gold after Hoy's kilo, making it seven wins in all for the Great Britain team. It was the team's most successful world championship campaign in history and, for Hoy, it came at the end of a very satisfying season.
"As I said about a month ago that it is my best year so far. And this is definitely the best across the board, including the Olympic year. Then, the kilo went well but the team sprint didn't go quite so well. This year everything has being going really, really well."
He is happy to be going out in style. "Tournant, myself and Lothar Thoms have all got four titles now, but Arnaud won four in a row and I have won one on, one off, one on, one off. Next year the world championship is in Manchester, but I really have to draw a line as it is not an Olympic event. I would love to ride the kilo next year but it gets to the point where you have to say enough is enough and switch onto the Beijing events. So this is my last competitive kilo.
He still doesn't understand the decision of the UCI to scrap the kilometre and the 500 metre TT for women. "It is frustrating, because I don't think the powers that be really understand certain facets of the sport. I don't think they realise the implications of what they have done as well - not just on the track, but in other parts of the sport.
"There are things that have recently happened with the road and it is frustrating, because I think that the riders need to have more of a say in the decision that are made," added Hoy. "It seems that things happen, just with an announcement that they are happening - there is no discussion, no debate, nothing with the riders. That is one thing that I would welcome, that there is a bit more democracy from the riders' perspective."
For now, Hoy will put aside such frustrations. He's got little over a month to go before he tackles the kilo record in Bolivia, hoping to set a new benchmark as he closes the door on his career in the discipline. After that, it will be all systems go for the next Olympics; he's tasted gold there once before and, hunger sharpened by his haul in Palma, wants to do so again.