Sir Chris Hoy brushed aside any doubts about his recovery from a hip injury with victory in the sprint, keirin and team sprint events at the opening round of the World Cup in Manchester. Buoyed by his successful return to international competition, Hoy said the enforced break had sharpened his resolve for his short and longer term goals: next year's World Championships and the London 2012 Olympics.
Much had been made of Hoy's injury, the result of a crash during the keirin at the final round of last year's World Cup series in Copenhagen, Denmark. The injury forced him to miss this year's World Championships, where he had hoped to defend his 2008 sprint and keirin World titles. Despite the frustration of the period, Hoy is now able to accept the benefits of the break from competition.
"It gave me the time to get over the whole post-Beijing period and also made me realise just how much I missed not being on the bike," said Hoy on Sunday, after he collected his gold medal for the team sprint. "I've never been in that sort of position before where I've had such a long, extended lay-off, so to have that period off to reflect and realise that I'm very fortunate to be able to do what I love as a full-time job. I'm certainly not ready to hang the wheels up yet and really want to continue on to London."
The winner of three gold medals in Beijing has no allusions about the task ahead. His success at the 2008 Olympics and his subsequent knighthood has significantly increased his endorsement value. The opportunities that arisen are ones that Hoy has been pleased to accept, but he realises that continued success will force him to curtail the amount of time he can afford to spend away from the track.
"I've come back and I've enjoyed it, as much as I was doing before Beijing. There's so many demands on my time at the moment that when you come down here and it's just you, your coaches and your teammates; that's what I enjoy the most," he said.
"You've got to actively turn things down, which is difficult because there are lots of worthwhile things to do [away from the track] and things that I enjoy doing. But you have to draw a line under it at some point and realise that if you're hoping to try and continue on to win another Olympic medal, or two or three then you have to approach it with the same commitment; I certainly wasn't doing that sort of thing before Beijing, so I can't expect to do that and continue to do as well in London."
Return to Denmark
While Hoy has his eyes trained on a fourth Olympic appearance in London, his immediate priority will be the World Championships in Ballerup, Denmark next year. His dominant performance in Manchester had been part of a plan to ensure qualification for next year's Worlds. With three gold medals from three events, Hoy now expects be able to avoid the long haul travel to the next World Cup rounds that others will face in order to qualify for Ballerup.
"The plan was to try and get as many points as I could this weekend. I figured that if I got a medal in each of the events then that would be enough to qualify for the Worlds, so that should guarantee my place now," he said.
In contrast to the success of the British men's sprint squad, the absence of French sprint stars Grégory Baugé, Mickaël Bourgain and Kévin Sireau saw the French leave Manchester empty handed. Hoy was unfazed by the apparent weakness of the French over the weekend and pointed to the times posted by himself and his compatriots as a strong signal to their sprint rivals.
"In a way, it's a sign that they want to meet us when they're on neutral territory and maybe they didn't want to give us the psychological advantage of getting one over them here," he said.
"They've been here for World Championships before and they've never gone as fast as we went here today and in the 200 metre time trial [sprint - ed], they've never gone that fast before. Hopefully that'll give them a little fright and I'm looking forward to racing them at the World Championships."
Hoy confirmed that he will take a short break before he begins his preparations for the remainder of the track season, including the World Championships.
"The next two or three months will be solid foundation training because you do back off a lot in terms of the training you do before a competition like this [the World Cup], so you need to get back into the swing of things and just start to put the hours in again."
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed