Hoy confident Great Britain can make improvements ahead of Rio Olympics

Former Olympic champion talks track, motor racing and retirement

He bowed out of competitive cycling at the perfect moment, having won his sixth and final Olympic gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 2012 but Sir Chris Hoy made a return to the track in London at the weekend as part of the Great Britain team at the track World Cup.

Although he donned the Great Britain colours, it was a tracksuit rather than a skinsuit for the former rider as he acted as a team liaison and mentor for some of the riders. He was a constant presence in the British pit, often talking to riders before and after their race efforts, and imparting his experience on the next crop of athletes who will work towards filling his shoes at Rio in 2016.

Overall it was a mixed World Cup for the host nation. Laura Trott stole the show with a set of commanding performances, and there were further gold medals in the women's and men's camp. However this is also room for improvement from the team but Hoy feels that there is time for the squad to fine tune, tweak and eventually improve.

"The women's team are incredibly strong across the board," Hoy told Cyclingnews as he stood track centre.

"The women's pursuit team have been unbeatable for years and they've got strength in depth. On the men's side there's a bit of a transition because we've lost riders like Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh to the road but we have Bradley Wiggins coming back in and there are younger riders coming through," he added.

"They will be there or thereabouts, while there's no guarantees. On the sprint side of things we still have two thirds of the Olympic winning team and on paper there's no reason why they can't make it. It's tough, the Germans, the Kiwis, French and Australians are so well established that it might not happen until Rio but I'm sure they'll be ready by the time the next Games comes around."

While he wore Team GB colours, Hoy is not on the staff payroll and his commitments are not full time. Since retiring in the Spring of 2013 he has set up his own bike range – it currently includes two track bikes – and has swapped two wheels for four as he sets his sights on racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016.

His presence was certainly well received by the riders in the team. After each race effort in London he was there to offer advice – if it was asked for – and his calming influence and vast experience will no doubt have helped some of the promising riders coming through the Academy production line.

"I'm here to be around for the riders and to be a neutral sounding board," he says modestly.

"Even if it just means going for a coffee with them or sitting down and chatting, if I can help them, either on their path to Rio or in the short term, it's good to talk to someone who has been in team but who is neutral. Maybe it's a liaison role but I just love being back. If something opens up to be a little bit more involved I just don't have the time to do it full time at the moment. It's just great to be back with team again, and I love putting the jersey on," he says, looking down at the red, white and blue he represented in a career that spanned three decades.

London Legacy

Hoy has returned to the London velodrome several times since the Games in 2012 but the weekend's World Cup was only the second time he had seen racing at the venue. The capacity crowd in the evening sessions and the success Great Britain enjoyed brought back a flood of memories for the Scot.

"Having had two years to reflect on it all you start to appreciate it all and how special it was. Especially on a day like this when it's beautiful blue skies and you walk to the velodrome, through the Olympic Park and see it all. There are so many memories in the velodrome so it's great to be back."

Hoy's last act as a rider was to pick up gold in the Keirin in 2012 adding to the gold he also won in the Team Sprint earlier in the Games with Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes.

His overriding memory from those heady days of British sport came after the competition, after he had claimed Keirin gold.

"It was that time after the Keirin final and just before the presentation of the medals. I was waiting to go on the podium, it was the last of all the track events and everyone had finished. People were gathering around the podium and I remember that moment so clearly, seeing peoples' faces and I wasn't even able to hold back the emotions even before getting on the podium. I was in floods of tears before I'd started. It was a special time."

"With it being a home Games there was this added dimension that created so much additional stress and pressure. If you use it to help you then it can give you a lift but if you dwell on it too much then you really do get bogged down. I was just so focused on my performance that I really blocked that all out. As soon as you finish, that's when all the emotion comes out."

Now retired Hoy spends more time with his family but remains a keen cyclist. The early morning drill sessions in which he would be forced to push his body and mind beyond the thresholds of pain and sacrifice have been replaced with gentle reactional rides.

"I do miss it" he admits as the crowd in the background roar once more as the racing continues.

"I do. Once you've been a racer you're always a racer. When you walk onto the track centre you get that feeling of wanting to be on the track but at the same time you realise that you have a self-life as an athlete so at the same time I can't have any complaints. I hung on as long as I could and I was 36 in London, and there's not many guys still racing at that age."

Motorsport is now Hoy's main way of channelling his competitive hunger. He will race in GT3 this year and his other side project with his own bike brand has seen him test and develop a full range of cycles.

"I'm cycling most days actually and it's nice to do that, just for fun. It takes me back to the old days when I rode just because I wanted to and there wasn't any worries over things like wattage and speed."

"With regards to racing cars I got second in Spa and we had three or four top ten finishes. In week I'll make an announcement about making the step into the European stage with the view of racing Le Mans in 2016. It's all ramping up and getting more serious but I love it. I'm at the bottom of a new ladder with Nissan
 

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