Sir Chris Hoy will return to the scene of his career-threatening crash next weekend, when the world track cycling championships are staged in Copenhagen. It was there, 13 months ago, that Hoy was brought down in the final of the keirin, when a collision with France's Kevin Sireau saw him hit the track at high speed and suffer a hip injury that put him out of the world championships.
Now fully recovered and back in the kind of form that carried him to three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, Hoy admitted yesterday he is likely to have "flashbacks" on the Copenhagen track, though he added that this is not uncommon.
"I suppose I won't know until I get there," said Hoy, "but you always get flashbacks when you compete on tracks you've raced on before, for good and bad reasons. As well as remembering the crash I'm sure I'll also remember winning my first ever world title in Copenhagen [in 2002, when he won the kilometre and team sprint].
"Copenhagen is also where I beat [Mickael] Bourgain in an individual sprint, a result that I feel was the springboard to my sprinting career," continued Hoy. "And it's where, by winning the keirin at the World Cup [in 2008], I qualified for the Beijing Olympics. So there are far more positive memories for me in Copenhagen than negative ones."
Hoy, who will turn 34 next week, said that he experienced a similar mixture of emotions as he returned to keirin racing, which he did at a low key event in the south of France last August. "I was curious before my first keirin after the crash, wondering how I'd feel. But as soon as the gun goes and the race starts it's the last thing you're thinking about. You're just so focused on the race."
Hoy's hip injury meant that this time last year he was in the midst of a ten-week period of complete rest. He ventured out on his road bike while last year's world championships were on, but didn't return to full training until the summer. He has barely raced since, competing in France, at the Manchester World Cup in October, the national championships and, last month, a Revolution meeting.
It is part of a strategy, he says, designed to ensure that he is in top form at the London Olympics in 2012, where he intends to defend all three sprint titles. "You see riders really dominating their events in the period between Olympics," explained Hoy, "but you don't want to do too much in this period. I don't want to burn myself out in these interim years. I'm trying to hold something back, because what really matters is in two years' time.
"The world championships are important," he continued, "but London is more important. If you think back to the Bordeaux world championships [in 2006, at the equivalent stage of the Olympic ‘cycle'], a lot changed between then and Beijing. I'm very conscious of the fact that these world championships, though they're important in their own right, will be long forgotten by the time London comes around."