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Great Britain's Ed Clancy ends Olympic career due to back injury

Ed Clancy (Great Britain)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Between the protests about Denmark’s illegal shin tape marginal gain and the drama of the Denmark-Great Britain crash in the men’s Team Pursuit, the news of Ed Clancy pulling out of the race and announcing his retirement from Olympic racing, added another twist in the end of Great Britain’s long reign as Olympic pursuit champions. 

36-year-old Clancy was riding his fourth Olympics and Great Britain have been Olympic champions since 2008, but back pain and a disappointing race in Monday’s team pursuit qualifying ride forced Clancy to make the hardest decision of his career. He was replaced by Charlie Tanfield in the quartet that was eventually caught by Denmark, with Frederik Madsen riding into the young Briton at the moment of the catch. Tanfield got up but Great Britain ultimately failed to qualify for the bronze medal ride-off, ending their medal reign and Clancy’s Olympic career.

“I’ve made two hard decisions in the last 24 hours. That was one of them, and I think calling it a day and retiring from the Olympics was another. They are two incredibly difficult decisions that I’ve made but it doesn’t mean they are wrong” Clancy said emotionally at the Olympic velodrome before the racing began. 

“I knew I didn’t have it three kilometres into that race yesterday. You’ve got so much adrenaline and nerves and will for the first 1, 2, 3 kilometres but after that you have only got what you’ve got and I couldn’t go any harder. 

“Once I saw Ethan’s wheel going away from me, I knew I wasn’t quite where I needed to be. You might have seen it in my eyes yesterday but I probably knew there was a better option out there.” 

“This is the end and it’s massively (emotional),” Clancy added. 

“When I think back to 2005 and my first World Championships, it’s been an amazing journey. 20 years I’ve been with British Cycling and they’ve stuck with me through good times and bad times, I’ve had some life-changing experiences. If I could go back in time, I’d do it all again.

“These are my end credits so thanks to everyone in British Cycling, a special shout-out to Hannah Crowley, the physio who has genuinely extended my career by seven years I think. Friends, family teammates, everyone has been ace and I couldn’t have done it without the greater team.”

Clancy, who has been part of the Olympic gold medal-winning team pursuit quartet over the previous three cycles as well as having an Omnium bronze medal to his name, was one of the first riders to earn selection on to British Cycling’s now renowned Academy programme. 

He won his first world title in the team pursuit in 2005, aged just 20, with five more to follow during his career. Clancy is also the 2010 omnium world champion.

However his on-going back and sciatica issue forced  him to bow out before the final rides. His Olympic career is over but he plans to ride the new UCI Track Champions League this winter and continue his coaching and ambassador work.

“In terms of what’s next, I still love riding bikes and I plan on rounding out the season competing in UCI Track Champions League, as well as focusing on building up the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy,” Clancy said. 

"I also really enjoy my ambassadorial role with Pro-Noctis so I would like to do more with them, and I definitely would love to stay connected with British Cycling. I have plenty of options, but right now I will be putting all my energy in doing what I can to support the Great Britain Cycling Team out here in Tokyo.”

Ed Clancy rides second wheel in the Great Britain men's Team Pursuit squad

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stephen Park, Performance Director for British Cycling, praised Clancy for his mentorship with other riders during his long career. 

“I admire Ed for taking the decision to retire from the sport which he still has a strong passion for,” he said.

“Through his domination in the team pursuit and by winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals, Ed has played a big part in driving the event forward, to the extent where we are witnessing the times we saw posted in Berlin and what we saw yesterday in qualifying.

“Away from the bike, Ed embodies the values of our team and has become a trusted mentor to his younger teammates. It’s been a pleasure to support Ed with his fantastic achievements and on behalf of everyone on the Great Britain Cycling Team, I wish him the very best of luck for the future, and I hope he keeps some involvement with us.”