This Thursday, the track cycling world will stop and focus on the performances and action at the Olympic Velodrome in London.
In the past few weeks, VeloUK has spoken to the following athletes who will be competing:
| Sir Chris Hoy | Jason Kenny | Ed Clancy | Joanna Rowsell | Matt Crampton |
Ed Clancy & Dani King | GB Team | Laura Trott | All 2012 Features
Larry Hickmott writes…. That’s because in London right now are the World’s best track riders getting ready to compete in the biggest and most important World Cup since the Beijing Olympics.
Based on what Team GB boss Dave Brailsford had to say to the BBC, he would have preferred that the World had not been invited. “I’m a little bitt miffed if I’m honest, if I’m really really honest, to have a fully blown World Cup as a test event when a lot of the other venues are using National Championships etc. We’re basically inviting the rest of the world in”.
Brailsford “We’re basically inviting the rest of the world in”
The fact the World Cup is on the Olympic boards though means track cycling will have a huge boost, not just with the people attending to watch it live but the millions watching it live on TV and all the column inches that will appear on the web and in print.
Having all the Worlds best here will make it a great occasion, especially as it’s so close to the Track Worlds in Melbourne (Australia) meaning that the riders should also be approaching top form which will have a knock on effect in the racing. Exciting, you bet!
Yet, it is just another Olympic qualifying event in many respects and for many nations, it may be more important as a selection event for the Worlds and Olympics rather than the results it brings the nation at the World Cup, and that applies to the Great Britain team.
Of course, being the home World Cup, with live TV coverage and a reported 600 strong media contingent, many times bigger than other track cycling events held in Britain before, the pressure is on GB to perform. And, the riders like winning so there will also be the pressure from within themselves too.
To find out what the riders think after their first training session on the Olympic Velodrome, VeloUK spoke to Matt Crampton, Ed Clancy and Laura Trott.
Ed Clancy is part of the five man GB team pursuit squad in London right now. Prior to the team travelling to London, there were six riders competing for the four spots but one of them, Andy Tennant, is a non-travelling reserve having been ill in the build-up to the event. That leaves Ed, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift. Of those five, the expected line up on Thursday will be Thomas, Burke, Kennaugh and Clancy with Ben Swift doing the Omnium as he did in Manchester in 2011 and being the reserve for the Team Pursuit.
Clancy and Thomas are the remaining members of the team from the Beijing Olympics and speaking to Wales Online, Thomas says he’s a completely different rider now to what he was then after years on the road doing Grand Tours and Classic road races in Europe. Having had the boot camp in December, and then training camps in Majorca with track work, Thomas says he is finding his track legs and looking forward to the racing.
“It will be good for us to get a race under our belts under the same roof as the Aussies and the Russians. They’ve been producing fast times over the winter, so have the New Zealanders” he told Wales Online.
“The Games is where we want to be at our best and win. If we got fourth in the World Cup, fourth in the Worlds and won the Olympics, I would take that over winning the other two and silver in the Games.”
That wasn’t a question I asked the ‘captain’ of the team, Ed Clancy, but I expect the answer would be the same simply because the Olympics is the be all and end all for Team GB. World Cup wins are nice, as are Rainbow jerseys but Team GB is a business and the income comes from winning Olympic medals, Gold medals at that.
So, we’re a few days from the World Cup kicking off and it’s a who’s who of track racing at the venue warming up for the competition right now. That includes the top squads from Australia and other nations who will be looking to beat the ‘poms’ in their own back yard, just as the Brits will be aiming to do that to the Aussies at the Track World Championships in Melbourne.
Most of the GB team travelled down to London by train on Sunday and are now firmly set up in the hotel allocated to them for the World Cup. One which took an hour to get back to on Monday which judging by the comments on Twitter, did not go down well.
What has met with the riders approval is the venue. Well, except for the single toilet for the 300 plus riders as pointed out by Sir Chris Hoy, also on Twitter (what a mine of information it is!)
Great Britain Riders & their events
Women’s Team Pursuit – Laura Trott, Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell
Women’s Omnium – Laura Trott
Women’s Scratch – Dani King
Women’s Individual Pursuit – Joanna Rowsell (did a 3.30 at the nationals last year)
Men’s Team Pursuit – Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Steven Burke
Men’s Omnium – Ben Swift
Women’s Sprint – Jess Varnish, Victoria Pendleton
Women’s Team Sprint – Jess Varnish, Victoria Pendleton
Women’s Keirin – Jess Varnish, Victoria Pendleton
Men’s Team Sprint – Ross Edgar (1), Jason Kenny (2), Chris Hoy (3)
Men’s Sprint: Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton
Men’s Keirin: Sir Chris Hoy, Matt Crampton
Kilometre: Matt Crampton
Ed Clancy – Schedule dictates Team Pursuit only
Thursday evening will see the Men’s Team Pursuit qualifying take place but the final isn’t until Sunday which means for GB, if they want to run their ‘A’ line up in the Team Pursuit, those riders will have to forgo the Omnium. Which means Clancy.
A former World Champion in the event, Clancy says he would like to have ridden the Omnium and gained more experience from it but the Team Pursuit comes first. Clancy will however probably still do the event at the Track Worlds and the Olympics although he is taking nothing for granted.
“Swifty (Ben Swift) has as good a chance as me” says Clancy. “He’s in pretty good form right now and will be better than me in the bunch races. He should do well in the event.”
Looking at the Team Pursuit (Mens), Ed says the Aussies more or less have their A team in London and they will take some beating. The Brits are under no illusions as to what is required but remember they did a ‘55’ with far less preparation at the last Manchester World Cup.
The team is certainly strong. Clancy and Thomas have a proven track record whilst Steven Burke too has gone very quick (55) before which is in the territory they will need to ride at to do well. And Peter Kennaugh; well, he’s just incredible and it will be so interesting to see how they all gel when racing at full gas over 4,000 metres.
After having travelled down by train on Sunday from Manchester, the riders in the Men’s Endurance looked after by Dan ‘the man’ Hunt chilled out on the rollers to get the travel out of their legs before the 40 minute ride to the track.
They then spent the allotted session for GB (and other nations) getting used to the boards with a long warm up and a few race paced efforts. Pressed as to what sort of times they may be doing, Clancy, ever the pro, would not be drawn and simply said, under four minutes.
It was he said, difficult to gauge the schedule from what they have done so far and the team were more interested in getting their line on the track and the changes correct rather than laying down any numbers.
“We are still picking up how fast the track is running and the coaches and sports scientist will be looking at the numbers while we’re feeling our way round, looking at the changes without going flat out in the efforts. Perhaps they will get some more accurate numbers off the sprinters to work out a schedule for race day.”
Tuesday sees them doing more track work as well as a press conference with ‘selected media’. And no, that did not include me but then the British Cycling Federation obviously doesn’t feel VeloUK is important!
With the travel to the track from the hotel being an issue, the Men’s Endurance riders may well spend Wednesday at the hotel using the rollers or turbo to keep the legs going round before race day on Thursday.
That qualifying session will be simply awesome. The World’s best Mens and Womens teams going full gas to make sure they reach the Gold/Silver medal final. No time for bluffing or sand bagging – full gas and it’s then we’ll be able to gauge what this new look GB Team Pursuit line up will be capable of and what their opponents can do as well.
The final word has to be on the performance of the track. Clancy, like the others, are full of praise for the Olympic boards. “I have been to a few tracks now and when we get off them after the warm-up , we’ll talk about its different here or we’ll change there”.
“But we came off after the warm-up and the first few efforts and felt it was like Manchester. Dead easy to ride and forgiving in the changes” says Ed. “It’s not like Beijing with its long straights and tight bankings. The track is really well put together and there are no lumps and bumps like there are at other tracks. One we rode last year was quite wavy at one point!”
I think we can take that as a big yes for the quality of the Olympic track!
Laura Trott (Women’s Endurance)
In the Women’s Endurance camp, one of the riders who will be very busy during the World Cup, Hertfordshire’s Laura Trott. The World Champion is set to do the Omnium (Women) and the Team Pursuit as well.
For now, the riders are concentrating on the taper and being in the best possible shape for Thursday. Laura says their Monday session included a 4k effort on small gears to ‘calibrate’ their cadence for the efforts to follow. The Monday session says Laura was very busy with the Belgian team having a long string of riders on the track as well as all those from other countries like Cuba and Mexico and of course, a full strength GB outfit.
“I’m really looking forward to doing the Omnium” says Laura. “If our race schedule though was the same as the lads one, I would have had to pick between the events and I’d have picked the Team Pursuit”.
Unlike the Men’s team who found the track very similar to Manchester for the changes, Laura explained that with three riders, they are having to go up a bit sharper and come down a bit sharper in the changes.
Laura won’t thank me for this one but 2003 and its a very young Laura Trott already looking like a professional on the track. This week will see the biggest racing of her young career so far.
Looking ahead to Thursday, Laura says it will be quite sad in a way because it will be the last time they get to ride the Rainbow jerseys before the Track Worlds but knowing how strong that team is, and the fight there is for places to be in the three for the race, there certainly seems to be a good chance they’ll defend those rainbow jerseys well this year and the years that follow.
After the efforts in the team on Monday, Tuesday sees Laura on the upright SI bike to gauge the markers for the flying lap which is the first event in the Omnium and one where Laura will be one of the favourites to win. Laura explained how the SI ‘upright’ bike she uses is very different to the SI Team Pursuit bike so the time on Tuesday will be well spent on the Olympic track.
“I can’t wait, I just want to do it” Laura says as we say good bye. With her family making the short journey down from Hertfordshire, and so many others in the seats around the track who will have followed her progress over the many years she has been riding, Thursday is sure to be a highlight in her career so far.
Matt Crampton (Team Sky)
The final rider, but by no means least, we spoke to was sprinter Matt Crampton. The last time I was with Matt in London was at the launch of the Olympic track and there were a lot of smiles at the time to see the Olympic boards for the first time.
Monday saw him return there and he says it was good to be back especially in the venue with all the sponsors boards up, the pens in place and the flags. It felt like a proper World Cup he says!
“It’s going to be big” says Matt, “you really get that sense of a big occasion in there, it’s such a nice venue.”
Matt Crampton and Jason Kenny on the Olympic track.
Like the other riders, Monday was the time for Matt to get a feel for the track. A really crucial part of the riders arsenal is the Flying 200 metre effort to qualify for the Sprint, one of Matt’s key events. With the competition being so tight with only thousandths separating the top riders in the Sprint, it was very important for Matt and the other sprinters to seek out the sweet spots on the track; when to jump, the line to take and so on.
So on Monday, after a warm-up on the track, Matt explained how he did a few flying efforts in amongst all the Team Pursuiters and the other riders all wanting space on the track.
Despite having only come from Manchester, the travel still has an effect so the training at the track to clear the legs and get the adrenalin going has been important. Having dialled into the speed of the track and the lines he needs to take, Matt likes the track.
“It’s totally different to somewhere like Astana where it’s quite tight in the bends, where you get this kick through them. The new boards also feel smooth and you don’t hear them rattle and or have the bike bobble around like on the old boards. The new boards are also grippy.”
For Matt, who’s first race is on Friday, the Kilometre Time Trial, he’ll be on the rollers today (Tuesday) as well doing a few interviews at the hotel. Wednesday will then see him back at the track for more efforts before another easy day on Thursday.
And for anyone thinking that the life of an athlete is sitting watching TV all day or reading a book, Matt did say you can have too much of that and for sure, there’ll be some time seeking out a good coffee place … spoken like a true cyclist Matt!
Further Information: London Prepares: Track Cycling Test Event