Interview: Olympic Champion Team Pursuiter – Ed Clancy

EXCLUSIVE: Talking to Olympic Team Pursuiter Ed Clancy in Holland who’s looking to captain the GB team to another victory …

Great Britain Team for the European Championships

The road to the London Olympics is about to step up a level as the Great Britain team look to gain more qualifying points at the Elite European Track Championships which take place from Friday in Apeldoorn (Holland). One of the longest serving members of the Men’s Endurance squad is Ed Clancy who way back in 2005 was a travelling reserve when Great Britain won the World Team Pursuit title in Los Angles.

Ed Clancy, British champion in the Circuit Race on the road at the time of the photo has his eyes on Olympic glory in Team Pursuit and Omnium.

Back then, he rode the first round and then sat out the final only to be presented with a medal by Chris Newton for a team photo afterwards. Ed is one of the most likeable characters there is, always a great person to be around and quick with a one liner or memorable gesture. He is also bloody good at what he does in the Team Pursuit. Years ago, Bradley Wiggins called him the best man one in the Team Pursuit in the World and Ed just seems to get better as the years go by. He’s only 26 by the way!

Ed is a versatile rider too and in 2010 was the British Circuit Race Champion and this year was part of the all conquering Rapha Condor Sharp team in the circuit races during the summer as well a rider who was getting up there in bunch sprints in stage races abroad.

Come August though after a long season on the road, Ed wasn’t feeling the best and he missed the Tour of Britain and Track Nationals and instead spent three or four weeks doing good quality training but not massive volumes of it.

2010 and Ed is World Omnium Champion and who knows, he may find himself in London going for Olympic Gold too.

“I just rested a lot more” Ed explained, “not walking around as much, having a weekend off and not travelling as much which comes with racing. It was nice to come out of that with some good form and I felt pretty good coming into the training for the Team Pursuit and Omnium.”

Ed, and the riders in the Team Pursuit, have had just over a week of training on the track under the guidance of Dan Hunt their coach. Looking back at that training period, Ed says “Pete Kennaugh has made a big step forward. I’m not sure whether it’s just good form coming from the road but he’s taking it pretty seriously this time and really wants to be part of this Olympic thing. He’s going really well.”

“Sam (Harrison) and Swifty (Ben Swift) haven’t made it here. Sam has had a difficult year and he’s still so young and Swifty is just tired from the road. I think the Tour de France finished him off! I hope he has a good rest over the next few weeks and what’s he’s done should help him in the long term as I know he wants to be part of this as well.”

Lining up with Ed will be two other riders who have been part of the Team Pursuit line up for a few years now, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant and they too says Ed, are going well. “That’s been the core of the team for a few years and it looks like the three of us will hang in there now.”

“The investment we have put into the track has been worthwhile and it hasn’t been easy. When a lot of your teammates understandably go off and do things on the road, it’s been hard keeping the motivation together since Beijing really. Everything since then has been a little bit low key but with London next year, it’s all getting more intense and it seems worthwhile we have invested the time we have over those years.”

“G (Geraint Thomas) is pretty special and while he’ll admit he wasn’t 100 per cent last week, it is amazing how much better he has got after just one week on the track. I know given time, he will quite possibly be the best man in the Team Pursuit.  I’m not sure what is happening with Brad though.” It may be that the rider who is now touted as a possible winner of next year’s Tour de France will miss the London Olympics on the track.

Looking ahead to Friday and the three days of racing for the Euros, Ed is down to ride the Team Pursuit which is first on the programme and then the Omnium. I remember when Ed won an individual event once (the Pursuit) and said afterwards how lonely it was up on the podium on his own. That’s an indication of just how much of a team player he is.

2005 and where it all began for Ed when GB won the Team Pursuit world title. L-R Rob Hayes, Steve Cummings, Ed, Chris Newton and Paul Manning.

Ed though isn’t in Holland to concentrate on one event or the other and say’s he’d like to do well in both the Team Pursuit and Omnium.

Talking about the Omnium, he says “it’s a good opportunity here to grab some points before we go to Kazakhstan and hopefully finish the job off and take the pressure off trying to get some big points in the London World Cup and the Worlds that follow. So I’d like to do a good job in the Omnium as well as the Team Pursuit.”

In reality what he seems to be saying is that he’d like to ensure GB’s place in the Omnium for London 2012 so that one or two of his teammates can have a go in the event at the London World Cup and World Championships without an pressure for points…. Ed is for sure a team player through and through.

Ed says of the Omnium and his role in it, “if all goes well here and in Kazakhstan, I’d be happy to leave the Omnium alone until the big day at the Olympics if need be.”

The race programme for Ed is also a lot kinder than it was in the World Cups last season where the Team Pursuit followed the Omnium. At the Europeans, the balance is better with the Team Pursuit on Friday (Day 1) with the Omnium following on the Saturday and Sunday. Better to start an Omnium after two four k efforts than the Team Pursuit after efforts in full distance pursuits, bunch races and time trials.

2008 and Ed leads GB off to a World title in the Team Pursuit at Manchester. Who will represent GB in 2012 at the London Olympics is a matter of debate but Ed for sure seems to be one of them as does Geraint Thomas if what Ed says about his friend is anything to go by.

As ever, those watching the results will be keeping a keen eye on the times for the Team Pursuit but Ed sounds a warning when he says “the track here isn’t the quickest one around but it’s the same for all the teams. It’s a pretty new track but it doesn’t feel super. It’s similar to how it felt at the Worlds (the same track) but is for sure a little stickier than Manchester. It’s an awesome building though!”

The Europeans are always a little different to the World Cups where the Aussies and Kiwis are pretty big opponents of the Brits but in Holland, it’s the Russians who are expected to be the big opponents.

“Russia has come on strong the last few years” Ed says “and have a big big budget to play with. They’re making a big push for the Olympics and whilst I think its geared more towards 2016, I think they are ahead of the game and could be one of the big teams fighting for medals in London.”

Halfords Tour Series was a pretty good month or so for Ed Clancy as he helped his Rapha team to victory.

“We certainly won’t be underestimating them… they may well have been on the track the whole summer and could be really hungry for this competition. It won’t be walkover by any means and we’ll have to prepare ourselves for a fight with these guys. We don’t know what the Dutchies are going to do on the home turf either so it should be a good competition.”

Since arriving in Holland two days ago (Sunday), Ed says they have managed one track session and will be on the track again this afternoon (Tuesday). Another session will follow on Wednesday and then it will be a roller session on Thursday. The aim for the training sessions is to get a feel for the track and that isn’t that easy he says.

“We’ll go out there on a schedule and see what we are capable of on this track and be ready to set a decent time in qualifying.”

“We have three track sessions and in that, we’ll probably only do ten kilometres of team pursuiting so it’s not that much to get a feel for the lines. It may be an indoor 250 but every track is a different shape with longer or shorter straights and different angles on the bankings. So we need to nail our changes down and you might only get eight or nine changes during training to do that so you have to think about your changes and your line on the track.”

“The gear we’ll use is directly proportional to how fast the track is running and you don’t have long to learn all this so you have to be switched on for these sessions.”

The event is all so different to when Ed began his career in Los Angeles. Back then, GB won the Gold with a 4.05.6 and qualified with an ‘8’. “These days” says Ed, “you’re lucky to qualify if you do around four minutes dead and then you need to go quicker again in the final. It has moved on and a gear of  104 is on the small side. Different people in the team use different gears and I know the Aussies are going big on the gears.”

One rider who will have to get used to the track and the gears they use will be roadman Geraint Thomas. Ed and Geraint were in the academy together back in 2005 and their careers have gone in different directions since Bejing when they were Olympic champions in the Team Pursuit but ‘G’ says Ed, is very special when it comes to the Team Pursuit.

2010 and after winning the Omnium, Ed is back to his mates in the Team Pursuit squad to chat about it.

“It is good to have G man back as I’m good mates with him and. It’s good to have all the others like Pete Kennaugh and so on back because we don’t see much of each other on the road in the summer so when we all come back, we have different stories to tell.”

“Morale is for sure really good and we’re looking forward to doing some Team Pursuiting again. Geraint was telling me this will be his first international Team Pursuit out of England since Beijing”.

The Euros won’t all be about the Team Pursuit though and the Omnium has become quite special to Ed. He expects to do the bulk of the qualifying for the Olympics but says “it would not surprise me if Pete (Kennaugh) or G (Geraint Thomas) stick their hand up at some point, perhaps the London World Cup or Worlds and say they’d like to have a go at the Omnium.”

“And I have no problem with that especially if they find they are better than me at the event.”

“Everyone knows how I ride the Omnium, doing well in the timed events and picking up what I can in the other events.  Pete and G are perhaps more all rounders but we’ll see. I can pretty much predict what I’ll do in the timed events where as even if you are one of the best bunch racers, you can never be assured of getting good points in those events so we’ll see.”

“I’ll certainly try my best here and put my best case forward to ride the Omnium in London because I’d love to ride it at my home games. But, if someone else can do a better job, then I have no problem with that and I’ll move on and do my best in the Team Pursuit…”

That best will be better than anyone else in the World because Ed is very special when it comes to the Team Pursuit and even though his first Omnium was a bit of a ‘mare for him, he has acquitted himself very well to such an endurance test. We wish him, and the team, lots of luck in Appledoorn and thanks Ed for the chat ….

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