2012: Team Pursuit – Part 2 (Ed Clancy)

Olympic champion in great form in Team Pursuiter’s boot camp at Manchester

Part 1: Read what the GB Team Pursuit coach Dan Hunt has to say about the team’s preparation

When a top road pro like Ben Swift talks of how strong Ed Clancy is going out on the road in training, it shows just well the Olympic Champion is riding in the month long boot camp in Manchester.

Ed Clancy on his GB upright bike in race mode during the Omnium … he has a real Screamer of a Condor bike as well!

Back in 2005, only six years ago, the Olympic Champion from Beijing was a fresh faced ‘5th’ man for the Team Pursuit when GB won the Worlds (Los Angeles) in the Team Pursuit. This followed them being second in the Athens Olympics and being pretty gutted about it during a period when the Aussies were seemingly unbeatable at major competitions.

The riders in the GB team had a drawer full of bronze and silver medals but lacked Gold.

Ed was still in the Academy at that time, a development programme, the first for GB, that had been put together by Rod Ellingworth. A programme that saw another of its members, Mark Cavendish, win the World Madison title with Rob Hayles at the same World Championship event (2005).

Ed continued to progress and cement his place in the team and in 2008, won the Olympic title in Beijing.

Prior to Dan Hunt taking over as Men’s Endurance coach, Rod Ellingworth and Matt Parker ran the training sessions at the dungeon (Manchester velodrome). We’d bring you pictures of the latest team of coaches at work but unfortunately are not being given access to the training despite the coaches being okay with it. If you’re a stakeholder, I’d take it up with British Cycling!

Fast forward to today and Ed is now the ‘captain’ of the team, the most experienced rider by far who helps direct them on and off the track and also provides vital feedback to the coach Dan Hunt about what’s happening on the track. Sure, the team have video with timing analysis but some times there are things that even a camera can’t see. That’s where Ed’s role is so important.

Not only is he regarded as one of, if not the best Team Pursuiter in the World, Ed has also matured into a very professional rider. One, who when you talk to is constantly laughing and having a joke because that’s the way he is but as an athlete, he’s very focused on winning Gold in London.

It’s that mix of having fun and enjoying himself as well as being so knowledgeable about what he does on the bike that makes his presence in the team so great for the morale of the squad as a whole. Over the years, one name constantly comes up as being the rider they, team staff, all think will be in the team for London. That name is Ed Clancy.

Simply because Ed has shown over the last four years he’s not only able to get the team up to speed quicker than anyone else, he also rides a pretty mean Omnium too. As well as having won the World Omnium title in the past, he’s now European champion as well and while there are riders who may have a go at the event, Ed has the points on the board so to speak and everyone else is playing catchup.

Come London, like it will be for all the strong nations, the number of places for GB riders will be quite restricted and they won’t be able to have any passengers (reserves). In fact, every rider that goes will have to be capable of winning Gold. So, for both the men’s and women’s endurance squads, the rider that does the Omnium, will also have to ride the Team Pursuit or at least be a reserve for it and even the reserves will be have to be capable of racing one or more rounds of the event.

The Office for the Men’s endurance team for November/December.

Unlike riders like Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Peter Kennaugh and Brad Wiggins, Ed Clancy is based in Britain for his racing and rides for the Rapha Condor Sharp team on the road. For the next nine or so months however, there is one focus and only one thing he’s gunning for, and that’s the Olympics where the strip he’ll be wearing is the GB Olympic colours.

The Men’s Endurance Team Pursuit squad have been training since the middle of October prior to the European Championships and it’s pretty much full on all the way to the London World Cup in the latter half of February. The road riders will then go away to build on their endurance in events for Team Sky while the likes of Ed and so on will race for their trade teams here in the UK.

That’s a pretty hefty schedule and one not seen since the last Olympics and probably not even then was it as full on as it is now. The programme of training he and the others are on is intense and more so for him because while he may not be sure he’s doing the Omnium at the Olympics, he does at least have to work on specific areas for that event on top of his Team Pursuit work.

With Track Performance Manager Shane Sutton in Australia, Performance Director Dave Brailsford has been keeping an eye on the track training.

After the European Championships where he won the title for the Omnium and Team Pursuit, unlike some of his teammates in the boot camp right now, Ed didn’t get a break and it was straight out to Astana for the first of the World Cups where he was 4th in the Men’s Omnium. Then, it was back for the Great Britain Cycling Team’s Boot Camp for the men’s endurance riders under the coaching of Dan Hunt (interview here) who guided Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel to Gold and Silver in Beijing.

“We took it easy before Appeldorn (Euros) and it’s not like we went in there to set the world on fire” Ed explained. “The other lads took three or so days off while I was in Astana so they could be mentally fresh to start the boot camp on the Monday morning.”

So what is this boot camp?

Well, the riders are housed in a hotel for much of the week close to the track because the double days start early, 8am at the track in Manchester, and they won’t leave the velodrome until 5 or 6pm. The camp is a month long and after a weekend at home, they start Mondays nice and early with a road ride for one or two hours to open the legs up before a speed session on the track in the afternoon.

These drills all take place in an empty venue which is devoid of the atmosphere of a major event and the only noise is the banter between the riders and the yells of ‘up, up’, from the coaches to urge their riders to a greater effort. The team’s little blue motorbike will also be present and from time to time, the sound of the engine will burst into life as one of the coaches takes a rider up to speeds of 80k around the banked speed bowl.

Standing starts (hand held) will see riders queue up along the fence and stop watch in hand, the coaches will release the riders one-by-one for an effort which can be as little a quarter of a lap to much more.

Flying kilos and all the top end type drills that Ed and Steven Burke enjoy being ‘sprinter endurance’ athletes then follow for the team who can ‘enjoy’ having the track to themselves with most of the sprinters away in Australia.

Peter Kennaugh behind the ‘blue motor bike’ used for speed work

Tuesday is a double session on the boards in the dungeon and the riders get their ‘upright’ bikes out for more top end drills like ‘pulling race faces’ behind the motorbike in flying efforts, Madisons (crashes and all) and so on.

The session isn’t just restricted to the seven vying for a place in the Team Pursuit either with the likes of Ian Stannard and Andrew Fenn to name but two others who are on the boards mixing it up with the Team Pursuiters and making the sessions even harder.

After a break for lunch, it’s time for the efforts many don’t like, the numerous (4 or 5 perhaps) rolling 5k team pursuit drills in what Ed described as draggy kit or ‘flappy’ clothing. After all that, the riders will be in boxes and have the night to recover ready for a three hour road on Wednesday morning and gym too if they want it.

Thursday sees another double day at the track with under geared work in the morning and then another speed session in the afternoon. It’s a mix of endurance and speed work which is hardly surprising as the goal is for these riders to go faster than any other team in history over 4,000 metres.

After the hard work, they get to go home on Friday where they can they pretty much do what they feel they need to do on the road. Ben Swift apparently will go out and do five hours on his day off where as Ed will do an hour or two but it all depend on how fatigued they all feel.

The training ‘boot’ camp on the track is something Ed says they haven’t done since Beijing. “We’ve trained for World Cups and the Worlds with race preparation camps for two or three weeks, but we haven’t done a block of training on the track just for the purpose of training.”

The camp is part of a carefully thought out schedule which is planned around which events the team go to for Olympic qualifying points and which ones they sit out so that training blocks like this can be provided for the riders.

The team have been using sports analysts for a while now and each year their kit gets more and more high tech with cameras able to shoot hundreds of frames a second for analysing starts and video for the technical aspects of Team Pursuit. It’s so precise, they can look at the splits of riders and much more to try and get the ride as ‘even’ as possible.

In previous years, the riders from Team Sky and so on would just not be available and so it can only be done in the year before the Olympics. One wonders whether in the future it will take a four year cycle of training like this to be competitive at the Olympics rather than leaving it to the last nine months?

The camp though started well says Ed. “We had a really good first week. It’ hard to stick numbers on it because we have been training on slow kit, wheels and so on but there’s good morale in the camp.”

While Ed doesn’t feel the event has moved on in terms of the speed of the event, he does admit that there are now a lot of teams capable of going as fast. “The rest have closed in on us for sure. No one has yet come close to the ‘53’ though as they’ve be doing 55’s and 56’s. The Aussies, Russians and Kiwis are going quicker and getting closer to where we are so we have to make sure we don’t sit where we are. We need to move the game on again to stop them over taking us.”

“We knew the Russians would come at us. They have had big amount of funding and always had good riders. It’s just been a matter of them getting it together and Heiko is doing with them what he did with the Danes and they are going pretty well.”

“The Aussies have always been good at Team Pursuiting and Beijing was a disappointment for them so they’ll come back. It won’t be like Beijing where it was ‘lets catch the Danes in the final!’. It may even come down to a couple of tenths either way and we’ve just got to keep doing our thing and keeping our heads down.”

And that is what they will be doing for a few months to come. They have a week left of the boot camp in Manchester before flying out to Majorca which will take them up to Christmas. They, then get a break, sort of, before returning to Majorca for two short camps in January between efforts on the track.

It is all about managing their fatigue and resting well in between the efforts. “That’s the big part of it because you can train as hard as you want, 10 hours a day if you like, but it isn’t going to make you a quick Team Pursuiter” says Ed. “You need to be able to train hard when it matters and then sit in the hotel and soak it up.”

Resting is certainly important and the efforts are certainly taking their toll. Ed explained how after week three, that he didn’t feel too bad on the Friday and Saturday but then added that on Sunday, after a lot of work on the bike, he was falling in and out of consciousness watching the F1 Grand Prix at home! He then slept for twelve hours.

Ed in a very windy place in Wales earlier this year for the Halfords Tour Series.

Finally, I couldn’t let Ed go without talking about what we’ll see of him in 2012 in domestic races which VeloUK will be reporting on during the next season. He says that everyone in the team will be putting their road ambitions aside in 2012 and the focus is on the Olympics.

That is something his team, Rapha Condor Sharp, are happy to buy into says Ed. “They pays us a wage so it’s really cool John Herety is giving us the space to prepare properly for the Olympics. He laid out the programme and said to us, ‘tell us what races you want to do’. He is literally letting us ride the races we want which fit in with our Olympic preparations.”
“Hopefully either or both of us will do alright in the Olympics and the team will get some publicity from that but we’ll also be free to race for them after the Olympics as normal.”

The big event for the sponsors, besides the Tour of Britain at the end of the season, is the Halfords Tour Series that is generally held in May and June. Asked does a high speed event like that help a rider aiming to ride a high speed event in the Olympics, Ed replies, “The Tour Series does help in moderation.”

“They are not like a long road race or stage race and you can only do so much damage to the muscles in a one hour crit as long as you avoid any tangles on that last corner etc. They are punchy and fast, so why not?”

“What we don’t want to do is end up racing every weekend and then doing rounds of the Halfords Tour Series each week and come out of the series in a box. We want to come out of the Tour Series (six weeks before the Olympics) feeling good and not fatigued for the track. Chances are we’ll end up doing some but probably not all of them.”

So that’s Ed’s season for 2012! A boot camp now, plenty of road and track training until the World Track Championships in April (Melbourne) before a little road racing in front of the fans before its behind closed doors again and the final push for the London Olympics.

Our thanks to Ed for his time and we’ll continue to follow what they are up to on Twitter!

Part 1: Read what the GB Team Pursuit coach Dan Hunt has to say about the team’s preparation

Interviews from VeloUK

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