TalkingShop: Double Olympic Champion Ed Clancy


A legend on and off the track at 27, the Worlds top man 1 in the Team Pursuit, Ed Clancy looks to expand his repertoire for the next Olympics in Rio

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An Olympic champion and World Record Holder in the Team Pursuit at successive Olympics, 27 year old Ed Clancy has had a change of mind on pursuing a career on the roads of Europe and instead is showing that an endurance athlete can make the cross over between so called endurance and sprint events on the track.


Ed is just as popular on the track as off it having ridden in British events for quite a few years now and for 2013, came so close to signing for Raleigh before Rapha Condor pulled some money out of a bag at the last minute to keep him in their squad.

He is a prize draw to any team and has won the British Circuit Race championships and many a race around town centres in Britain. On the road here in Britain, at least in the crits, he is one of the best there is and it was great to hear him say to VeloUK that he still wants to ride the crits in 2013.

“Whatever happens with the sprinting, I will never end up like a pure sprinter, like Jamie Staff for example. I will always have a bit of length about me and what we are trying to get is for me to have the same sort of aerobic capacity and Team Pursuit performance but add a few hundred more watts peak power into the equation. That’s it.”

“That is all we think I need, to be a proper world class man three Team Sprinter. Whether we can do that, we don’t know but I don’t think it will take anything away from the Team Pursuiting or the road and if it did, I would not bother doing it.”


Ed Clancy (centre) with the World Championship winning team at Los Angeles in 2005. L-R: Rob Hayles, Steve Cummings, Ed, Chris Newton and Paul Manning.

Before the Olympics, Ed had expressed an interest to try and follow in the wheel marks of his best friend Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins too on the road but he can see now that his make up as a rider is not suited to what his team pursuiting teammates can do for their World Tour team. For Ed and Steven Burke, both similar sprint endurance athletes, the track is where the future is.

“The fact that myself and Burkey were possibly the strongest riders in London (Team Pursuit) perhaps says it all” Ed explained. “Man three and four (team pursuit) can get away with being super fit road riders but I think if you are really going to start going quicker at the Team Pursuit, you need a hybrid rider.”


Steven Burke, a Team Pursuit in the same mould as Ed Clancy.

“You put us (Ed or Steven Burke) up a hill in a stage race and we’re rubbish in terms of aerobic power. We’re all right compared to a club rider but we’re certainly not Tour de France material or even domestic pro level. But as soon as you bring in a speed element like what I have got and Burkey has, then we’re good Team Pursuiters.”

“It’s a four minute event and it’s not like you’re pushing the wind for four minutes. It’s like four minutes of intervals; four sprints that each last 15 seconds and whilst you need to be able to tolerate the acid in the Team Pursuit, a strong aerobic system will clear that.”

Ed knows what it takes to be a rider on the road and spent two seasons with Paul Manning in Belgium riding for Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner (2007–2008). I don’t think either of them enjoyed that the same as Ed seems to enjoy racing in Britain and so his switch to the Sprint event is probably one that will best suit his lifestyle.

“Whilst the road has that pull and attraction, especially as my good friends are doing it, I think it is a case of the grass looking greener on the other side. If I did that, it’s not as if I’d be a Bradley Wiggins or Geraint Thomas earning a fortune in the best pro teams. Truth be told, I would probably not make any more money than I am now and I’d probably have a lifestyle I didn’t particularly enjoy spending more time away from home. So I think I am doing the right thing. Life certainly isn’t so bad!”


Ed Clancy in winning form for his team Rapha Condor

Ed has certainly come a long way since his days in the academy with Sky road coach Rod Ellingworth at the helm. I remember Ed making his World Championship Team Pursuit debut after the 2004 Olympics at the 2005 World Track Cycling Championships in Los Angeles.

The academy rider quickly showed what potential he had by helping them get off to a great start in round 1 and into the final for the Gold medal. The team went on to win the World title that year and whilst Ed didn’t get to stand on the podium, I do remember Chris Newton giving Ed his Gold medal to wear for a team picture afterwards. It was a team effort and Ed was a key member of that team.

It was certainly some World Championships as a certain Mark Cavendish also made his debut and won the World Madison title with Rob Hayles. That class of 2004/05 was certainly pretty special and they still are!

Ed very quickly learnt the ropes in the Team Pursuit and in a team that saw the line-up change as riders concentrated on the road or retired, he quickly became a key rider in the line-up at training sessions. He knew what was needed for various drills and I remember well the feedback sessions with sport analysts where Ed was able to bring valuable info to the table to help move the team forward.

Acknowledged by Bradley Wiggins no less as the best man 1 in the World, the team with Ed broke the Team Pursuit domination by Australia in Beijing (2008 Olympics) with GB winning the Gold and breaking the World Record in the process.

Ed continued to be a key part of the team in the years after Bejing during a period where more changes were made to the event programme in track cycling but where the Team Pursuit remained a key Endurance event. Ed branched out into the Men’s Omnium in the years after Beijing winning the rainbow stripes in that (2010) as well.

But Ed is a team player and the Team Pursuit remained his key event and in London he added the Olympic Gold to the World Championship Gold he won in Australia earlier in the year (2012) and just to show how versatile he was, Ed also won the Bronze in the Omnium.

He’s been part of five World Championship winning teams and has two Olympic Golds and a Bronze to his name. He’s only 27 and plenty more is to come from this talented rider.

Whilst the home Olympics was always going to be a major event in a rider’s life, and despite the continued success in the Team Pursuit, Ed needed a new challenge post London and the one on the road as a professional did not look viable. Ed went the other way and whilst it was no secret Ed was going to do the Team Sprint in the Glasgow World Cup, how successful he proved to be in it was a surprise to many. Including the team probably.

Anyone who saw the times that Ed did for the Sprint events in the London Olympics in the Omnium however would not be surprised at his success in Glasgow. In London at the Olympics, Ed was over half a second quicker in the 250 metre flying lap than any of his rivals with 12.556 and his 4.20 in the Individual Pursuit was certainly a respectable time considering all the efforts made in the other events.

It was though the stunning 1.00.981 for the Kilo, the sixth and final event in two days of racing, that shouted out, ‘look at me, I can sprint too!’

Ed certainly was quick and in a café at the Manchester Velodrome we spoke about that first competitive Team Sprint. Whilst we chatted, it was great to see the affection the fans have for the double Olympic champion as he is quite probably the nicest Olympic champion I have ever known! Proof that nice guys certainly don’t finish last!


Ed making a sprint effort on the track in Denmark.

“It was a good start” Ed said “and afterwards it was a question of whether we continue on that path or sack it off and go back to Team Pursuit. I think we decided it was worth pushing ahead to the Track Worlds so I am looking to do the Team Sprint and Kilo at the Worlds. That’s 100 per cent now.”

“In Glasgow, we weren’t sure it was going to work out and to be honest, I’m still not sure it will and whether I’ll get any better.” Ed was very modest saying that Philip Hindes start in Glasgow which wasn’t up to the standard he set at the Olympics, made Ed look better but added that off the back of limited training, he could not have really hoped for much more.

“It was a difficult (ballsly more like it!) decision because it wasn’t as if I was struggling to make the Team Pursuit squad. It is hard to leave the Team Pursuit behind but then you think what is the worst case scenario?”

“What could I lose?”

Maybe the Team Pursuit will go on to win the World Champs next year and maybe the Team Sprint won’t. But I’m exploring something new and it’s got the potential to open up something different, something new. If it so happens the Team Pursuit and Team Sprint are on different days or even if they aren’t, I have to consider riding both. It’s not been done before but there is some sort of cross over.”

After what the World witnessed in London where Ed produced that 1.00.9 in the Kilometre after having completed six full distance Endurance and Sprint events, there is little doubt he has the recovery powers to do both. Ed is half a second off being what he calls a ‘proper’ World class man three in the same territory as Sir Chris Hoy. But there are unknowns.

“I’m just not sure at the moment that if Philip (Hindes) goes half a second quicker for man 1 and Jason (Kenny) goes half a second quicker in man 2, I’m not sure what sort of state that will leave me in.”

“Will it give me a faster entry speed and take a few tenths off my time or will it mean I am doing more damage early on and I completely blow. So there are a lot of unanswered questions about how I can perform in the Team Sprint.”

“We are starting to build up the evidence and I know now I can ride a good Team Sprint but whether I can be a truly World class man three, we’re yet to find that out and that is what the next few months are about.”


Ed is spending the winter working on his start as well as some ‘power at high cadence’ drills for the last lap. “If we make improvements up to the Worlds, then I will probably carry on to the Commonwealths (Glasgow 2014). If things get tricky and it looks like I am stuck in my endurance ways, then I’ll stick to endurance.”

Ed’s winter is turning out pretty different to past winters as a rider on the Endurance squad. He’s now doing pretty minimal road riding compared to what he has been doing the last few years but what he hasn’t done, is have the same sort of break that others in the successful GB Cycling team from London 2012 have had.

Ed though does admit that switching disciplines has come with its own advantages and a big one is that he doesn’t feel the pressure he would do if he was still part of the Team Pursuit squad. In the Team Sprint, he couldn’t really lose no matter what had happened and in the end, he came out of that World Cup a hero and rightly so after having taken a brave step in putting his name down to do it.

But what about that post Olympic break? Has he had some down time? Having seen the promotional stuff that many of the riders did post Olympics, I couldn’t help but worry that Ed had missed out on it all! He quickly put my mind at rest (thanks Ed).

“The first two or three weeks post Olympics were the best for me” he explained. “I was still on a high from the event and before the media really got hold of me, it was quiet and I was riding my ‘enduro’ bike. I also did a track day with Honda and these opportunities were what I genuinely wanted to do and that was awesome. They were opportunities that would not ordinarily come your way had I not been to the Olympics and won a gold medal.”

Then the media and PR work started to kick in and Ed explained that one or two of those a week were quite taxing mainly because of the travelling. They were also things he was doing on rest days in between training so he did miss the simple things that many of us can relate to when we need that down time from work. Like relaxing at home, feet up watching the Simpsons or sitting in front of the fire playing the guitar.

That down time though will come Ed says because he’ll make sure it happens. “These opportunities come up and you have to take advantage of them and if ever you are going to do them, then now is the time.”

“At least I don’t have it like Chris (Hoy) who can’t even walk down the street. I’ll get people coming up to me here at Revolution which is great but Chris will get that everywhere. I’d much rather be doing this than not had I had a bad Olympics!”


Ed Clancy with Andy Tennant after winning the Madison Kilo at the last Revolution.

With his ability on the bike proven over the last seven years, a bad Olympics just doesn’t seem to ever be possible. The lad is class through and through and admits that he loves his Team Pursuiting and if he can add the Team Sprint to the equation, that would be pretty good too.

How well he can do at both we’ll see in the coming months as the team prepare for the first post 2012 Olympics World Track Cycling Championships. Then, there’ll be the post event post-mortem where the team will look at the progress made before Ed heads for a season on the road with his teammates in Rapha Condor.

It’s a team he says he’s happy to be in and that he has no desire to be in a bigger team and he’ll be happy to just keep doing what he’s been doing. That’s great news for anyone who follows the sport in Britain whether it’s at the Revolution Track Opens or the Tour Series. A legend amongst the stars will always be Ed Clancy and long may he continue to be so.

Thanks for the chat Ed….


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