Feature Q & A – Ed Clancy (Olympic Champion x 3!)

We chat to Ed Clancy in Australia about his goals now he has won three Olympic Golds and embarks on a road season with JLT Condor

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Feature Q & A – Ed Clancy (Olympic Champion x 3!)

There was a lot of success at the Rio Olympics for the GB team but perhaps the Gold medal that was the biggest struggle was for Ed Clancy.

A back injury meant that even at the Olympics he wasn’t in the same shape he was before the injury but he, and the team, delivered the performance of their lives to win Gold again. As you will read, that achievement meant a lot to Ed who is just one of the most grounded and good guys you could possibly ever meet.

And I for one know the season here in Britain will be all the better for having Ed around.

That season though is a little way off though and right now, Ed and the JLT Condor boys are preparing for their first stage race of the season in New Zealand and part of that team is Ed Clancy. During my time in Australia, I caught up with the three time Olympic champion on the sofa in the team house, we talked Olympics and goals for the Yorkshire rider.

It’s the first time Ed has trained in Australia outside of the Great Britain team and his time in Bendigo goes back a long way to the days when Sky coach Rod Ellingworth brought the GB Academy out to race and train here.

“That was my first experience of Australia” explains Ed. “It was a long stint here, the only time I have been longer than two or three weeks abroad; and back then it was a big deal to come halfway round the World with your bike and teammates.”

“I think it was only my second ever World Cup up until then and we (Matt Brammeier, Mark Cavendish and Tom White) got a medal (Silver) for a doing a 4.08 or something. How times have changed!”

“After that World Cup, we came here to Bendigo and twelve years later, here we are again”.

Indeed we were. That morning, the team did four hours in temperatures approaching 40 degrees. So hot, even the local wildlife were sitting under trees looking at the Brits pedalling their butts off and probably thinking … “mad dogs and ….”

Ed explained that whilst the heat wasn’t much fun, he has over the years been to a lot of hot places to ride his bike. “I have done stage races all over the world like Korea and Langkawi with some pretty hot climates but it always takes time to get used to it and I was struggling with it today for sure.”

It wasn’t only hot but lumpy too with a climb over 700 metres high, bigger than those in Yorkshire where he lives and a surprise for me being a ‘local’ and not realising Bendigo had such big and long (7k) climbs so close. “It was a good day to start with” Ed said. “I was tired but we’re here for another two weeks before we go to New Zealand so we’ve plenty of time to get used it.”

The Q & A starts with his 2016 highlight and yes, the answer was obvious (Rio) but not just because it was the Olympics. “I think I only crossed the line once in first place (apart of Revolutions and that) and that was in the Olympics” says Ed.

“It was the only big win and a good one too! The first half of the year was a mess with the back injury and rehab and it took me ages to start training properly. Thinking back to the Olympic holding camp at Newport, I arrived after doing an altitude camp and I was a mess when we got to the holding camp. So even at that point, I was barely able to race. So while the team pursuit at Rio was seen as an epic struggle of a race, what people don’t see is the struggle behind the scenes to get ready for that race.”

“To come out on top meant more to me than anything else that I will ever achieve.”

They were tense times agreed Ed. “For sure, the back end of 2015 and start of 2016, it is only now the medical team will admit they weren’t sure which way it was going to go. I had a lot of positive people around me at that time but I knew deep down then it could go either way which is a scary thought when you have bills to pay and people who rely on me to make a living.”

“I am sure we’d have come up with a plan B but at that time, I desperately wanted to be at the Olympics and the thought of giving up on that dream was the most painful thing”.

“But, it did come good and I’m grateful to everyone like the physios and doctors who never gave up”.

I then put it to Ed that the Worlds final must have been one of his toughest races when the riders were all round the track chasing gold. “It was a difficult one the Worlds. There was no pressure on me to ride it and I think I was one of the top four or five guys in the mix.”

“I stuck my neck out and said if there was a chance of a ride in the qualifying or semi final, then I’d like to do it to help my teammates. Ian and Shane said great, they hadn’t expected me to make the team and they were all for it. Because of certain situations, I got thrown into the final too which was fine and I did my best but ultimately as a package, we weren’t good enough and the best team won”.

Ed then added, as a race, Team Pursuits are always hard and you always cross the line spent so every one of them is tough.

From tough races though to some fun on the bike and the events he said were the most fun came after the Olympics. “The Revolutions and stuff afterwards because all the hard work was done by then.”

“We came back as reigning champions in the Team Pursuit and whilst the local rounds of the Revolution were hard as I’d been in holiday mode, the first international round at Manchester, I had good legs and morale and had just started working with Tim as a coach.”

“Everything that weekend went well and me and Mouldy pretty much dominated so it was a good fun weekend of racing and the best I have ever felt probably since the back injury”.

Ed’s Warmup
One of the questions we’ve been asking riders in our Q & A’s is about their warm up. Ed explained his has hardly changed over the years. “For the Team Pursuit, I have a pretty rigid warmup that’s barely changed since the Simon Jones days in 2005.”
“A five minute easy warmup, then an eight minute ramp and three or four minutes with some sharp sprints and then a few minutes easy and then race. I tend to progress the ramp in steps these days but that’s it. In terms of crits or road, it’s the same but the ramp doesn’t go as high. Like a Bay Crit we’ve just done, people says it goes from the gun but it doesn’t really; the team pursuit is from the gun!”

Favourite Kit
A lot of riders have a favourite piece of kit and for Ed, it’s the power meter. “A lot of us are into the numbers so if you’d listen to the conversation today, all you would have heard are heart rates, power, distances, normalised power and so on”.

“So for a lot of us it will be the power cranks and Garmins. For a long time, I thought only the SRM worked and was half decent but these days there a lot of manufacturers’ doing good products which I expect are every bit as accurate and half the price”.

The 2017 season …
With the Olympics being such a huge animal that can destroy the ambitions and lives of an athlete or change their lives for the good to a level few of us get to see (Sir Chris Hoy for instance), the pressure before the Olympics is huge. It’s not just an individual either but whole sports who can either benefit or lose big time depending on the results at any given Olympiad.

Because of that intense pressure before the Olympics, the year after the Olympics sees many of the athletes kick back in year one of the four year cycle and Ed is no exception.

“I want to enjoy my bike riding and I want to race well without the big pressure of a Commonwealth Games or Olympics or anything like that. I just want to perform consistently through the year.”

“I’ve started with the Bay Crits and the whole team was going well including myself so that was a great start. There are no massive goals but I want to target every crit I go to and also perform better in the one day road races”.

“I think if you are going to do anything fun and perhaps with risk, then now is the time to do that. John (Herety) may disagree! I like my mountain bikes and just bought a go-kart as I’m just a big kid with his toys.”

“The last nine months before the Olympics, you do everything geared towards the cycling; you don’t see friends, family, barbeques, christenings, parties, etc. And, now that’s done, it’s not like we’ll be living a rock star lifestyle but maybe once a week, we’ll go to a party or barbeque and just have a more rounded lifestyle which I think is important because we’ll need to be mentally fresh for Tokyo which is the next big goal”.

“So my goal for this year and next year, is to build a big solid foundation of fitness that I can build some speed and strength on top for the track and hopefully end up in an even better place for 2020”.

Want more?
Here’s a video interview we did before the one above when Ed was at the Bay Crits the week before

Thanks to Ed for the chat, we look forward to seeing him race in 2017 ….




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