He’s won the World Kilometre Championship four times, the World Team Sprint Championship twice, the World Keirin Championship twice, and now he’s completed an unequalled sprinters’ “quadruple” by winning the World Individual Sprint Championship…Oh – and he’s the reigning Olympic Kilometre Champion as well! He’s Scotland’s Chris Hoy, and after we’d told him how proud we are of him, he took time to answer our questions.
Daft question to start, but in the team sprint, how do you decide, ‘who goes where?’
“A lot of that is decided by your background. For instance, our lead man Jamie Staff came from BMX, so he’s experienced at starting in an explosive fashion. My background is the kilometre, so I have the endurance and take third spot. Second spot is traditionally the sprinter’s place.”
What was the team’s expectation going into the race?
“We knew the French would be very hard to beat and our focus was on getting as close as possible to our “personal best” ride we did last year. In the event, even though we had to settle for silver, behind the French, we went even faster, so we couldn’t be disappointed.”
Why are the French so good?
“They have the fastest starter in the world and they also have sprinters who have the top end speed. Technically they are very well drilled and they always seem to get it right when it matters.”
Did you get a fright with the Dutch team’s first two qualifying laps?
“It’s not like that, you get up and do your own ride, then you just have to wait and keep your fingers crossed. Going in to the tournament we knew that France, Germany, Holland and Australia were all dangerous. With the fastest two going straight to the final, there’s not much room for error. The Dutch will certainly be a big threat in Beijing.”
Was Jamie’s first lap time in the final what you required?
“He was amazing, he lost very little time on the French. I think that Ross (Edgar) is a lttle disappointed with his ride though, he’s not at 100%, but in a way that’s good because that means there’s more to come for Beijing, the team is definitely in the ascendant.”
Why do you think the French brought Tournand in to replace Bourgain in the final?
“I think it was an Olympic selection issue and they had such a big cushion after the qualifying they could afford to experiment. It gave them the chance to test Tournand under full race conditions. Earlier in the year it looked like he wouldn’t be going to the Olympics because he didn’t have the form, but in the event the team went even faster with him in it – I think that surprised everyone.”
I noticed at least two teams spun rear tyres out of the start gate.
“There’s a fine line between your starting lunge giving you momentum and not leaving enough weight on your back tyre to give good traction. It’s happened to me in training, things like that are easily done under the pressure of competition.”
What gears are you riding in the team sprint?
“I ride 52 x 14.” (ouch!)
Why is the Mavic five spoke the front wheel of choice?
“It’s much stiffer than a conventional wheel and much more aero – in fact, it’s almost as aero as a front disc, but much easier to control.”
Do GB still ride Dugast tyres?
“No, we ride Vittorias now, I don’t know what pressure though – I leave that to the mechanic!”
Then it was the sprint – how do you perform so well on what seems like so little racing?
“Some of the racing we do doesn’t always make the press or the web but as well as the World Cups we do a lot of race simulation in training. We also do a lot of video analysis of our training and racing. If you are always trying to learn from what’s happening in racing and in training them you can make a lot of improvement without constantly being in competition.”
What was your expectation going in to the sprint?
“That I had the potential to go top four and maybe scrape a medal!”
Do you ride a higher gear for qualifying?
“The French do, they put on a huge ratio, I ride my usual 52 x 14. The way I look at it is that you want to be able to do the time on the gear you’ll be match sprinting on. Having said that, if it’s warm or a big, fast track then you might raise the gear.”
Bos (defending champion Theo, from The Netherlands) seemed a bit ‘flat.’
“Yes, but I don’t think it was physical, more pyschological. In the team sprint he was very fast and in the individual sprint he did the same qualifying time as me, we were fourth fastest. He might have been disappointed by not qualifying fastest and it affected his state of mind.”
Sireau (eventual silver medallist, Kevin) is a precocious talent.
“Yes, he dipped under 10 seconds in qualifying – very scary! For his age and experience, he’s remarkable and will be the man to beat in Beijing.”
Sprinting seems less physical these days?
“The officials have definitely clamped down on the dangerous stuff, it’s not a demolition derby anymore! It’s the same in the keirin, that suits me because it means your’re relying more on athletic ability, not bumping and boring.”
The German former world sprint champ, Jan Van Eiden is the GB sprint coach now, isn’t he?
“Yes, he’s made a huge contribution, not just in terms of guidance and advice but also about training and how to get the best from yourself.”
By my reckoning, you’re now the most versatile sprinter ever.
“I believe so, Florian Rosseau won the Worlds Team Sprint, Individual Sprint and the Kilometre and the Olympic Keirin – but not the Worlds’.”
Young Jason Kenny, fifth for GB…
“He’s a really talented kid with a good work ethic; he’s the one to watch for the London Olympics in 2012!”
Then there was the keirin – that made nine career World titles for you, and nine for the team in these Worlds.
“The mood in the team is unbelievable, last year was good (seven titles), but this year was about as good as you can get.”
Do you think any other nations might have been ‘holding back’ for Beijing?
“No, psychologically it’s very important to do well at the Worlds.”
The keirin is a race for the ‘big boys,’ does your diet reflect that – is it body builder stuff?
“We do eat a lot of protein, but we’re not building muscle for mass and looks: it’s for what they can do for you on the bike. I eat pretty sensibly, red meat, chicken, fish, pasta, rice, vegetables – just a good balanced diet. I’m not fanatical about it, I’ll maybe have the odd bit of chocolate or plate of french fries as a treat. I don’t think it’s right to get obsessed with what you eat, as long as you exercise common sense.”
You’re doing it the hard way in these keirins – from the front!
“Physically that’s the hard way, but it’s the safe way because your away from all the shouldering – plus you can control moves and neutralise them. But I must admit that with three rides in one day, my legs were hurting on that last lap of the final, and I was hanging on!”
You have a big pyschological advantage now though, don’t you?
“It does seem that way, that long unbeaten streak (22 races) gave me a lot of confidence and self belief. When you are sitting there at the start, you must have self belief – if you don’t you shouldn’t be there.”
Will you be riding the three events at Beijing?
“Yes! It’s no different to the Worlds, in fact it’ll be easier there – the sprint is spread over three days.”
And did you have a “wee glass” to celebrate, last night?
“I had a couple – it’s nice that the pressure is off for the moment and I can have a week or two of down time before I start the build up for Beijing.”
“Easier,” I’m not sure that anyone else will be using that word when they talk about Beijing – but that’s why he’s the best! Keep an eye on Chris’ new website for more info on the lead-up to the Olympics.
With thanks to Chris for his valuable time.