Looking pretty mean.

We chat to Craig Maclean about the Olympics, and the fact he’s not going.

Nine golds and two silvers. That’s what Team GB took away from the Manchester World Track Championships, back in April. A repeat performance in Beijing is entirely possible. How does British Cycling do it ?

One of the reasons is that their selection criteria is ruthless; past glory counts for nothing. The 2000 Olympic kilometre champion, Jason Queally was interviewed in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper recently and spoke of his shock and disappointment at not making the cut, despite riding faster in the team sprint than he’s ever done before – but it wasn’t fast enough for the selectors.

Another GB stalwart – with nine world championship medals, not to mention Olympic and Commonwealth Games precious metals – but who will not be on the plane to Beijing either, is our very own Craig Maclean.

Despite having been hit very hard by the selector’s decision, Craig took time to tell us about his feelings, the mechanics of selection and – the future.

Your emotions, Craig?

“Pretty up and down to be honest. Very disappointed, obviously, it was always going to be close but I’m disappointed with myself because I didn’t get the ride out that I know I was capable of. I always go better in a race environment, it’s just not the same for me in a training or trial situation.”

When did you know that you weren’t going?

“It was fairly obvious straight after the trial, but we didn’t really get official notification. I was talking to Shane Sutton a few days later and he said that; “Jason Kenny has had the nod” – that meant I wasn’t going.

“The team was under pressure from the British Olympic Association to release the names, even though it was two days earlier than planned; it was to try and take attention away from the Dwain Chambers affair. It’s tempting to say that it’s political, with the two oldest guys – me and Jason – not gaining selection.

“But it’s really down to the stopwatch; as I said, training situations don’t really suit me, but the way the selectors look at it is that if you can’t do it on a given day, then you can’t do it.

“In the lead up to a big event there will be peaks and troughs in your times; I suggested that we be given a ‘window’ of a couple of weeks to achieve the times, but I was out-voted.”

Who has final say on the selections?

“I’m not completely sure, but the selection committee is Shane Sutton, Chris Boardman, Doug Dailey and David Brailsford.”

Before the session, did you think you would go?

“Yeah, the last couple of weeks it’s been coming together. I’ve been feeling good and going well, consistently. It’s been a turbulent year with injuries and inconsistent form; but so much of it is in your head, it just needs one good result or training session and you’re back on the ‘up.'”

Craig Maclean
Craig doesn’t “not try”.

Tell us about the trial.

“Three team sprint rides under official race conditions, complete with official timing. Jamie Staff is preselected, due to his Worlds rides, so he was man one, with the other two places being swopped around to decide the final rider to complete the four rider ‘pool’ for the Olympics.” (Chris Hoy and Ross Edgar are also pre-selected).

How are they getting these young laddies to go so fast, so soon?

“They have a “talent identification programme;’ they get them young and if they have promise, then they fasttrack them. They get the best equipment, facilities, accomodation, coaching; basically it’s all there for them.”

How would you like to have ended your career?

“With an Olympic medal, it’s what you dream of in training. I have funding until the end of the year, so I have time to think about where I go from here.”

“I won’t be funded after December and I don’t know if it will be possible for me to get funding from Scotland for two years, or six years until Glasgow.

“I have the option to pilot a tandem in the para Olympics but I can’t do that until three years have elapsed since I rode as a pro. It’s not a substitute for being on the full Olympic squad, but it would allow me to train and race at a high level and perhaps spend some time coaching.

“There’s also the sprint competitions In the six day races, although they are quite difficult to get in to if you don’t have strong recent Worlds results. The other thing about them is that in Germany a lot of the young sprinters will ride for practically nothing, that brings the price down for everyone.

“I also got the chance to co-host the John Beattie radio programme on Radio Scotland, but it clashed with the Olympic trials. However, it’s maybe something for the future.”

Worst cycling moment?

“This non selection is right up there!”

And the best?

“Winning the Worlds team sprint in 2002.”

Whatever direction Craig chooses, we’re sure it’ll be the right one; VeloVeritas sincerely wishes him every success on the way.