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Craig Maclean – Trying Something New

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Craig Maclean – his answer to our question as to whether it’s noisy in a two man bobsleigh;

“It is quite noisy when your head’s scraping along the ice !”

What’s the former World Team Sprint gold medallist and Individual Sprint silver medallist doing in a bobsleigh? Read on!

How did you get involved in bobsleighing, Craig?

“Through my agent; the British Bobsleigh Association approached the BBC to do a programme about the sport. There’s no funding at all for bobsleighing and unless you’re in the forces it’s very difficult to get supported as an athlete to do it.

“The idea was to get athletes from other sports into bobsleighs; see how they perform and generate interest. I was in an ideal position where my career was moving to another phase and it didn’t matter too much if I picked up an injury.”

Craig MacLean
Craig and team are all smiles. Photo©BBC

Was your last race the British Champs?

“No, I rode the World Cup at the end of October. I was happy with my 200 qualifying time but I got relegated in the keirin and cut-up in the sprint – it was a crap way to go out, an anti-climax.”

Do you still plan to get involved with the para Olympians?

“That’s the plan, but before I can compete at Worlds level with them I have to be out of competition from the GB or an Elite team for a period of 24 months and 36 months before I can compete in the Olympics. I’ll be riding the tandem kilo and sprint – I’m looking forward to it.”

So you’re not going to be a full time bob sleigher for two years?

“No, it was a one off, two week thing, the BBA were very keen for me to come back, but the fact that they aren’t funded shows – it’s very amateur compared to the way things are at British Cycling.

“I hope to be funded for the next 24 months by British Cycling and even though I’m out of competition, I still have to achieve the target times in training. Jason Queally is in exactly the same situation.”:

Craig MacLean
The Cesana Pariol track in Italy (looking peaceful lit-up at night) was the venue for bobsled, luge and skeleton during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. The venue holds around 7,000 spectators, of which over 3,600 are seated.

How many man-bob was it?

“Originally it was to be four-man and I was going to be trained to steer, but the four-man proved too dangerous – it’s not that it’s harder to steer, it’s just that it’s much more difficult to correct mistakes. We all had a go at steering, it’s good fun and at least you can see where you’re going!”

It must be noisy?

“You have a motorcycle helmet on, so it’s not too noisy; unless you crash – which was most of the time – and your head’s scraping along the ice… it’s noisy then!”

You crashed?

“Yeah, five times! Once with me steering and four times with the other guy steering.”

How sophisticated are the bobs?

“They’re pretty ricketty, there’s no suspension at all, they’re basically a glass fibre body on a steel frame. I think that there’s room for a lot of technical development, but the cash isn’t there.”

Craig MacLean
The guys look good – before the crashes started. Photo©BBC

What are the G-forces like?

“The four-man bobs are pulling four or five G on the turns, I guess we were at three G with 70 mph, the fastest we went through the speed trap, and that was on our heads!”

What’s the critical factor for fast runs?

“In competition, a fast start is vital. I hadn’t run since I was about 11, so I was pulling muscles all over the place!

“They have a dry track at Bath and we practiced there before we travelled – my legs were just battered after that! In the event we didn’t actually do a running start – we just walked; if we ran we just ended up crashing!”

Craig MacLean
Craig & Co. hurtle down the piste at 70mph!

Given the aero element, are they fanatical about equipment?

“I never saw that side of it, it didn’t seem that hi-tech to me. One of the British teams spoke to the McLaren Formula One team, but the money isn’t there.”

How was the ‘apres ski?’

“It wasn’t that sort of atmosphere; it was pretty serious, with guys trying to get selected for World Cup events.”

Craig MacLean
The Cesana track is constructed with about 54 miles of ammonia refrigeration pipes to help form ice on the track for proper sliding. Numerous sensors located along the track ensure that the ice’s thickness is kept between 5 and 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) to keep the track properly smooth during competitions.

Are there still ‘playboys’ on the circuit?

“Not at British level, there are a few eccentric guys, but that’s about it.”

Craig MacLean
World Champion. Nuff said.

And has your funding been approved?

“Not yet, but there’s so much to sort out for British Cycling at the moment; there’s the Sky sponsorship and a lot of new staff.

“I’m looking forward to getting my coaching certificates up to date and I’ll be looking after a couple of Para Olympics riders – so that’s a challenge.

“But it’s not new to me, I coached Vicki Pendleton when she won her first World Sprint title.”

Commonwealth and World Champion; coach of World Champions; and 70 mph, on ice, on his head – that man is versatile!

VeloVeritas thanks Craig for his time and insight, and wishes him a healthy and happy winter.

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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