We interviewed Jack Carlin a few weeks ago, before the COVID-19 outbreak was classified as a pandemic, worldwide lockdowns began coming into force – and the Olympics were cancelled.
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Another one for Jack Carlin. Major championship silver medal, that is, this time in the UCI World Team Sprint Championship in Berlin.
It adds to silver in the Team and Individual Sprint competitions won at the Worlds in 2018; silver in the Commonwealth Games Individual Sprint the same year; last year there was silver in the European Team Sprint Champs and two team sprint World Cup medals of the same ilk for the young man from Paisley – he’s still only 22 years-old.
In Berlin he also battled through to the Keirin finals, finishing in that worst of positions – just off the podium in fourth place.
We caught up with him as he prepared to take a wee break from training and racing before the big build up for the competition which really matters to Team GB: the Olympic Games in Tokyo come late July/early August.
Team Sprint silver, are you satisfied with that performance?
“Yes and no; we set a British record in the first round with 42.294 [the team qualified with 42.471 and rode 42.400 in the final against the Dutch, with the orange men charging to a world record 41.225, ed.] and I was happy with how my own laps went but whilst we took a step up, so did the Dutch so it’s the same status quo as before the Worlds with the Dutch at the top and us chasing them.
“That said, we’re going in the right direction.”
Those Dutch boys are dominant in the event right now, why so?
“They have real strength in depth, the times they are doing, no one can get near – they’re all talented guys, they have the good aero equipment…
“But we’re chasing them and hope we can give them a good run for their money come Tokyo.
“Our coach Kevin Stewart said that what we should take away from Berlin is that world records can be broken at sea level.
“I’ll have my week off then it’s back to the drawing board for Tokyo.”
You’re ‘man two’ – how is it decided, ‘who goes where?’
“‘Man one’ should be strongest in the gym and on the bike, he’s got to get us off the line and up to speed; ‘man two’ should have more ‘top end’ but also ‘length,’ whilst ‘man three’ has to sustain the speed but also have excellent lactic tolerance.”
Apart from you, Jason Kenny and Ryan Owens, who’s in the GB pool for the event?
“Phil Hindes was our travelling reserve and there’s Joe Truman as well, so five strong guys – I think the final Olympic selection will be made at the end of May.”
Is Jason Kenny back to his best?
“He still has more to come – but so does the whole team.”
What are your thoughts on your fourth placed Keirin ride?
“I was devastated, I suffered a bit of a bang on my ankle in the semi and it rather threw me off a little.
“That said, I didn’t handle my tactics in the final as I should, I was reactive rather than proactive but on the positive side, I had the legs and was there in the final fighting for a medal.”
The Keirin is so fast now with final 200 times now regularly well under 10 seconds.
“It just shows the level of competition and there are so many guys coming through – it’s just so tough now.
“The gears are so much bigger now, you just need to look at the size of some of the guys – huge, lean guys.
“The Dutch guy who won, Harrie Lavreysen came out of BMX and that was the start of where his explosive power came from.”
How much of a part does ‘Lady Luck’ play in Keirin?
“It’s so fast and chaotic that if you’re behind a crash you’re going to come down – then there’s where you’re drawn behind the Derny; that can have a big influence, it’s not just about being physically good enough.”
What did you think of the Berlin track?
“I love it, it’s steep with sharp bends, the transitions are drastic and throw you out – it’s obviously fast, look at the world records that were set.”
The squad had a good World Cup campaign.
“Yeah, another fair few silver medals!
“The Dutch were ahead of us again but we’re constantly moving in the right direction as our times demonstrate.
I guess if your focus is on Team Sprint then your Individual Sprinting must suffer?
“All my aim has been at ‘man two’ in the Team Sprint and I haven’t really focussed on the Individual Sprint.
“However, our next block of training is geared towards the Keirin and Individual Sprint.
“Our training is part of a process with the Olympics as the big goal; it’s not like we came into the Worlds tired, we were all raring to go and the Worlds were a goal – but the main focus is on Tokyo.
“It’s going to be tough for GB to come away with as many medals as they’ve done in past Olympics but it’s not all gloom and doom, we came away with four medals from Berlin.
“The thing is that the expectation of the team is now so high but you must remember that the rest of the world haven’t been standing still.”
You’re having a wee break now?
“Just a few days in Spain with my dad and brother then it’s back to head down training.”
Is Manchester still where it all happens?
“Yes, we have all we need there but we also have a training camp at Valencia.”
Finally, how about those Lotus Hope ‘Star Wars’ machines?
“We should have them for Tokyo; I’ve ridden one and they feel lovely but I was crawling at the time so couldn’t explore the full potential of the machine.
“But it handles well, they’re solid and light too.”
VeloVeritas wishes Jack and his GB compadres well in their quest for Olympic gold – it’s not like they haven’t done it before…