WHEN it comes to a hefty pair of shoes to fill, there can be few more daunting than those of Sir Chris Hoy, but Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy reckons he's up for the challenge.
With Hoy taking a break from international competition, Clancy, who won gold in the team pursuit and bronze in the omnium, will use this weekend's UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Glasgow to make his debut in the team sprint. He will join with Olympic gold medal-winning duo Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome today.
While the 27-year-old Yorkshireman professed to be relishing the opportunity, he expressed trepidation, not least about the inevitable comparisons to Hoy. "If you try and compare yourself to Chris Hoy, you're only ever going to fail," he said. "I'm having an alright career so far and I haven't won a third of the stuff he has. I just try and be myself, do the best I can. I ain't going to fill his shoes like that" – he clicks his fingers – "it's a hard job.
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"I'm a complete novice at this. We'll be in training and [British Cycling sprint coach] Iain Dyer will say: 'Do a flying 200m' or 'a rolling 150m' and I'm like: 'I have no idea what that means'. I'm starting from scratch."
They make for an interesting trio: Clancy, the live wire, extrovert joker; Kenny, the baby-faced boy-next-door; and Hindes, the shyest of the three sitting quietly in the corner. "There is a good bit of banter," said Clancy. "Jason is almost horizontal he's so laid back. Phil is the same. They both have a great sense of humour."
His speed was key to his Olympic bronze in the omnium, but Clancy, pictured, admits the team sprint is a different league. "I've always been pretty quick, but it's all relative," he said. "I'm quick compared to the other team pursuit guys but I come into the team sprint and it's like a different sport. I'm flat out trying to keep up with these guys.
"I don't know how I'm going to get on. I could be riding around on my own for three laps. I don't have any expectations, I'm going in with an open mind. It could be great, s**te or anywhere in the middle."
Recent weeks have been about trying to refocus after the Olympics. It's the hope of Clancy, Kenny and Hindes that this weekend will help blow away the last of the cobwebs. Kenny chips in. "It's a month of amazing, crazy times – then a month of the worst, horrible dragging yourself to training," he said. "Morale took a hit, but I feel like we're back on it."
Unlike Hoy, the trio can still, for the most part, fly under the radar. "Within cycling and sporting circles we do get recognised more but it's not like we getting stopped in the street everywhere," said Clancy.
Kenny nods in agreement. "No one cares about me," he added. "I could show my arse on the town hall steps and no one would be interested."
Which it isn't strictly true, but clearly how Kenny would prefer it. The three-time Olympic champion cites the World Cup in Kazakhstan last November, where he "had an absolute shocker" and Britain finished a lowly seventh in the team sprint, as a perfect example of why he's happy not to be a household name like Hoy. "It comes in handy being a bit of a nobody when you are getting your arse kicked," he said.
But the 24-year-old from Bolton will be firmly in the spotlight this weekend as he competes in the keirin, team and individual sprint. Like Clancy, he said, it was a case of simply seeing how it all panned out. "Every now and then we do think: 'Oh, it's back', but then have another 10 terrible sessions," said Kenny. "Hopefully Phil and I will go quick enough in front of Ed to give it a decent stab and show him what if feels like to go fast, rather than pottering around."