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Chasing Hoy!

No sign of Scot slowing down, says Richard

Richard Moore Posted 4th October 2011 view comments

It was in the immediate aftermath of the Beijing Olympics that Shane Sutton, British Cycling's head coach, came out with a quote that always threatened to come back and haunt him.

"If Chris Hoy makes it to the London Olympics it'll mean that we won't have done our jobs properly," said Sutton.

Sutton's argument was that, by the time the Games came around, the 36-year old Hoy should have been usurped by a younger, faster generation of sprinters. It hasn't happened yet.

Hoy: still the man to beat

Hoy: still the man to beat

Indeed, after the weekend's national track championships in Manchester, at which Hoy completed the same clean sweep as in Beijing - winning all three sprint events - it appears likely not only that he will make the British team for London, but that he can add to his collection of four Olympic gold medals.

I reminded Sutton of his post-Beijing comments when I met him in the track centre over the weekend. He agreed that Hoy looked as strong and sharp as ever. And, yes, said Sutton, he was looking good for London. "So does that mean you've not done a very good job?" I asked.

Although the national championships will be long forgotten by next July, Hoy has put himself in pole position. And, as he has proved so often on the track, he is a difficult man to get around.

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

"Look," said Sutton, smiling cagily, "with Sir Chris [Sutton insists on the 'Sir'] we're not talking about a normal athlete. We're talking about greatness here. That's what the others are up against."

And they are up against it. Under the new Olympic rules, only one athlete per country will contest each track cycling event - which Hoy is critical of, since it means that some top riders will miss out.

In Beijing, in the two individual sprint events, British riders - Jason Kenny in the sprint, Ross Edgar in the keirin - claimed silver medals behind Hoy. That won't be possible in London.

As Hoy says: "You could get to the semi-final of the sprint in London without being overly tested. I don't think that's right. It's the biggest stage and the best athletes deserve the right to compete."

Pole

At the moment, though, you wouldn't fancy Hoy to be one of the riders to miss out. Although the national championships will be long forgotten by next July, Hoy has put himself in pole position. And, as he has proved so often on the track, he is a difficult man to get around.

On Sunday night, after picking up his third gold medal, he made his position clear in what sounded ominously like a statement of intent: "If I win every race between now and the Olympics then I'll be the one who gets the position - there are no arguments then."

Back in 2008, when Sutton came out with his provocative comment, Hoy was a little annoyed (though he and Sutton are close). "I think I know what Shane's doing," Hoy said. "He's trying to set the standard higher in 2012 than it is now, but I wouldn't expect anything else."

The thing is, Hoy seems, if anything, better now than he was in the build-up to Beijing. He set a personal best in the gym last week. He went almost as quick as he has ever gone at the weekend. He looked, frankly, unbeatable.

Yet another of his coaches did identify a potential 'problem' for Hoy, for whom next year's Games are expected to be his fourth and last.

Watching the Scotsman as he warmed up for Sunday's team sprint, he said: "I think Chris is really going to struggle to stop after London."

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