“There has always been something magical about Newport.”
It is not a phrase that you might hear uttered very often, but with three Olympic gold medals to his name, when Ed Clancy says Newport is where the magic happens, you’re inclined to believe him, writes Paul Eddison.
With a year to go until the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Clancy is getting into that well-worn routine of ramping up to the big one.
After all, the 34-year-old is getting ready for Olympics number four after team pursuit golds in Beijing, London and Rio.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) July 24, 2019
“As soon as we approach that last push in towards the holding camp, that’s usually when we’ve started going places,” explains Clancy, who also won omnium bronze in 2012.
“In the past there has always been something magical about Newport. There’s a nice hotel. As soon as we get to Celtic Manor, we’ve got our feet up, we get decent food, good sleep and a heated velodrome with mechanics on hand.
“It’s usually at that time we start to whip out new bits and bobs of equipment. All of a sudden, we start seeing times on the track that we haven’t seen for the last four years. All of a sudden, everyone gets very excited.
“You’re in a very good place because by then team selection has generally been done, people know where they are at. People aren’t stressed, you’re just excited and ready to go. It’s always a good atmosphere.”
Clancy is one year out from his fourth and final Olympics. After Rio the plan had always been to go through to Tokyo, although he was not yet sure if that would involve continuing on the track or switching full-time to the road.
In the end, the lure of the track was too strong, and now as the elder statesman in the team, he is relishing the prospect of challenging for a fourth successive Olympic gold.
He said: “After Rio, for the first time ever in my career, I took a big step back from the track and British Cycling and had very little to do with them for the first year.
“I had the odd phone call, the odd meeting, but I didn’t do any track sessions.
“It was only at the Worlds in 2018 that I properly popped up to race. As soon as I did that, I realised this is where it’s at, this is where I want to be.
“It clarified it in my head, I enjoy the road and it’s a less stressed environment but ultimately the rewards aren’t as great.
“There’s less pressure and there’s less expectation but the rewards aren’t as good and it’s not as fulfilling. When you look back as an old man, it will be the Olympics that you remember fondly.”
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 24, 2019
Such has been Britain’s dominance on the track at Olympic level, that most will expect Clancy and co to make it four in a row in the team pursuit.
However, at this year’s World Championships in Poland, it was Australia who claimed gold and broke the world record.
For Clancy, that makes them favourites in Tokyo, even with an impressive young British team alongside him including the likes of Ethan Hayter, 20, and Charlie Tanfield, 22.
And in some ways, that just adds to the excitement.
He added: “We’ve got to recognise the fact that we are second favourites right now, no doubt about it. It sits uncomfortable, especially when you’ve been there three times before and won a gold medal.
“But that is where we are right now, we’re looking at a silver medal. The pressure is on them for once, they are the guys who are expected to turn up to Tokyo and win a gold medal. If we do something special and we can reverse this trend, then it will be the best one out of all of them.”