- cycling - London 2012 Games - Olympic Games - UK
Britain rejects suspicion surrounding cycling golds
Britain's cycling team dismissed suspicions surrounding its stunning success in the Olympic velodrome, insisting it was down to attention to detail. Sir Chris Hoy won the keirin event on Tuesday to claim Britain's seventh gold medal on the track.
AP - The phrase floated around by British Cycling is “marginal gains.” Everyone associated with the most dominant program in track cycling, when asked for the secret to their success, says the exact same thing: It’s paying attention to details, maximizing training time, taking advantage of every bit of technology at their disposal.
The result has been another gold medal bonanza at the velodrome. Chris Hoy and Laura Trott added two more to Britain’s total Tuesday, the final day before the Olympic cycling program shifts to BMX. Victoria Pendleton added a silver medal to the loot, leaving the tally at seven golds, a silver and a bronze out of a possible 10 medals.
“It’s everything, really,” said Hoy, whose victory in the keirin was also his sixth Olympic gold medal, a British record. “You can say it’s the home advantage, it’s the crowd, it’s the Olympic Games and we’ve timed it perfectly. It’s a very measurable sport, cycling.”
And make no mistake, the British measure everything. They measure the cadence, torque and power output of the riders. They measure their calorie intake and how much sleep they get. They measure their time on their feet – Hoy joked that he often wonders whether it’s worth it when he has to climb up a flight of stairs.
It’s other details, too: Made-to-order shoes, bringing their own hypoallergenic sheets to the athletes’ village to ward off sickness, their so-called “hot pants” that warm riders’ legs to the optimal temperature before a race, and the uber-detailed video analysis of past performances.
Rival teams have accused the British team of having “magic wheels” – why else would they quickly cover them up after races? – and other advantages, despite no real evidence to support the claims.
“It’s a natural reaction when you get beaten to point the finger and say, ‘You have the advantage,”” Hoy said. “If we don’t perform well, instead of looking at someone else, we look at ourselves and say, ‘What can we do to make amends?””
Britain’s cycling success this summer began in earnest with Bradley Wiggins’ triumph in the Tour de France, but it really picked up speed when Elizabeth Armitstead delivered a silver medal in the Olympic road race and Wiggins won gold in last week’s time trial.
Their momentum carried right over onto the track. Despite facing the tall order of matching its seven gold medals from the Beijing Games, the British team dominated the program from start to finish, setting eight world records along the way.
Gold medals in the men’s and women’s team pursuit, and in the men’s team sprint. Victories for Jason Kenny in the individual sprint, Trott in the multidiscipline omnium, Pendleton in the women’s keirin and Hoy in the men’s version of the same unpredictable event.
Pendleton’s silver in the women’s sprint, the final event of her cycling career, and Ed Clancy’s bronze in the omnium gave Britain nine track medals in total.
“I can’t believe how dominant we’ve been,” Trott said. “We only lost three events, which isn’t bad, because I know everybody was thinking, ‘They aren’t going to match what they did in Beijing.””
Almost on cue, Trott launched into a dialogue about “marginal gains.” “We look at the minor details and how we can improve, and new equipment,” she said. “We did stuff like that before the Games and developed that before the Games. Other people try to do it right, like, the few months before, and we’ve been developing it for years. That’s why we are so dominant.
“We look at everything, every tiny issue like how tight your bloody overshoe is, and that’s why.”
Perhaps no other day summed up the dominance like Tuesday. Trott needed to beat Sarah Hammer of the United States by at least three positions in the 500-meter time trial, the final event of the six-event omnium, to surpass her for the gold medal. Trott won the race and Hammer finished in fourth.
Hoy also found himself trailing on the final lap of the eight-lap keirin, but used a charge that almost seemed unfair to speed past his German rival Maximilian Levy for the gold medal.
The only thing that didn’t go right for Britain came in the women’s sprint, when Pendleton beat Anna Meares in the opener of the best-of-three finals. Pendleton came out of the sprinting lane and was relegated, and Meares won the second race to snatch the gold medal.
Still, even that didn’t sour the mood of the British fans who packed into the velodrome, and it certainly didn’t take any shine off the performance of the home nation.
“The performance of the British team has been tremendous,” said UCI president Pat McQuaid, arguably the most powerful man in cycling. “It’s natural questions will be asked. I’ve heard answers from various people (on the British team) and I agree completely with them.”
Cue the head of cycling’s world governing body to talk about “marginal gains” one more time.
“I’ve followed this journey since 1998 of the British Cycling federation,” McQuaid said. “I was there in Sydney, Athens, Beijing. I’ve seen the progress and it’s not a surprise.