Sport on TV: Sir Chris Hoy's achievements were literally out of this world

Tributes have poured in this week to an inspirational leader who changed the way people think and left the country on the brink of countless revolutions. It was the arch-Thatcherite Norman Tebbit who told us to get on our bikes but it was Sir Chris Hoy who made us do it. We're all cyclists now.

The second thing that Gary Newbon tells us about the retiring golden Hoy in Sporting Heroes (Sky Sports 1, Thursday) is: "He began his cycling career inspired by the film ET." Steven Spielberg's movie provided escapism in the early years of the Thatcher regime and introduced millions of British children to BMX bikes. Councils threw up a few concrete ramps, called them BMX courses and let the kids loose. Hoy admits: "It didn't mean you could peddle up in the air", but if anyone could cycle fast enough to deny the laws of physics, it would have been Hoy.

In fact the Scot and his fellow world-beaters at British Cycling are more like robots than extra-terrestrials. "It's this pursuit of excellence," he says nonchalantly. "You are the engine, you have to increase the capacity." Then he starts talking about "fast twitch muscle fibre types" and we're into Blade Runner territory (not that Blade Runner's territory, you can put your gun down). Hoy adds: "It's about using the adrenalin, being in a state of heightened awareness" – up to 15 times a day at the World Championships – and you can almost see the computer working behind the Terminator's eyes.

So it comes as something of a relief to hear him say, when comparing track and road cyclists: "I wasn't great at going up hills." Perhaps he is human after all.

There was a time, not long ago, when British Cycling was a frail beast that might have needed stabilisers. Hoy recalls his early days in 1996 when you brought your own bike to meetings and the only thing they gave you was a set of wheels. You even had to sign for a tracksuit top that was loaned out to you. It all sounds a bit like when you forgot to bring your gym kit to school. "We were always going to be a C-grade nation," he recalls.

At the age of 10, Hoy was set on his way with £1,000 of sponsorship from the local business magnate Tom Farmer, founder of KwikFit, which is appropriate since Hoy was to become very quick and extremely fit. Yet while he was at school Hoy came second in the coxless pairs at the 1993 British Rowing Championships. At 6ft 1in Hoy wasn't tall enough to keep rowing and, anyway, who wants to come second? But imagine if he and Sir Steve Redgrave ended up in the same boat; that must come close to being the definition of invincible.

The rest of the world has been trying to catch up with Hoy since Lottery funding revolutionised the sport and the Manchester Velodrome was built. Even as Britain's greatest Olympian hangs up his garish lycra bodysuit, his enthusiasm is undiminished, as when he describes the 2012 keirin final which took him past Redgrave in the gold-medal stakes.

He recalls how the perfectionists at British Cycling never allowed team orders; if you were racing against team-mates you had to try to beat them. "You had to treat them like an Australian, a German, a Frenchman," says Hoy. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, and the joke is on the rest of the world.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £30k

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £40k

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £50,000

£24000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders