Cycling: Hoy is ready to dig deep again and raid Olympic gold mine

Demise of the kilo will not stop inspirational memories of Athens

"My blood was turned into battery acid... I would commonly ride that fine line of losing consciousness." It was a former member of the US national cycling team, Sky Christopherson, who perhaps came as close as anyone to describing adequately the final moments of track cycling's most brutally demanding event. He was talking of the kilo, a benign-sounding epithet for the 1,000m time trial for which there is no ready analgesic; only the belief that the pain is the down payment you make for ultimate triumph. It requires an exceptional kind of individual; and it yielded a special kind of winner four years ago in Athens.

Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy admits he regularly recalls that zenith of his career. But for the Scot it is far more than just a fond snapshot in time. He remembers an evening in which he confronted a multitude of conspirators emerging to gang up on him, and sneered at them as a psychological tool, a source of inspiration.

"Of course, it was such a significant moment in my life. I'll remember it for ever," says the Edinburgh-born rider who shares a birthdate, 23 March, and an iron inner will with Sir Steve Redgrave – albeit, at 32, he is 14 years younger than the great Olympian. "It's always nice to have the video to watch, which I've seen now a few times as you might imagine. But in other ways I use it, when I feel pressure, when I go to an event, preparing for a race and I'm feeling nerves inside. I can recall Athens and remind myself that I've been through something and I will never experience pressure like that again. When you've been through it once, you know anything is possible."

Pressure. In sport the word tends to be employed far too cheaply. But when in Athens, on 20 August 2004, at the Olympic velodrome, Hoy was the final competitor to race against the clock, and had to wait and watch the world record being lowered before him not once but three times, it was extraordinary pressure, in anyone's terms.

As the four-time world champion in the discipline waited, the Australian Shane Kelly set a new Olympic record. German Stefan Nimk reduced it further, before Frenchman Arnaud Tournant, arguably the kilo's finest ever exponent, crossed the line in 1min 0.896sec, the first sub-61-second time at sea level. Hoy had to assimilate that reality – swiftly.

A lesser man could have been submerged beneath a torrent of hostile emotions. In a new book on his career and his part in Britain's track cycling ascendancy he says: "It's like the gallows. That's what it feels like: an execution. In the last few minutes, it's the last place in the world you want to be."

At Manchester's Velodrome, he says: "When you've been training for the last four years for this one event, to have the goalposts moved like that, and you're no longer aiming at a time you thought you were aiming for, but at a time that nobody's ever gone faster than before, it's hard to put into words how difficult it is not to panic at that stage, and not think: 'Oh my God. How am I going to deal with this?'

"It's not like you've become aware a few months before, a few weeks before, even a day before that you're going to have to perform at a higher level. It's just a few seconds before that you suddenly find it's happening." It was pressure he overcame, and he flashed over the line in a time of 1min 0.711sec. The winning margin was 0.185sec.

Hoy was not to know then that it was his one and only chance of a gold in the kilo. The sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, perversely dropped the kilo as an Olympic discipline to accommodate BMX. The irony here is that it was on a BMX bike where it all began for Hoy. He became hooked on cycling as a schoolboy after watching the famous BMX scene in the film ET.

But if anyone believed that his potency as a cycling champion may, in part, die because of it, they would be sorely mistaken. "It's been a blessing in disguise, really," says Hoy. "I've had this opportunity now to go for two new individual events, and I've relished it. I've achieved way more than I ever thought was possible. I never dreamt that I was going to become world sprint champion and world keirin champion, but that's the situation we're in now."

The keirin, to the uninitiated, has as its origins a gambling sport in Japan. Riders follow a motorcycle at an ever increasing pace until the pacesetter peels off and then it's a straight sprint for two and a half laps.

Is he entitled to be confident that there will be further gold a-Hoy at Beijing, in the keirin, sprint and team events? He laughs. "I'm confident as I can be. I'm better than I've ever been, physically and mentally. I feel I'm in the best shape I've been in my life and if I'm right about that I know there's not many people who can touch me."

And, most crucially, should that potential gold mine threaten to collapse around him, he has all his experience of Athens as solid pit-props.

Life and times

Born: 23 March 1976, Edinburgh.

Vital statistics: 6ft 1in, 14st 3lb.

Olympic medals: Gold in 1km time trial, Athens 2004; silver in team sprint, Sydney 2000.

World Championship gold: 1km time trial, Ballerup, Denmark 2002, Melbourne 2004, Bordeaux 2006 and Palma De Mallorca 2007; team sprint, Ballerup 2002 and Los Angeles 2005; keirin, Palma De Mallorca 2007 and Manchester 2008; sprint, Manchester 2008

Extras: Raced in junior Scottish BMX teams, awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh in July 2005 and Heriot-Watt University in November 2005. Holds the world record for the fastest 1km at sea level in 2004. Awarded MBE 2005.

Tom Bateman

'Heroes, Villains & Velodromes' by Richard Moore (Harper Sport, £15.99)

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week
voicesThe great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick