Ed Clancy racked up Britain’s fifth medal - and his second personally - out of a possible six so far in the Stratford Velodrome tonight, clinching bronze in the men’s Omnium in what was in theory GB’s weakest men’s track event.
Denmark’s Lasse Hansen, a bronze medallist in the World Championships in 2012 in this event, claimed gold, with France’s Bryan Coquard in silver.
Already part of the victorious line up in the men’s team pursuit on Friday and in Beijing four years ago, Clancy’s bronze came thanks to both consistency and versatility throughout the multi-disciplined Omnium, new at Olympic level and track cycling’s most similar event to the decathlon - but with six events, not ten.
Clancy’s best moment of those six rounds came with a searing victory in the last leg, the one kilometre time trial today. Unbeaten in this particular speciality since the 2010 World Championships in the Omnium, Clancy’s trademark acceleration - since 2008 he has been unchallenged as GB’s first man in the team pursuit, where he has the task of bringing the quartet up to top speed as fast as possible - left him in top spot on each of the four laps and within two tenths of the Olympic record, set by a certain Sir Chris Hoy way back in Athens 2004, when he crossed the line.
Prior to that triumphant final performance had come an initial victory in the Omnium’s opening flying lap on Saturday, a far poorer showing of eleventh in the points race, a fifth place after an opportunistic ride in the elimination event, and second in the four kilometre individual pursuit.
At that point a strong showing in the scratch race, event number five of the six, would have sent Clancy shooting up towards the top placings and potentially gold, which he could have sealed in the one kilo time trial that followed. Instead, though, a near crash with Hansen and then failing to make it into a series of move which lapped the field in that even left bronze, which he duly nailed thanks to his superb final time trial, as his best option.
As Clancy pointed out afterwards, striking a fine balance between all those events is the toughest of tasks. In his case, with the blue riband track event of team pursuit gold as his biggest and specific 2012 Olympic target, he was not prepared to risk his chances there, as would have happened had he trained for the Omnium - a less historically prestigious and far less predictable individual prize.
“The thing is if I’d trained more for the points and scratch [in the Omnium], I perhaps wouldn’t have done so well in the other events,” Clancy said, “and if I could go back in time and change a load of things, I wouldnt’ change anything.”
“I always said my big goal in this was the team pursuit, the Omnium there’s a random element which means that sometimes even the best specialists, like[Australian] Glenn O’Shea and he’s a World Champion - still don’t get a prize. And I’m not one of the best Omnium riders out there.”
“You’ve got to have a bit of luck in this one and that’s why I put all my eggs in the team pursuit basket. This [bronze medal] is a bonus, and a really good one.”
Psychologically it cannot have the been easiest, either, for Clancy to turn around and keep racing whilst his team pursuit team-mates - and Olympic village room-mates - have been out celebrating since Friday.
“Getting up the next morning when your team-mates are lying in their beds fully clothed with hangovers and you’re walking past the carnage for two days at the Omnium - that was hard, you know.”
“But coming in here today I was feeling good and it was looking all right, and they’ve all come here to cheer me on today, so no complaints.”
Clancy may have some highly prestigious company if he sticks around to try for a third gold team pursuit in 2016. Whilst Geraint Thomas is almost certain to move on to the road, according to Clancy “the word on the street is that both Cav” - Mark Cavendish - “and Bradley Wiggins want to come in in 2016.” In Wiggins case, that would be a repeat of his Beijing team pursuit gold.
Thanks to his Omnium effort, Clancy now has the honour of becoming the first of Britain’s track cyclists to claim two medals in the 2012 Games, and brings the total of cycling medals across all disciplines to eight - although with gold medallists Hoy, Kenny, Pendleton and Trott returning to the fray from tomorrow onwards, others may join him, very soon, and that total is surely set to rise.Reuse content