Sir Chris Hoy will not be given the opportunity to repeat his treble gold performance of Beijing, after it was announced yesterday that Jason Kenny had been chosen to ride the sprint at the London Games.
Each nation is allowed only one entry per event and Kenny has been preferred. Kenny, 12 years Hoy's junior, won silver at the World Championships in Melbourne in April after beating Hoy in the semi-final. Their previous meeting in February's London World Cup – which doubled as a test event for the Games – went Hoy's way, but the result in Melbourne allied to Kenny's performances in training carried greater weight with the selectors. It leaves Hoy to compete in team sprint and keirin.
"I'm obviously disappointed not to be defending all three of my titles," said Hoy yesterday at the team's training camp in Newport. "Jason deserves this opportunity and has a greater chance of success in the sprint. He performed really well at the World Championships and he has stepped up even more since. They made the right call. It's not about individual ambition, it's about the team winning the greatest number of medals."
Hoy will start a strong favourite in the keirin and he will also go for a medal in the team sprint – along with Kenny and the 19-year-old Philip Hindes. "Chris and Jason are in great form and that made it a difficult choice," said Dave Brailsford, Britain's performance director who made the decision along with head coach Shane Sutton. "We believe this gives us the strongest team possible."
The riders were told a couple of weeks ago, before Brailsford departed for the Tour de France, but asked to keep it to themselves – Hindes only found out yesterday. It is a blow for the 36-year-old Hoy, who had targeted a repeat of his stunning run of success in Beijing. Four years ago he became the first Briton to claim three golds at a Games for a century, taking the lead role in Britain's dominant cycling team.
The sprint was the last of his medals – following the keirin and the team sprint – and the man he beat in the final was Kenny. The limit on numbers per nation was imposed in the wake of Britain's dominance and now Hoy has become the most high-profile casualty of the one-rider rule, a victim – to an extent – of his own achievements.
"You accept that the UCI make decisions out of the blue – you expect the unexpected from them," he said. "You've got no control over that – there's no point shaking your fist, it happened, move on."
But the decision of cycling's governing body to make changes and the refusal of the International Olympic Committee to allow cycling to expand rankles within the sport. There are 14 events on the track – 46 in the pool.
"There's often decisions made that I don't think are made for the right reasons and the benefit of the sport," said Hoy. "All you can do as an athlete is talk out about it when the decision is made and then get on with it.
"[The UCI] want the sport to be global, they want to encourage other nations to get involved and I do agree, but cyclists feel frustrated when there are other sports that don't have to take events out to put one in, but in sports like cycling it's one in, one out." Hoy had entered the World Cup in the London Velodrome earlier this year amid growing speculation that Kenny was overtaking his friend – the two are close – and rival. Hoy promptly produced a succession of bullish rides to win the sprint and also blew the field away to claim the keirin – it appeared a statement of intent. But he said yesterday that he feels happy with the decision and that it will improve his, and Britain's chances, in the other two events by lessening his workload.
"It helps me out focusing on two events," said Hoy. "It means I have the chance to recover properly between the team sprint and the keirin. It would have been five days [racing] in a row but now I can give everything to the team sprint and not even think about the keirin. Let the dust settle then prepare for the keirin, otherwise you spread yourself a bit thin."
* If Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France, Chris Hoy believes it will be an unparalleled feat in British sport. "You have to pinch yourself when you turn on the TV and see Bradley in yellow," said Hoy. "If [he wins] it will be the greatest achievement of any British sportsman ever."
Best of British: Our golden hopes
Track Team Pursuit Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Andy Tennant and Geraint Thomas
They are the reigning world champions. They went to Melbourne and beat the hosts in April and they are the favourites to win gold
Sprint Jason Kenny
Kenny yesterday won selection ahead of Sir Chris Hoy in a bold move from the selectors. Even so, he will have to be at the top of his game to beat the formidable Frenchman Gregory Bauge.
Team sprint Philip Hindes, Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny
Struggled at the world championships. Have ground to make up to catch favourites Germany.
Keirin Sir Chris Hoy
Hoy won this event brilliantly at both London World Cup and world championships – hard to see anyone getting the better of the great Scot.
Omnium Ed Clancy
Not one of Britain's best hopes of a medal but he has won this event at world and European level.
Track Team Pursuit Dani King, Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell
Another set of world champions – and these three are world record holders as well. Strong favourites for gold.
Sprint Victoria Pendleton
Became a world champion once again in April. Her battle with Australia's golden girl Anna Meares will be one of the contests of the Games – the winner will almost certainly take gold.
Team sprint Jess Varnish, Victoria Pendleton
Broke the world record in the London Velodrome in February but finished without a medal at worlds. Should correct that in London
Keirin Victoria Pendleton
Another feisty clash with Meares on the cards. The Australian will be favourite but Pendleton rarely fails to rise to challenge.
Omnium Laura Trott
Perhaps Britain's surest thing in the Velodrome. Trott won it in Melbourne at the worlds and should do so at the Games.