Sir Chris Hoy: Knight of the road's insatiable appetite

As befits the face of a breakfast cereal, the Olympic champion is hungry for more success and further golds in London

Having waited, in the chill grey of a Sunday morning in Glasgow when the persistence of the heavy rain feels like a form of rebuke, the movement seems involuntary. As Sir Chris Hoy carefully steers his bike forward to face a growing crowd, the gathering appears to fold in on itself. He fixes his features behind a smile as the people, all of them on bikes, nestle in, narrowing the space around him. It feels a strange sort of intimacy, this earnestness to be so near, something blunt and compelling, but the smile never drops from Hoy's face, holding fast and sure like a sentry.

Since winning three Olympic gold medals in Beijing last year, adding to the one he earned at the previous Games in Athens, his whole world has contracted. He was knighted, he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He, in effect, surrendered something of himself, so that his time is in such demand that every moment is now planned and accounted for. At this Skyride event at Glasgow Green, one of a series of initiatives across several UK cities to promote cycling, Hoy is guided from one commitment to another by a small team of advisers, as carefully and insistently as if he is a precious thought none of them wish to forget.

There is something startling about Hoy climbing on to his bike, bending his broad torso and solid, assertive limbs over the thin metal frame. Momentarily, it seems as though the two could not possibly sustain each other, but it is a fluid movement, gentle, like a faint brush on the skin, and the fit between man and machine is natural, comforting even. As Hoy fulfils his duties, meeting, greeting, appearing, always on his bike, the smile remains in place, set but warm, generous. He has come to terms with what he has relinquished, but also, during the last year, how to protect what is left, to maintain the certainties of his life as an athlete, the reliance on the repetitiveness of training as a kind of reassurance.

"It's nice to be welcomed everywhere, seeing people who seem happy to see you," he says. "And it seems pathetic to say it, but it's draining shaking people's hands and saying hello to them. It's bizarre, when I'm used to doing physically demanding training, but sometimes I feel more exhausted after a day of doing media and meeting people, because it's manic. The real challenge is managing it, because if you're trying to win more gold medals, you need the same approach to your training."

This is the very heart of Hoy, the small centre of himself that cannot be closed upon: his competitiveness. He is 33. As well as his Olympic success he has won nine world championships and two Commonwealth Games gold medals; he is planning his wedding to Sarra (pictured right), a lawyer from his home city of Edinburgh; he possesses a body of achievement, both professional and personal, that could soothe even the fiercest spirit. But still there is a stirring, an impulse to keep pushing.

"There's nothing like that feeling of being in absolute peak physical condition at the right time on the global stage and achieving your goals," he says. "I know that I've only got a few more years of that to come. I enjoy training, the hard work, and I have more ambitions."

Dave Brailsford, the performance director of British Cycling, has such faith in him to suggest: "I'm not sure we've seen the best of Chris yet. If he gets it right, there's a lot more to come from him." Already an Olympian of over-arching reach, Hoy seeks more. This urge runs through his life like a thread, so that what defines him is not what he has done, but the compulsion to keep striving.

In person, Hoy is serious-minded, a sharpness to his gaze, but within the benevolent features of an ample face. His body is so square, so certain – his thighs are 27 inches in diameter – that a powerfulness seems to radiate from him, but by nature he is tender, with a soft roundness to his voice. At 13, he wrote in his diary of winning a gold medal one day and he used to deeply analyse races that he lost. To train, he would sprint cycle between two lampposts, until he could not continue. So perhaps it is inevitable that, with London 2012 in mind, Hoy still feels drawn to his incentive to succeed, finding in it a source of meaning.

"I couldn't do it just for the hell of it," he says. "I can improve my tactics, even physically I don't feel that I've reached my peak. A lot of cycling is about learning how to train, how to read the signals from your body. Even strength, more mature athletes tend to be stronger, they've got year after year after year of strength training."

So much has happened, some of it so unreal. A jumbo jet was named after him and he is now the face of a brand of breakfast cereal. He was injured, too, falling off his bike last February and damaging his hip so badly that he missed the world championships and only returned to racing last month. Still, though, the structure of his life begins with the two training sessions – one in the gym, one on the track – that take up most of each day.

"It may look as though I'm doing everything that comes my way, but I'm turning down a lot more," he insists. "It's been life-changing and I have to schedule time to see my family and friends, which is bizarre. I couldn't see myself doing Strictly Come Dancing or anything like that, because I feel that the more of that you do, the less you will be remembered for what you achieved in the first place." For Hoy, the most enduring worth is still found in redefining the best of yourself.

For more information on Skyride, visit www.goskyride.com

A hoy there

Name: Sir Christopher Andrew Hoy

Born: 23 March 1976, Edinburgh

Early life: Inspired to cycle after watching film 'ET', and started by racing BMX bikes.

Show us your medals: Nine World Championship golds (four 1km individual time trial, two team sprints, two keirins, one individual sprints), four Olympic golds and two Commonwealth Games golds.

Olympic hero: won gold at Athens in 2004 and in Beijing was the first Briton to win three golds at the same Games since 1908.

Honours: BBC Sport Personality of the Year in 2008 (the second cyclist to win it after Tommy Simpson in 1965). Awarded an MBE in 2005 and a knightood this year.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution