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

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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam