Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“There’s beauty in the struggle.” Cycling Great Ed Clancy Retires

Posted on 9 December 2021 by Luke Collins
Ed Clancy Takes To The Track One Last Time. Credit: UCI Track Champions League
Ed Clancy Takes To The Track One Last Time. Credit: UCI Track Champions League

Every cyclist reaches a point where they leave the track for the final time. For Ed Clancy, that came on Saturday night.

The 36-year-old competed for the final time at the first UCI Track Champions League at Lee Valley Velopark.

He walks away from the sport as one of Great Britain’s most decorated athletes. A three-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion.

Reflecting on the best moments of his career, he says: “My best race and my proudest achievement was probably Rio.

“But in terms of the most fun you had and being in the peak of form. Having the home Olympic experience, lining up against the Aussies on the other side of the track here in this building, it was a once in a lifetime experience and it remains that way.”

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Lee Valley holds a special place in Clancy’s heart. It was the venue where he won gold in the team pursuit, as well as bronze in the omnium.

To be able to end it here, in front of a sold-out raucous home crowd, meant a great deal to him.

“I’m kind of happy Israel’s been cancelled. Just being able to go out in this building, in this arena. I know it was nine and a half years ago, but this was still the venue of the biggest platform we ever had. Our home Olympic games.

“This place has got it all. Just an incredible reception from the crowd given I’ve been knocking around in 15th place. They’ve been so generous and kind.”

His Track Champions League performance

Ed Clancy announced his retirement at the Tokyo Olympic Games this year. He withdrew from the games, citing a back injury that he originally suffered in September 2015.

However, he entered the Track Champions League for one last ride in front of his home crowd before completely leaving the sport.

As he took to the track with other veterans who were retiring, the crowd applauded track cycling’s most successful team pursuit rider.

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It was not the perfect send-off that he might have hoped for. Clancy finished 14th overall in the men’s endurance category.

But with one eye on retirement, the perfect end to a glittering career was never really on the cards.

“You always want to win and I guess there’s still that competitor in me. But the reality of life is I’d sort of checked out in Tokyo as a professional athlete.

“I’ve been prioritising retirement. I’ve been riding my mountain bike and knocking around the woods but I’ve literally only done two or three days of training. So from that respect I couldn’t be happier with the result.

“I caught Chris Hoy’s eye earlier. He checked out of his career in this building on top of the podium in 2012. You know that’s the thing of dreams but perhaps stuff like that is reserved for the greats.”

Ed Clancy Beyond The Track

Being at the top of his game has seen Clancy miss some of the smaller things in life that must be sacrificed to remain a world-class athlete.

Clancy wants to start balancing work with a social life that has been missed out on:

“The things to me that made being an athlete really hard wasn’t the training, it was the things you couldn’t do.

“Basic things like having a pint in hospitality after the race, mountain biking with your mates, going to see your parents only once in 24 months.”

This may be the end of his career on the track, but off it, things seem to be just getting started.

“There are a few things in the not-too-distant future that I am looking forward to getting my teeth stuck in to and a couple of exciting opportunities.”

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In 2020, along with fellow British cyclist Graham Briggs, he set up the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy.

The aim of the academy is not only to see some children go on to elite-level cycling but also to improve the accessibility to children of all backgrounds.

On his website, Clancy says: “I’d love for Clancy Briggs to eventually expand across the UK, and work with local businesses or corporate sponsors to give any kid who wants to ride access to the Academy.”

“There’s beauty in the struggle.”

While he may not have had the perfect end in Tokyo or at the Track Champions League, Ed Clancy will look back on his achievements with pride.

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When asked what he would say to his younger self, when he first stepped foot on a velodrome track and began his long journey in the sport, his answer revealed that there was not much that he would change.

“There’s beauty in the struggle. You know when you look back, of course you remember the big wins and stuff like that.

“But I also remember the training camps and the coming back from the back injury. Hanging out with the lads on top of some horrible altitude.

“You don’t really see it or appreciate it at the time but if you look hard enough there is a certain beauty in that struggle and that journey.

“And now it is essentially all over you can see that now. And those are the things that I’ll remember the most.”

This article was written by both Luke Collins and Roberto Petrucco.