Great Britain have 'genuinely world class' male riders to win Olympic team pursuit gold again but Ed Clancy warns against guarantees

The track legend successfully combined his velodrome glory with domestic road victories

Ed Clancy
(Image credit: Getty)

Ed Clancy, the greatest team pursuit rider in history, believes that Great Britain's men can once again rule the discipline - if British Cycling can field the coaching and technical expertise required to support its young talent. 

The 36-year-old retired just hours before the team pursuit final at the Tokyo Olympics last August where Great Britain finished a lowly seventh.

That result was a far cry from the three previous Olympics where GB had won the team pursuit each time, with Clancy the only rider to have competed in the trio of successes.

Speaking to Cycling Weekly, the Yorkshireman said that he has belief in the riders on British Cycling's roster, but that the federation - who are currently undergoing an overhaul of staff, including a search for a new endurance coach - must get its appointments right.

"It's hard to prophesize the future, but I think that definitely there is the talent in the team," he said.

"[Ethan] Hayter, [Ethan] Vernon, Charlie [Tanfield] and Ollie Wood, these guys are genuinely world class and there's quite a lot of exciting talent coming up from the U23s with the Academy. I do think we have the riders in place. 

"It's now about if British Cycling can quickly get a staffing structure in place to support them from both a physical side, a coaching and training side, and also a tactical and aerodynamic side of the coin. 

"If that's in place, they can absolutely be winning medals in Paris [the city of the 2024 Olympics] and in Los Angeles [in 2028]. 

"Whether they'll get back to the glory days of winning by four-and-a-half seconds, I don't know. Maybe those days are gone as other teams have gotten up to speed and learned some of the lessons from the Dave Brailsford days."

At the Tokyo Olympics, the Italian team - spearheaded by Ineos Grenadiers' Filippo Ganna - took gold with a new world record time of 3:42-032, a staggering eight seconds faster than what Clancy and his teammates rode en-route to winning gold in Rio five years earlier.

The dramatic escalation in ever-quicker times has led to speculation about what a future world record could be.

Clancy believes that there will be limit of what is possible, and that future changes to what is and isn't allowed will affect the ability to lower the time further.

"I don't know if people have just stumbled upon things unwittingly, but the Danish and the Italians have put together a team pursuit squad with great road, aerobic riders who can also tolerate the power in the wheels," he added.

"The thing it will depend on the most is if the rules and regulations are changed. There are rumours about the UCI changing kit, in terms of the bikes and skinsuits, so the answer will lay in that."

The Great British team turned heads at the Tokyo Olympics, aboard the Lotus x Hope HB.T track bike. It looked revolutionary. However, it was designed within some very narrow constraints. 

Hope/Lotus bike

(Image credit: Lotus)

Speaking to Cycling Weekly ahead of the games, British Cycling’s director of technology, Tony Purnell said: “We knew we had to create something really special. But the rules were pretty restrictive! There was almost nothing we could do."

The final design featured 8cm wide forks and seatstays, the goal being to smooth out the transition between rider and bike. "We realised the only scope [for creativity] was that there were no real width restrictions,” Purnell told us.

Looking to the future, Clancy commented: "Without any major changes to the kit... [he laughs] I hate to stick my neck out, but I'd have thought that they will struggle to go under 3:35 without any significant changes to kit."

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