Rob Hayles has announced his retirement from track racing after being left out of the team for the World Championships in Poland.
Reigning national champion Hayles will focus on the road for the Halfords Bikehut team this season, and will make himself available to pass on his experience to younger riders.
Hayles, 36, won a silver medal with Pete Kennaugh in the Madison at the Beijing round of the World Cup in January. He felt that result, and the partnership he’d struck up with Kennaugh, would be enough to earn a place in the squad in Poland.
But he was disappointed to be told he would not be in the Madison team as British Cycling seek to give younger riders experience on these early steps on the road to the 2012 Olympics in London.
He accepted his chances of a place in the team pursuit squad were slim, but had hoped to get a ride in the Omnium. However, last night British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford met Hayles and told him there was no place in the squad.
British Cycling has selected the squad for the World Championships in Poland (March 25-29) and entered it using the UCI’s entry system ahead of Sunday’s deadline. British Cycling will then announce the squad.
Hayles, who was a world champion in the team pursuit and the Madison, with Mark Cavendish, in Los Angeles in 2005, felt he had a chance of gold in the Omnium, which features a mixture of sprint and endurance events.
“It goes without saying I was gutted. I’ve already said I felt I’d done enough in Beijing to deserve a place in the Madison but they [British Cycling] want to go in a different direction,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“I’d just done a track session yesterday, and Dave [Brailsford] came to see me face to face to tell me I wasn’t in the squad. To be fair, they’ve handled it okay. He could have left it to someone else to tell me, but he didn’t.
“But I was disappointed, that’s for sure. A while ago Shane [Sutton] came to me and said ‘Would you ride the Omnium?’ and I said: ‘I’ve been asking to ride the Omnium since it was introduced’, but they have used it as a development event for younger riders. [Jonny] Bellis rode it in Palma  and Burkey [Steven Burke] did it last year.
“After last year, I was hoping for a chance to go to the Worlds for the last time, but they’ve stuck to the original criteria. Their logic is that I’ve got a slimmer than slim chance of being in London in 2012, and so they want to use the Worlds to bring on younger riders. Unfortunately, just winning medals at the Worlds doesn’t mean as much to them anymore, it’s all about the Olympics.”
Last year Hayles missed the Worlds in Manchester after recording a haematocrit of 50.3 per cent, 0.3 per cent higher than the permitted limit. All his anti-doping tests were negative.
Missing the Worlds effectively ended his chances of going to Beijing for the Olympics. In June, Hayles won the National Road Race Championship, but was overlooked for the Olympic road race too, as British Cycling selected Roger Hammond and Steve Cummings together with young riders Ben Swift and Jonny Bellis. Hayles was also left out of the World Road Race Championships.
Confirming his retirement from international track events, Hayles said he would like to ride a farewell race at the Revolution meeting in Manchester in the autumn. “I’d like some kind of send-off,” he said. “Other than that, I think I’ll just burn a track bike in the garden at home,” he said, with a laugh.
Hayles is in action on the road for Halfords Bikehut in the opening round of the Premier Calendar, the Bikeline Two-Day, this weekend, and will ride the Tour of the Reservoir while the World Track Championships are on.