Ed Clancy thought his cycling career was over when he slipped a disc in his back, and was forced to have surgery at the end of last year.
The 30-year-old double Olympic gold medallist suffered a prolapsed disc in the “freak accident” at the end of the Tour of Britain last September when he went to pick up a suitcase, eventually having surgery on it in November. And despite the fact he has spent the last 12 weeks recovering, Clancy is back in contention for a ride at this week’s Track World Championships in London.
“My whole career was in doubt,” Clancy said. “Owain [Doull] was there — remember when we were on top of that mountain in Tenerife I couldn’t walk. I had foot drop in my right leg — that’s what they call it — because the nerve was so compromised. When I came out of that operation and I could walk again I was like anything is a bonus. If I can ride a bike great, if I can make a career out of the bike even better.
“I’m surprisingly good. I think it’s fair to say it’s not the best I’ve ever gone but 12 weeks after fairly serious back surgery I’m over the moon.”
Clancy is considered one of the one of the key members of the team pursuit squad, having won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and four world titles in the discipline. However, his injury has meant he has had to change his bike setup.
“The position on the bike has changed and I don’t think it’s going to change back,” he said. “My saddle’s gone down, my bars have gone up. I haven’t been in a wind tunnel yet but it will have [changed things].”
Clancy’s fellow team pursuiter Doull insisted that his inclusion in the Worlds line-up was entirely down to the progress he’s made in a short space of time.
“He’s coming back in because he’s one of the strongest guys in the team,” he said. “The only way to describe Ed is like a freak of nature. He’s underplaying how well he’s going considering where he was 12 weeks ago.
“I remember after his surgery I went to visit him, we went for a pub lunch and he couldn’t sit down because he couldn’t bend his back and so he was kneeling in a restaurant.
“BC [British Cycling] had to organise a taxi guy to drive you to the track every day and he just lay in the back of it.”
The injury ruled Clancy out of the Track World Cup rounds over the winter, which meant he did not pick up the qualification points required to keep him eligible under UCI rules for GB’s one spot in the omnium for the Rio Olympics. He touted 22-year-old Jon Dibben as a future Olympic medallist in the event.
“I’m a big fan of Dibben and I think he’s got what it takes to win it, and he’s only going to get better with age.”
Clancy insisted that if he manages his injury right he has another four years in his career.
“I’m done in Tokyo anyway,” he said. “I said [to the doctor] if this is going to be a reason I can’t kick a football round with my kids I’m done. He seemed to think if we manage the problems we’ll be sound for four years.”