Two of Team GB’s gold medal-winning cyclists at London 2012, Joanna Rowsell and Jason Kenny visited Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE and OBE, respectively, today. They were accompanied by the man who was the architect of that success, British Cycling performance director Sir Dave Brailsford, who was formally invested with his knighthood by Her Majesty the Queen. All three had been named in the new year's honours, alongside others such as Sir Bradley Wiggins and Dame Sarah Storey.
Great Britain won eight gold medals in the 18 cycling events in London last summer, exactly as it had done in Beijing four years earlier.
Last year’s success followed Bradley Wiggins historic Tour de France victory, with Chris Froome second as Sky, where Brailsford is team principal, clinched a rare one-two.
"I'm honoured. It means so much and is such a humbling experience. I'm very proud,” said Brailsford, quoted on the British Cycling website.
Today’s investiture was an early birthday present for Brailsford… ‘early’ perhaps not the right word, given that the precise day and month of the anniversary, like the Olympics, only comes round once every four years (and, coincidentally, in the same years).
"The Queen congratulated me on my birthday, which is actually on the 29th, which made her chuckle,” he joked. “I'm 49. We talked about the Olympics and how proud everyone was and what a great event it had been."
Referring to Team GB’s cyclists, he said: “I have seen their development for many, many years and all the background work, all the laughter and the tears and the pain.
“It was fantastic for the country, of course, but particularly good for the riders and the sport of cycling itself.
"It's a unique moment in my life. It's nice to be here and it is a great honour.
"I've been involved in cycling for most of my life, and in the last few years British Cycling and Team Sky have really progressed and helped make the sport more mainstream here in the UK.
"I'm here on behalf of the sport - what the riders, the backroom staff, and our partners have helped achieve.
"We've all contributed to the progression of cycling and I'm the lucky person who's here to represent all that," he added.
Rowsell won her gold medal in the women’s team pursuit on what quickly became dubbed ‘Super Saturday;’ earlier in the day, Team GB’s rowers had triumphed twice at Eton Dorney.
In the evening at the Olympic Stadium, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford, both also at today’s investiture, plus Mo Farah, would each become Olympic champions.
Speaking after she had been presented with her MBE, Rowsell revealed that meeting the Queen had been less daunting than tacking to the velodrome track with the burden of the country’s hopes on her shoulders.
"After the Olympics I don't think I'll ever be nervous for anything again. I don't think you can ever have that level of pressure and expectation so I honestly wasn't nervous."
She also acknowledged the backing her parents had given her, saying: “They have supported me ever since I started cycling and back then no one really thought I'd get very far. They have supported me and taken me through the tough times."
Rowsell’s partners in the team pursuit were Dani King and Emma Trott, the latter going on to take a second gold in the omnium, making her one of only two Team GB cyclists to come away from London 2012 as Olympic champion in two disciplines.
The other, of course, was Jason Kenny, and after the end of the action in the velodrome, it emerged that he and Trott were in a relationship, pictured together at the beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, photographers’ lenses largely ignoring for once David Beckham, who was sitting alongside them.
Kenny also picked up his MBE today and said: "It's a bit surreal but amazing. The Queen said she was very happy to give me the medal, so I said 'thank you very much'.”
He added: “No one compares to the Queen. I've been lucky enough to meet her a few times now, and you get 15 seconds."
Unlike Rowsell, Kenny, who had previously won gold in the team sprint at Beijing and last week won the rainbow jersey in the keirin at the UCI Track World Championships admitted to having had nerves beforehand.
"It's the ultimate pressure situation,” he confessed. “I'm not very good with words especially when the pressure's on."
Prior to the receipt of Brailsford, Kenny and Rowsell’s honours, British Cycling President Brian Cookson said:
Ahead of the investiture at Buckingham Palace, Brian Cookson, president of British Cycling, said: "Cycling is the sport that redefined our national sporting identity last year and it was fantastic to see this recognised in the New Year Honours list.
“Sir Dave Brailsford, Jason Kenny and Joanna Rowsell's honours are well deserved and I wish them all a memorable day."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.