Tributes have been paid to Sir Chris Hoy, Great Britain’s most successful ever Olympian, who as expected has announced his retirement today at a press conference at Murrayfield Stadium in his native city, Edinburgh.
British Cycling has marked the occasion by producing a video in which national team coaches and riders talk about Hoy’s impact and what his absence will mean, and there will be a special programme looking back at the track ace’s career on Sky Sports 2 at 7pm tonight.
Ahead of today’s announcement, Hoy recorded an interview on Tuesday at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester in which he revealed why he had decided to call it a day now, rather than carrying on to try and win gold for Scotland in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year on the track of the velodrome that bears his name.
“London squeezed every drop out of me,” he admitted. “To go on to Glasgow would have been one race too far.” He added however that he hoped he would be there as mentor to the Scottish team.
Hoy said that his career highlight would “have to be a toss up between the kilo in Athens or the keirin, my final medal, in London.”
Asked what he wanted to see change in cycling, Hoy said: “People want to see cycling further up the political agenda. It’s nice to see people out riding their bikes and having fun with it.”
That’s something the 37-year-old is looking forward to doing himself, now his competitive career is over. “After a while you start associating your bike with pain,” he reflected. “One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to is riding my bike for fun.”
Hoy also had some words for the people who have accompanied him on the journey that concluded with that sixth Olympic gold medal, a record for a British athlete, in the velodrome in London last summer.
“It’s your family, it’s your friends, it’s the people who have supported from the early years and they support you through the tough times when you’re not winning, it’s your team mates who inspire you to work harder but who you can have a laugh with at the same time.
“It’s the coaches, the mechanics, the physios, it’s the people who book your flights for you in the office. It’s realising you’re part of a big family. When you come to the end of your career, it’s sad because you’re stepping away from that but you know that you’ve made friends for life.”
Among those who have been influential on Hoy’s career is Sir Dave Brailsford, performance director of the Great Britain Cycling Team, who reflected: “I can’t speak highly enough of Chris and his career.
“On a personal note I will never forget his Kilo in Athens – it was one of the most epic Olympic moments that I’ve ever experienced, the tension in the build-up was unreal.
“Chris’ application, athleticism and dedication are second to none and I’ve said it many times but he is a true Olympic champion who embodies all of the Olympic values.
“Chris is always welcome to come back to the velodrome and share his experiences and wisdom with the next generation of cyclists, and I wish him the best of luck in his retirement.”
Brian Cookson, President of British Cycling, said that Hoy’s retirement marked “the end of an era.”
He said: “The impact that Sir Chris Hoy has had on our sport since he won his first gold medal in Athens in 2004 is unparalleled.
“It goes without saying that not only is Chris an absolutely phenomenal athlete, but he is also an exceptional individual.
“The fact that he’s acquired six gold medals and is Britain’s most successful ever Olympian is testament to this.
“But Chris has done so much more for cycling – he was one of the first track riders to propel cycling into the mainstream back in 2008, bringing track cycling to new audiences and inspiring thousands of people to get on their bikes.
“Chris has always been a fantastic role model – his professionalism, passion for the sport and his determination to succeed at the highest level is central to the Great Britain Cycling Team ethos and is something that he has helped to foster amongst his colleagues as they look ahead to Rio.
“This truly does feel like the end of an era and we have a lot to thank Sir Chris Hoy for at British Cycling. Although I know Chris will still be involved in the sport and that he will continue to work with us, I want to wish him all the best for the future.”
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.