Sir Chris Hoy has announced his retirement from cycling, bringing the curtain down on a career which saw the Scot win six Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles.
Britain’s most decorated Olympian had been contemplating his future since winning double gold at London 2012, with a view to riding on to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but the 37-year-old will step away from competitive cycling after a 19-year career.
“It was not a decision I took easily or lightly but I know it’s the right time,” said Hoy, speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh. “London squeezed every drop out of me. To go on to Glasgow would have been one race too far.
“Nothing would give me more pleasure than going to Glasgow but I don’t want to be there for the numbers. I didn’t realise quite how much London took out of me.
“To go on for another year would be one year too far. I don’t want to turn up to wave to fans and get a tracksuit. I wanted to get a medal for Scotland and because I didn’t think I could do that, I wanted someone else to take my place.
“Now it’s time for younger riders to experience what it is like to compete in front of a home crowd. I will be there to open it and soak up the experience.”
Hoy claimed his first Olympic gold medal in the one kilometre time trial at Athens 2004 having previously won silver in the team sprint in Sydney four years earlier.
Triple gold in the individual sprint, team sprint and keirin followed at Beijing 2008, earning Hoy a knighthood and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
And the Edinburgh-born rider went on to triumph in the team sprint and keirin in London to become Britain’s greatest ever Olympian.
“It’d have to be a toss up between the kilo in Athens or the keirin, my final medal, in London,” said Hoy, when asked about his career highlight.
Hoy has been the face of British track cycling for more than a decade and British Cycling performance director Sir Dave Brailsford, who has helped mastermind Hoy’s success, paid tribute to “a true Olympic champion”.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Chris and his career,” said Brailsford. “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.”
British Cycling president Brian Cookson credited Hoy as “one of the first track riders to propel cycling into the mainstream” as well as a role model who has “inspired thousands of people to get on bikes.”
Cookson added: “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.”
Hoy may now take on a mentoring role for the Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The track cycling events will be held in the velodrome which bears his name.
The Edinburgh-born rider is also preparing to launch his debut range of Hoy-branded bikes and, having now hung up his cleats, is relishing the prospect of riding his bike for fun.
“After a while you start associating your bike with pain,” he said. “One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to is riding my bike for fun.”