Ollie Wood sets off in in pursuit of fulfilling his Tokyo dream

Great Britain's Ollie Wood. Picture: Adam Davy/PA.
Great Britain's Ollie Wood. Picture: Adam Davy/PA.
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For years now, Yorkshire has been able to boast one of the greatest team pursuit cyclists in the history of the discipline – Ed Clancy.

With gold medals at each of the last three Olympic Games, the flame-haired, Barnsley-born, Huddersfield-raised cyclist has flown the White Rose and British flags in Beijing, London and Rio.

GUIDING HAND: Ed Clancy. Picture: Owen Humphreys

GUIDING HAND: Ed Clancy. Picture: Owen Humphreys

But at 32, and with a fourth Games in Tokyo still three years away, Yorkshire’s most decorated Olympian must be wondering how much air is left in the tyres.

So too must British Cycling. But the beauty of one of this country’s most dominant Olympic programmes is the constant evolution they undergo.

The team pursuit is, after all, a team event, and about more than just the individual. So for years now, Clancy has been sharing the four-man squad with a host of cyclists, from stellar names like Sir Bradley Wiggins, to up-and-coming riders like Geraint Thomas, who graduated from the event to a high-profile road career.

British Cycling is forever promoting new riders into its flagship team, using events like this weekend’s Track World Cup at its home velodrome in Manchester as a proving ground for future Olympic champions.

It’s been hard breaking into that team, but it’s not been impossible. There’s such a drive in this team to do well. Every time we get together we want to be better than we were the day before.

Ollie Wood

Step forward Ollie Wood, another Yorkshireman who harbours hopes of continuing Team GB’s dominance in the team pursuit in Tokyo.

At 22, 10 years Clancy’s junior, this young man from Wakefield is putting together a record of accomplishments on both track and road that justify why last year he was promoted from the British Cycling academy to its podium programme.

Under-23 European team pursuit champion in 2015, fourth in the senior world championships in Hong Kong earlier this year, and fourth again in the Under-23s road race at the recent world championships in Bergen are just a few of the highlights.

In Manchester today, he rides alongside Clancy as the team pursuit squad seek a morale-boosting win on their home boards.

“The GB cycling team is the best there is and the pressure is constantly on to try and keep that going,” says Wood, who started taking cycling seriously just seven years ago.

“It’s been hard breaking into that team, but it’s not been impossible.

“There’s such a drive in this team to do well. Every time we get together we want to be better than we were the day before.”

With a resource like Clancy on tap, Wood has not been shy in gleaning as much as he possibly can from the elder statesman.

“It’s a great privilege to be around someone like him,” he adds.

“He’s not the type to sit you down and say ‘right, this is what you need to do’, it’s more the tips and tricks you pick up from him during the sessions.

“And even on my part, it’s not a conscious effort to always be watching Ed and picking stuff up from him.

“But it is in the back of your mind. There might be an instance where I do something and I realise I’ve picked that up off Ed.”

One thing that has already rubbed off is Clancy’s winning mentality.

Those two fourth-place finishes at world level were better than expected for Wood, particularly on the road, but on each occasion he was left wondering what might have been.

He says: “Being selected for my first world track championships in Hong Kong was great but then to finish fourth was strange because you feel as though you did something wrong.

“And then in Bergen, I was a little bit surprised with fourth. I knew I was capable of doing something, just not what was within my ability in that field.

“Fourth is the most frustrating place to finish because you’re just outside the medals. Having said that, when I’ve been on a podium in third, you’re always looking up to second and first thinking ‘what do I have to do?’ As an athlete, you always want more.”

In Tokyo, should he earn selection, Wood wants two stabs at glory, with the madison reintroduced into the Olympics as part of the track cycling endurance programme.

“I won’t concentrate on one certain thing, the aim is to be in that six-man squad to be available to do both,” he says.

Beyond that, Wood wants to follow Thomas’s path and become an elite road racer once Tokyo is behind him.

To further that cause, he has linked up with Clancy again at British team JLT Condor.

“Ed has been there for a number of years because he can juggle the track and the road really well,” adds Wood.

“I don’t think there’s a better team for me to balance the two.”

If it’s good enough for Clancy, it’s good enough for Wood.