Richard Moore’s book “Heroes, Villains and Velodromes” is a pretty accurate summary of the first day of Olympic track cycling activity. Moore knows his cycling; anyone who manages to weedle an entire book’s worth of copy (“In Search of Robert Millar”) out of the notoriously illusive Robert Millar is worth a read. I always felt he could have done something less formulaic with Hoy’s ascent and dominance of the sprint discipline. Well another chapter needs to be added following last night’s riding and the central character should be the UCI rulebook.
Firstly the ruling on change overs prevented Pendleton and Varnish getting in the medals and denied the Chinese pair a gold by about a tyre width. But then the rules worked in favour of newly discovered GB sprint team lead out man, Philip Hindes. In a moment of plain (albeit German accented) speaking, he suggested that his poor start resulted in the cycling equivalent of a professional foul. By falling off he forced the race to be restarted. At the second attempt the GB trio smashed the world record they’d set in the previous round. Their laps of honour to Thin Lizzie’s “The Boys are Back in Town” just about drowned out the sound of the GB PR machine furiously papering over the cracks. Apparently what Hindes said was “lost in translation” and he’s story was straightened out by the press conference: it was the start gate’s fault. We’ve had “Watergate”, “Camillagate” and “Cherigate” and now, finally we have “Gategate”. Of course others are crying foul, “it’s not in the sporting ethos of the Games” but it’s hard to feel sympathy for the Aussies. The one person to feel sorry for in this episode is Pendleton’s lead out rider, Jess Varnish, who will have to wait another four years for a chance at a medal.