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17 October 2014

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Cycling

Craig MacLean wins World Championship gold 2002

Craig MacLean

© SNS

World champion track cyclist Craig MacLean has never received either the recognition or financial gains as his compatriot Chris Hoy, perhaps because Hoy succeeded individually whereas MacLean’s best results have came as part of a team. Or maybe he is a victim of the remarkably health state of British track cycling, which has produced some of the best riders in the world. In another era MacLean’s consistently good performances on the world stage would receive the widespread appreciation it merits.

The Olympic Sprint team, of which he is a crucial member, has won medals at every world championships from 1999 until the present, including gold in the 2002 worlds at Copenhagen. In 2000 the team won silver at the Sydney Olympics. He is now considered the best lead-out man in the world and can power his bike at speeds of over 40mph, over a distance of 250m from a standing start.

Although MacLean didn’t take up track cycling until the relatively late age of 24, he has always been a cyclist: "I’ve always been passionate about cycling. We always had bikes about the house and my dad was a cyclist also."

He started racing BMX bikes in the early 1980s in his home town of Grantown on Spey, in the highlands of Scotland but from the age of 15 he moved away from competitive sport in what he describes as his rebellion stage. He moved to Edinburgh to study musical instrument technology and at this stage was only riding as transport and to keep fit.

His interest in the competitive aspect of the sport slowly grew and he began to race in different cycling disciplines. He would go down to the cycling track at Meadowbank Stadium initially to watch the track leagues and then he joined a local club in Edinburgh. It was on leaving college in 1995 that began specialising on the track.

He said: "I didn’t have a clear cut path toward being a track cyclist. But when I finished studying I thought I might as well give it a go."

Although he came to the fore in the Team Sprint, his initial focus was in the individual events and admits that the Team Sprint didn’t feature highly in the ambitions of the British team before 1999, when they began their remarkable run of success in the world championships

He explains: "In the early days we weren’t strong enough as a team to win medals but coming to the Olympics in 2000 we trained specifically for the team event. This made a difference to our results as other countries concentrated on the individual events. By winning the silver, we were punching above our weights."

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