BBC BLOGS - Ollie Williams

Archives for February 2012

Why Jamie Staff turned down GB track return

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Ollie Williams | 07:30 UK time, Saturday, 18 February 2012

Great Britain have still not found anyone quite like Jamie Staff. So much so, he says, they tried to get him back.

"Even last year, at the World Championships, they were like, 'We want you back'. But I'd made other commitments and I love what I do," he recalls.

Staff, now 38, rode to gold with Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny in the men's team sprint at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. Hoy and Kenny have fought on to London 2012 but Staff, troubled by injury and keen to see more of his family, called it a day.

The problem for British Cycling is that Staff's skill and pace as "man one" in the team sprint - the team's leader for the opening lap - were almost unparalleled. Replacing him has proved impossible in the years since his retirement.

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Mark Cavendish begins life with Sky in desert

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Ollie Williams | 08:39 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Mark Cavendish sits, cross-legged, on a patch of grass in the desert.

The Qatar sun, radiating a pleasant but not stifling 24C on this February morning, brings such a bright white light from the 26-year-old's rainbow jersey - gained for winning last year's world road race title - that the man standing above him must wear shades to look down and hold a conversation.

That man, in his 60s, fits his own white shirt a little less easily than he once did. He is Eddy Merckx, perhaps the greatest road cyclist in history, with three of those world titles to his name alongside five Tour de France wins and countless other honours.

When Cavendish starts races, he sets out to break records, and many of those belong to Merckx. But this year, Cavendish might accomplish something Merckx never achieved: an Olympic victory.

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