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From ‘psych-y’ to Secret Squirrel hush-hush bikes, British Cycling is world powerhouse in go-faster tech, reveals book

New book takes sneak peak at Team GB’s secrets

I’m in an index. I’ve always wanted to be in an index.

Reid, Carlton 180-6

I come after Queally, Jason and before Road racing…and doping.

The new book is ‘Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain’s Track Cycling Revolution‘. It’s another stonker from Richard Moore, author of ‘In Search of Robert Millar‘. That title won the ‘Best Sports Biography of the Year’ award at the British Sports Book Awards in 2007 and more awards will surely follow for ‘Heroes, Villains and Velodromes’.

According to publisher HarperCollins, the book "reveals how an elite athlete, Chris Hoy, lives, breathes and pushes the boundaries of his sport. How does he do it? And why? What drives him to put his body through the physical and mental hurdles to become the best in the world?"

Moore shadowed Hoy for a year, from the World Championships in Mallorca at which Hoy became a double world champion, through to Hoy’s attempt on the world kilometre record in La Paz, Bolivia. Hoy is one of the top hopes for Olympic Gold in Beijing next month.

But this book is much more than a biography of Hoy, it’s a dissection of how Britain went from being a pariah nation on the boards through to the world’s all-conquering track team, better even than the Australians.

It reveals the stunning levels of professionalism and dedication that go on behind the scenes at the Manchester velodrome, HQ for British Cycling.

So, how come I’m in the index? It’s all to do with my battle with the UCI in 2005. The UCI had decided to axe the kilo from the 2008 Olympics, a crazy decision when there were lesser track events to chop first or even the road time trial, a race that never attracted the cream of the world’s cyclists.

Via publicity on BikeBiz.com I created a petition which quickly gained 10,679 signatures including lots of top cycling names from around the world. Along with trackie Julie Dominguez I took the petition to the UCI and met with Pat McQuaid, then UCI president in waiting, now the actual UCI president.

He said some less than truthful things about the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, and grabbing a wifi connection in the dining hall of the UCI’s HQ, I reported them on BikeBiz.com. We hopped on a train to the Olympic HQ in Lausanne and by the time we got there, the PR man had already read the story and was waiting with an official rebuttal of McQuaid’s statement.

Moore’s book recounts this tale and also re-interviews McQuaid at the Aigle HQ. Interestingly, where we were able to access minutes of UCI management committee meetings in the HQ’s library, Moore wasn’t able to put his hands on them.

He writes: "Management committee meetings are no longer available for open public inspection. I wonder if they were removed after Reid’s visit?"

Moore said he feels some sympathy for McQuaid as "he doesn’t come across as self-important" but he doesn’t think he’s the real power at the UCI:

"The impression I’m left with is that many of the decisions he defends might not be his in the first place; he appears not to be fully in power, as his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, certainly was. Indeed, it is rumoured that Verbruggen – now a high-flying member of the IOC – still wields considerable power in the UCI. And there appear to be other powerful people at the UCI, less high-profile, operating in the shadows. The lack of transparency is shocking."

Few will care about the UCI lack of accountability, it’s the tech and training secrets they’ll be poring over. The Secret Squirrel Room is British Cycling’s not-for-prying-eyes equipment bunker at the Manchester Velodrome, the keys to which are kept by Chris Boardman.

This room has Indiana Jones style security precautions (spikes in the walls, five metre wide squishtastic breath-activated rolling balls etc). It gets seven entries in the index. Buy the book to get the inside skinny on the Squirrel’s secrets…

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