Sir Chris Hoy: Mark Cavendish credits cycling's boom to Scot

By Joe WilsonBBC Sport
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Mark Cavendish believes cycling owes its unprecedented success and popularity in Britain to six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy.

Hoy, 37, brought an end to his record-breaking career when he announced his retirement on Thursday.

"Cycling's grown and there's one face that's been at the front of that - Chris Hoy," Cavendish told BBC Sport.

Cavendish, 27, has won 23 Tour de France individual stages and became world road race champion in 2011.

Hoy became the most decorated British Olympian when he added two gold medals at London 2012 to the four he had claimed at previous Games. He has also won 11 world track titles and two Commonwealth Games gold medals.

Hoy will not compete in his native Scotland in the 2014 Commonwealth Games after quitting competition with immediate effect.

The success enjoyed by Hoy and his fellow British competitors is believed to have boosted participation figures to almost two million once-a-week cyclists in England.

"He has been continually successful," Cavendish added. "He had a professional attitude; that's where he has got his success from.

"He is just a good guy. It is easy to see sportspeople with a 'good guy' image but it is not an image with him. He is actually one of the nicest guys you will meet, whether he is riding a bike or off the bike.

"I could not have hoped for a better face to represent my sport through these growing years. I could not have hoped for someone better to spearhead that than him.''

British Olympic Association chairman Lord Coe described Hoy as an "icon" and also praised the athlete's commitment to excellence.

"His pursuit of excellence has been tireless," said Coe. "His respect for opponents and commitment to clean competition has been unwavering.

"His dignity in victory has set an example that generations of Team GB athletes will strive to emulate. Chris is an icon and he has earned a revered place among our nation's greatest sporting heroes.

Sir Chris Hoy explains decision to retire

"His gold medal triumphs in London are two of the defining moments of the Games, and were a source of pride and inspiration for millions throughout our country."

Hoy will now concentrate on campaigning to bring the 2018 Youth Olympics to Glasgow and on his role as an ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He will also have an advisory role at the Scottish Rugby Union as well as working with charities such as Unicef and the Scotland Association of Mental Health and launching his own range of bicycles.

However, Sir Dave Brailsford, the performance director of the Great Britain cycling team, hopes Hoy is able to share his knowledge with the next generation of British cyclists.

"I can't speak highly enough of Chris and his career," said Brailsford. "I will never forget his first Olympic gold medal with victory in the one kilometre time-trial at Athens in 2004 - it was one of the most epic Olympic moments that I've ever experienced. The tension in the build-up was unreal.

"Chris's application, athleticism and dedication are second to none and I've said it many times but he is a true champion who embodies all of the Olympic values.

"Chris is always welcome to come back to the velodrome and share his experiences and wisdom with the next generation of cyclists."

Beijing Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, who retired after London 2012, said: "Chris was a huge inspiration throughout my career. He always had an unquestionable work ethic at training. He is a dedicated and fair sportsman, an ideal role model."

And Jason Kenny, who won the team sprint with Hoy in Beijing and was a double-gold medallist in London, said: "In terms of Chris' contribution to the sport, he has just always been there as far as I'm concerned."

Getting to know Sir Chris Hoy

British Cycling's president Brian Cookson OBE agreed with Cavendish that cycling owes much to the legacy of Hoy.

"The impact that Sir Chris has had on our sport since he won his first gold medal in Athens in 2004 is unparalleled," said Cookson. "It goes without saying that not only is Chris an absolutely phenomenal athlete, but he is also an exceptional individual.

"Chris has done so much for cycling - he was one of the first track riders to propel cycling into the mainstream back in 2008, bringing track cycling to new audiences and inspiring thousands of people to get on their bikes."

The head coach of British Cycling, Shane Sutton, insisted that Hoy's achievements could not be overstated.

"The contribution of Sir Chris Hoy to the sport of cycling in this country, I don't think is measurable," he said.

"I think he has put us up there with footballers, with the recognition that athletes receive these days."

Olympic silver medallist Rob Hayles, who competed in the same GB team as Hoy at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, feels the Scot decided against competing at the Commonwealth Games because he feared not being in peak form.

"I think it's been a big, big decision to come to and a big thought process has gone behind everything he has done and this will have been no different," Hayles told BBC 5 live.

"It's no real big surprise to me. Chris is someone who is all or nothing. He would have wanted to have performed to his best."

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