Sports Personality of the Year: Why Sir Chris Hoy should win

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer, BBC Sport
Sports Personality of the Year: Get to know Sir Chris Hoy

Each of the has an advocate explaining why they should win. Here, Great Britain track cyclist Geraint Thomas explains why he is backing his team-mate Sir Chris Hoy.

Sometimes Sir Chris Hoy can seem like an automaton of track cycling, an indomitable, emotionless machine eating up the boards and spitting out opponents in a blur of thunderous thighs and black tyre.

At other times, as in the aftermath of his and Olympic golds in London this summer, the man behind the reflective visor emerges - roaring with delight as he crosses the line, fighting back the tears on the podium, burying himself in the embrace of team-mates and family.

It is a mark of his dominance in his chosen events that this more mortal version can catch the spectator by surprise.

So accustomed are we now to Hoy's triumphs that it can be hard to remember that none are preordained, that all came only through relentless hard work, an unyielding competitive spirit and a peerless ability to deliver under the most intense pressure.

2012 could have been very different for Hoy. Left out of the individual sprint in favour of Jason Kenny, at 36 years old a man whose speed and power should have been on the wane, he had nothing to prove yet everything to overcome.

That he emerged from the London Games as Britain's most successful Olympian of all time was both what most had always expected and yet equally a marvellous surprise.

"The biggest thing with Chris," says Geraint Thomas, double Olympic team pursuit gold medallist, "is his ability to deal with how painful and also mundane sprint training can be.

"You cannot slack off for a single session. Every day, every effort is really important, more so than for any other discipline.

"Just being mentally up for getting to the track can be hard. I work in a team, but for sprinters it can be lonely out there - on your own in the session, empty stands, maybe just one coach watching on.

"Then, when he's riding, he has to give 100% every time he's on there. We might have some sessions that are easier than others, but he has to be at maximal effort every day he works. As a cyclist, that's the one thing I respect more than anything else."

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Hoy's first chance of gold came on the first day of competition, the final rider in the three-man team led out by Philip Hindes and taken on by Kenny.

Just as in Beijing four years before, the British team started brilliantly and got better with every race. Germany were crushed in the qualifying round in an Olympic-record time, Japan seen off in the semis in a new world best and then France, in the final, destroyed in another new world record of 42.60 seconds - an average speed of more than 39mph.

"They were all in the form of their life," says Thomas. "It started with Phil, giving them the start that created that extra speed, but all three of them were just firing.

"That's the one thing the whole squad has: riders can deliver when it really matters. But it can be easy to take it for granted. People just assume Chris will win a couple of golds. He's almost a victim of his own success."

Those of us lucky enough to be in the Laoshan Velodrome four years ago, when the Great Britain team carried all before them in winning seven golds, had looked around that often only half-full arena and wondered what it might be like packed to the rafters in London.

Equally there was a fear that such success could never be replicated. UCI rule changes to races and the numbers from each nation who could compete in them appeared likely to dampen the party, if not poop it entirely.

Instead, in the days that followed the team sprint gold, it actually got better.

So total was Team GB's supremacy that there were paranoid whispers from other teams of magic wheels and doctored boards. So relentless were the British medals that the noise from the home support barely dipped.

"Chris sets the standard for the rest of us," says Thomas.

"Life changed so much for him after Beijing. He has to deal with all the off-the-bike pressures, the public appearances and expectations, the sponsorship commitments.

"A lot of people wouldn't have been able to deal with that. Even Shane (Sutton, GB cycling head coach) wondered if he would still have the same hunger.

"For him to carry on, hurting himself every day in the gym and in the velodrome, to commit like he has for so long, is a great example.

"Watching the team sprint take gold, and Bradley Wiggins win the time-trial, created a great buzz in the squad. Our pursuit qualifier was on the day of that first gold - we heard the crowd's reaction, and we wanted to be part of it too."

Having begun the party on 2 August, it was fitting that Hoy had the chance to bring it to crescendo on the final day of velodrome competition.

The keirin has always been his adopted event, a derny-led lottery that he only took up when the UCI removed his favoured kilo from the Olympic race programme.

As he went to the front with two laps to go there was a sense he may have gone too soon. When Germany's Maximilian Levy first hooked onto his back wheel and then powered half a wheel in front on the back straight, there was surely no way back. Momentum and aerodynamics would do the rest.

Not to Hoy. Not in his final Olympic race, in front of his home crowd.

"Missing out on his place in the individual sprint would have been hard on him," says Thomas. "He wants to be the best he can at everything he does.

"At the same time, he could accept that Jason deserved the place. He has that humility in him.

"Winning the keirin like that was the culmination of it all. All of us know how hard he works, and we see his dedication in training. He deserves every success he has."

That sixth gold put Hoy out on his own, ahead of Sir Steve Redgrave in the most stellar rankings of all.

As he stood on the podium for a final time, anthem sounding up once again, he would bite his lip and attempt, unsuccessfully, to keep the tears at bay. It was the only battle he lost all summer.