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A day after pulling out of the Games midway through the men’s team pursuit, the three-time Olympic champion was back at the Izu velodrome to cheer on his team-mates, who knew they could finish no higher than seventh but at least signed off with a new British record time of three minutes 45.636 seconds.
The 36-year-old joked that he had “dried his eyes” after the emotions of Tuesday, when an outpouring of tributes on social media and beyond had left the Yorkshireman humbled.
Among those accolades was a message from Mark Cavendish who described Clancy as “the student, the teacher, the father, the brother, the shoulder, the friend and always the perfect team-mate” before suggesting Clancy would be “perfect” for the role of performance director in the future.
“I just had a laugh but I’m glad he thinks that highly of me,” said Clancy, who has already co-founded the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy.
“I see (British Cycling) as my family, I’ve still got such a passion for it.
“If I could continue riding my bike and flying the flag forever I would, but maybe that would be the next best thing.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but now and again the programmes have a restructuring and if there is a possibility to stay in this team, I’d love to consider it.”
Clancy cited a long-standing back injury in announcing his exit, saying Monday’s qualifying had shown him it would be better for someone else to step in. Twenty-four hours later, he had no regrets.
“It was an emotional day, it was always going to be, especially the way it happened, being here under the lights as well,” he said. “It’s not like announcing it in the middle of October but I feel good today and I still feel it was the right thing to do.”
The announcement turned Clancy into an observer for a wild afternoon on Tuesday, when Britain’s hopes of defending the title they had held since 2008 ended in a day of intrigue and drama that culminated in his replacement in the team, Charlie Tanfield, being struck from behind by Denmark’s Frederik Madsen.
“I thought I’d seen it all until I was stood up there watching the Danish team pursuit crash into the back of Charlie and I honestly had to have a bit of a double take,” he said.
But though the British team pursuit squad will leave Tokyo feeling they did not manage to deliver their best time, once he had seen Italy take gold in a new world record of 3:42.032, Clancy conceded they were never going to be able to compete for the title.
“Honestly, no,” he said. “Not this time. We’d have perhaps been in the medals but I honestly don’t think we’d have been good enough to do that, that is the truth and that’s alright.
“If we are going to move forward and do something about this, we need to start off with the willingness to accept that there are other teams out there doing what we do better than us right now.
“It is not through a lack of commitment, on the riders or the staff. We need to have a willingness to accept that there’s people doing it better. The second thing we need to do is have a look at the key facts and data and act upon it and do it quick because Paris is not that far away.”