Spend ten minutes with Ed Clancy, the most successful Team Pursuit cyclist in history, and you get a new perspective on life.

The three-time Olympic gold medal winner has a fantastic philosophy about making the most of our time on earth. He’s learnt a thing or two after spending a large part of his life as an endurance cyclist. And luckily for us, he’s happy to share some of those gold nuggets (pun intended).   

Let’s start with something that had a profound impact on him when he was competing.

“It came from Team GB psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters,” he says. “He told me that, if you really want to identify your core values, you’ve got to reverse engineer your life.

“If you think about yourself on your death bed, and the advice you’d give your great grandkids. At that point in your life you’d probably say to them ‘be a good person, be a good friend, be a good team mate’. Nobody in their right mind would say to their great grandkids ‘it’s really important that you’re rich and famous, or that you win Olympic gold medals.

“Once you think that way, it’s easy to draw out your core values. And I guess more importantly, you can then lead your life in alignment with those values.”

Here’s another top tip – this time about the importance of making sure life isn’t all work, no play.

“More than anything, you want to compete well, but you also want to celebrate with your pals. I think when people completely ignore that desire to go out, celebrate and let your hair down now and again – that shortens your career. It’s important to take breaks.”

There you go – good, sensible stuff. No wonder he’s one of the most successful cyclists of all time.

“Sport gave me everything”

Born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Ed loved getting on his bike from an early age. He was scouted by British Cycling when he was 16 and won his first gold medal aged 20. He then went on to win gold with Team GB at three successive Olympics – Beijing, London and Rio.

After retiring from Team GB in 2021, he now splits his time between working for British Cycling’s Research and Innovation Team and running his own performance consultancy business Pursuit Line. In 2020, he set up the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy with former teammate Graham Briggs, which encourages children to learn and have fun while on a bike.

Extremely down to earth and likeably humble for someone who’s achieved so much, he’s very grateful to sport for giving him his success – “sport gave me everything”. He’s also passionate about the benefits sport can bring to people across all aspects of their lives.

“There are all these high-performance principles you come across in sport,” he says. “You learn how to be punctual, how to be motivated to learn on your own, how to work well in a team. You learn about marginal gains, performing under pressure, overcoming adversity on a daily basis. And all these things can apply to every walk of life – sport, business, family. Everything.”

The final sprint – how to stay focused

In a sport where every second and every detail matters, how does Ed stay firmly focused on the job in hand and avoid distractions? Again, the way he does it could just as easily translate to other areas of life.

“It’s important to stay focused on a system and a process,” he says. “It’s a very emotive environment. It’s the same if you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, going for a new job, or whatever – it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by your emotions and behave irrationally.”

He adds, “When we were racing bikes in our home Olympics, I had a system and a process for every metre of that event – keep your shoulders narrow, check in with your coach, check in with the Australians on the other side of the track, think about your turning points.

“It’s about having a methodical, logical, rational system you can put in place to replace any negative thoughts.” 

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