BERLIN (Reuters) - When Britain’s three-time Olympic team pursuit gold medalist Ed Clancy describes young team mate Ethan Hayter as “the chosen one” it would be foolish to dismiss it as hyperbole.
Clancy, after all, rode to glory in Beijing in 2008 with future Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins for company. Thomas was also with Clancy at London 2012 while Wiggins returned to the track four years ago in Rio.
Britain will be seeking a fourth successive team pursuit gold in Tokyo, and the 34-year-old Clancy believes that in London-born Hayter, they have a special weapon.
“I was watching the (movie) Matrix the other day and I sometimes remind myself a bit of Morpheus,” Clancy said.
“Not so much in the way I look, but I reckon I know something good when I see it... and Ethan’s The Chosen One.
“I’m telling you. He’s special. He’s got something else.”
Hayter, 21, has already been snapped up by British road powerhouse Team Ineos but, while his future targets will be the road’s Grand Tours, his immediate priority is continuing his country’s dominance of track cycling, having won world gold alongside Clancy at the 2018 world championships.
Clancy predicts he is destined to be a great in both.
“For someone who is relatively small and lightweight and aerodynamic, he’s got a massive great cardiovascular system on him,” Clancy told reporters.
“He’s a massive benefit to us in the team pursuit, but I think what he does beyond Tokyo, on the road, is going to be equally impressive.”
Asked if he stood by previous comments in which Clancy compared him favorably to Britain’s first Tour de France champion Wiggins, he said: “Absolutely. The more I see of him the more I think it’s true. You can’t predict whether someone is going to go off and win the Tour.
“I just know that in team pursuit terms he’s doing things which, and this isn’t to discredit the things which Bradley and Geraint were doing because it was a different era, but he’s doing those things and more already.
“It’s not saying much, but when I try to ride a bike around Portugal with him for two weeks, he’s in a different world.
“He’s got a good head and a hell of an engine.”
Clancy and his team mates, Hayter, Kian Emadi, Ollie Wood and Charlie Tanfield, begin their world championships quest later on Wednesday in the team pursuit qualifiers.
World record holders Australia are favorites for gold.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris