Cycling chiefs tell Hoy – get back on your bike

HE CYCLED into the sporting record books and made a nation proud. But the subsequent campaign to turn Chris Hoy's Olympic gold into cash has sparked an extraordinary row with cycling chiefs.

Scotland on Sunday can today reveal that Hoy's manager was recently summoned to Manchester by the sport's governing body, British Cycling, and told it was time to rein in his star's publicity work and get him back in the saddle.

Apparently exasperated that Hoy was filming breakfast cereal adverts in Majorca rather than training, cycling bosses – who give the athlete 24,000 in Lottery cash annually – are said to have delivered the stark message: "You've had your fun."

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Last night Hoy told Scotland on Sunday there was no conflict of interest. But he admitted he would not be doing any more publicity until after the world championships in February.

Since his success at the Beijing Olympics, Hoy has been feted as one of Britain's greatest athletes.

Recruiting PR expert Max Clifford to maximise his exposure in the months after his big win, Hoy signed at least eight new sponsorship deals with companies including Kellogg's, BT and Highland Spring, believed to be worth up to 2m.

Hoy, who was nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award last week, has also been loaned a Jaguar XKR, ordered the building of a holiday home in Brazil and spent two weeks on a well-earned break in Thailand with his girlfriend Sarra Kemp.

But his manager, Ricky Cowan, last night admitted cycling chiefs had intervened to get Hoy back on the track.

He said: "I was called down to Manchester to discuss Chris's training regime. He's very busy with training at the moment and he's also been doing filming for the Kellogg's advert."

He added: "I've been told Chris needs to concentrate on his training now, and needs to cut back on what he's doing. What was OK two weeks ago has now been overruled by British Cycling, and the fact that he is competing and training with the team and individually is making things difficult."

Victoria Cameron, of Max Clifford Associates, gave an even starker assessment of what had happened. She said: "We have been charged with doing his publicity and we are being told to get as much as possible and to get interviews. But then it became really difficult to get in contact with Ricky (Cowan] all of a sudden, and we really didn't understand why they were making this impossible.

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"It turned out that this was coming from the sports council (British Cycling]. They have said to Chris: you have had your fun."

Clifford himself admitted: "You have got them (British Cycling] trying to stop him from doing these gigs because they have got so much influence on all the cyclists. We want to make sure that we maximise on his achievements."

But Clifford insisted that everyone involved was trying to be "professional". He said: "No one is pushing him. Training and cycling come first, even though the next Olympics are four years away. There's no conflict. We all understand the position, and cycling has to be number one."

A spokesman for British Cycling said: "I don't think there is a conflict between Chris's publicity and his training. He is trying to balance them because it's something Chris has said he wants to do as well."

Hoy said he had enjoyed the past three months but that he would now return to cycling – because that was what he wanted to do. He said: "It's my own choice to do these exciting things and have fun post-Olympics, but now I've got to knuckle down and get back to training.

"I probably won't be doing any more publicity in the short term. I will be going back into cycling 100% now. After the world championships I will be able to do more.

"If you want to be the best, you can't do that if people are demanding your time for interviews or your sponsors want you to do something, because you can't concentrate on your training. I made a decision in terms of how much I think I can deal with, and I'm back into focusing on one thing."

Gary Willis, performance manager and Scottish Cycling coach, said Hoy needed to get back to training if he was to succeed at next year's world championships.

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He said: "Although he's been out of serious training, he's been doing quite a bit of stuff in between publicity work. It's wrong to think that he's stopped riding his bike for two or three months. But now he will be in the gym and on the bike every day for most of the day.

"It's a strain on the medallists that they need to do as much publicity work within the first three months to keep themselves in the limelight, but that commitment was always only until the end of November."

Conservative shadow sports MSP Jamie McGrigor said: "Chris Hoy knows the best thing for Chris Hoy, but having said that, whenever athletes get to the top of the tree the pressures from media and advertising are obviously enormous.

"I think people should be extremely careful not to be putting too much pressure on him and kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Chris knows what is best for his training, and I would like to see him continue to succeed."