Kevin McCarthy: How British cyclo-cross ace is ready for high-pressure days

BBC Sport’s Richard Conway reports from London on the stress of trying to live up to the R8. With the added pressures of the R8 cycling road race that almost always produces world champions,…

Kevin McCarthy: How British cyclo-cross ace is ready for high-pressure days

BBC Sport’s Richard Conway reports from London on the stress of trying to live up to the R8.

With the added pressures of the R8 cycling road race that almost always produces world champions, there is no getting away from the unrelenting nature of Kevin McCarthy’s build-up to Thursday’s final stage.

World time-trial champion on Thursday

A day after he won the World Time Trial Championships, McKenna tells BBC Sport, there are “no horses in the race” in the cyclo-cross, which means there are no distractions before Thursday’s time trial.

The day of rest

Race director Martin Sara confirms to BBC Sport that this is an endurance race which was agreed when the R8 programme was first announced – people are not meant to lie down.

The first thing that strikes you about the Norweigan time trial at Risdon Forest on Wednesday is how easy it was.

I managed to find a bit of shade, because there was no other airflow, but it was still 41C by the time the race was over.

Sir Bradley Wiggins after the time trial

And McCarthy has spoken a lot in the build-up to the event about feeling disheartened with his coach, Tarik El Arbi, even though he is doing the best job he can.

The pressure keeps getting on, so I think McCarthy is under tremendous pressure.

“Kevin is in a tough position,” says Austrian Thomas Geisler, the 2009 cyclo-cross world champion.

“It’s difficult to go on with your training when you know that, otherwise, you will not go on, and I am sure he will be suffering from nervousness throughout the time trial, but perhaps that’s why he is prepared to sit on the track for almost 12 hours and take his time to calm down.”

What does he need to look like a winner?

McCarthy was impressive in the cyclo-cross, but again, every time he does well in any race, people ask how he will be able to cope with the high pressure of the R8.

The answer is that, like many riders, a lot of the dangers at the R8 are self-imposed.

A rider can be annoyed, look out for what the other team is doing, and get sloppy.

I remember in the 2008 world championships, when I was winning the junior pursuit, I wasn’t doing very well and was negative in training, so it was like a trickle feeding into this river of negativity.

So in every race I won, I thought to myself, “this is going to be bad; I am letting this thing down”.

When you are riding it yourself, you can really direct it to your benefit.

The rules

There are some very detailed rules for the time trial on Thursday.

You can’t have any changes to a schedule, you can’t ride outside of racing practice and you can’t wear an outside protective helmet.

It looks like it’s going to be brutal.

Something for the British fans to look forward to?

The times of all of the riders who will start on Thursday.

What to expect

There’s not going to be a competitive race.

As Richard Conway says: “It doesn’t really matter who gets first or second place as long as the Dutchmen are in the mix and not out-and-out favourites, because the culture we have, in Britain, is not as cut and dried as they have with their races on the road.

For British fans, if you get to see the British riders win it would be awesome.”

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