There’s a revealing detail in this week’s film about Chris Hoy racing at Le Mans where we learn that the six-times Olympic cycling champion has perfected the art of coffee-making.
Hoy, you see, doesn’t drink alcohol, so he loves his hit of caffeine. But not any old cup of coffee. He has to be the best at whatever he does, so he has undertaken a series of barista courses in order to achieve mastery of the mocha.
“The whole point is it’s got to be right,” says Hoy. “If I get into something, I tend to really get into it.” It’s that same drive and quest for perfection that saw Hoy compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race in France in June, a through-the-night test of skill and endurance.
Was the Le Mans track much scarier than hurtling around a velodrome? “Yes! I think, initially, it’s relative to your skill level, so when you’re first getting started in motorsport it’s scary because you don’t feel as if you’re fully in control and therefore you know you can make mistakes.
“But I got to Le Mans confident that I knew what I was doing – therefore you’re not dwelling on the consequences of what could go wrong, you’re focusing on what you need to do.”
In the documentary the TV cameras also venture into the Hoy family home, which he shares with wife Sarra and their son Callum, who turns three later this month.
We see at close hand the anxiety of a spouse clearly worried for her husband, but knowing better than anyone his desperate need for a new challenge.
Hoy readily acknowledges that. “Sarra was really supportive,” he says. “In many ways she found it a lot less nerve-racking than the cycling. With the driving there wasn’t quite as much pressure on the end result. It was more about enjoying the whole process.
“The point is not to be reckless, but if you worried about risk at every turn you’d never leave the house, would you? So I think Sarra knew that I loved the driving and really got a huge amount from it and was determined to do it well… I mean, you worry about your family every day, don’t you?”
Hoy says he misses the adrenaline thrill of competitive cycling, but still uses a bike to get around. He also firmly believes that more should be done to encourage everyone to do so.
“I think we as a nation are trying to improve the provision for cyclists, but we’re still a long way off our European cousins in Denmark, Holland and Germany, who do a fantastic job. It will take time here – it’s about providing safe cycle lanes, but also educating people to be aware of cyclists on the road.
“It’s not about them and us – you get car drivers battling each other. It’s people who are frustrated because they want to get somewhere – it’s about mutual respect between all road users, not drivers versus cyclists.”
He’d like to stick with the sports car racing but won’t be aiming for Formula One glory. For one thing he’s too bulky – “The F1 drivers are tiny, skinny little guys, they’re almost like jockeys, most of them.” But he does have his sights set on Le Mans again next year. “It was way beyond my expectations. I just didn’t think it would be so good on every level. I had a fantastic time.”
Sir Chris Hoy: 200mph at Le Mans is on Sunday at 9:00pm BBC2