Cycling – Their second sport: Recently we ran a piece about riders who had transitioned from track to road – or in the case of Theo Bos, back to track, again. But what about riders who have come in to bike racing from an entirely different sport? Currently we have three shining examples of this radical change of direction, let’s start with youth.
Remco Evenepoel – Dropped the ball for the wheel
Remco Evenepoel played for both PSV Eindhoven and Anderlecht soccer clubs as a youngster and was selected for the Belgian national youth teams. But he made the transition to bike racing at the start of season 2017. Within 18 months he was junior champion of the world in the road race and time trial. The World Tour teams ears pricked up; but his dream was to ride for QuickStep – his dad was a friend of Patrick Lefevere, the rest is history.
Will Evenepoel’s crash affect his career?
How far can he go?
Season 2020 prior to his horror crash in Lombardy, he rode four stage races – The Vuelta a San Juan, Volta ao Algarve, Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne and won every one of them. No further questions, m’Lord. Season 2021 has seen him win the national tours of Belgium and Denmark; the Druivenkoers Overijse, the Brussels Cycling Classic and the Coppa Bernocchi not to mention podium finishes in the European road race and time trial championships and Worlds time trial. But perhaps the most significant result this season was a DNF – in the Giro d’Italia – that would have placed his feet firmly back on the ground and caused him to realise that a Grand Tour is a different ball game altogether. But we smack our lips about Remco 2022.
From down to up – Primoz Roglič
I’ve always wondered what it must go through your mind that first time all the gym drills are done with and you have to sit on that narrow bench look down that ramp and then launch on your first ski jump? I must ask Primoz Roglič one of these days.
Ski jumper Roglič
I’ve borrowed from Wikipedia on this one: Roglič started to compete in ski jumping in 2003, and was the Junior World Team event champion in 2007. He has two Continental Cup wins, the second level of international ski jumping. He set his personal best at a distance of 185 metres (607 feet) in Planica. In 2011, Roglič performed his last international competition in Szczyrk and officially ended his ski jumping career in summer 2012. He started out with the Slovenian Adria Mobil continental team before Lotto Jumbo, as was, now Jumbo Visma saw his ‘numbers’ and snapped him up. Two each Vuelta, Basque Country and Romandie wins, a Tirreno victory, Giro and Tour podiums confirm he’s not a bad stage race rider. On the single day front he’s won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a clutch of Italian semi-classics. Then there’s his time testing where he’s Olympic Champion, small wonder the Dutch team have signed him until 2025.
Michael Woods was fast on his feet
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation & Canada) has come a long way in a short time. Originally a runner to international standard with a sub four minute mile to his credit, Woods turned to the bike when he couldn’t shake off persistent injuries incurred with his running. The results were startling; in 2014 with the 5 Hour Energy squad he was top six in the notoriously tough Tour de Beauce in Canada. Optum-Kelly grabbed him for season 2015; he didn’t let them down, wins in the Challenge Loule in Portugal, a stage in Gila, a stage in Utah and third overall in the UCI Americas Tour meant the World Tour teams would come a calling. Cannondale Drapac which became EF was his team for five seasons before he joined the Israel team for this season. His lack of a sprint and ‘generous’ riding mean that he’s perhaps not won as many races as he might have if his style was more conservative but there are two Vuelta stage wins, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Worlds podiums on his score sheet as well as the Italian semi-classic, Milano-Torino. He’s a very consistent rider, he took a stage and GC podium in the Tour du Alpes Maritime et du Var back in February and in October grabbed three top 10 finishes in the big, late season Italian races. A big win in 2022? It has to be coming.
Runner to cyclist – Michael Woods
Speed Skating is a sport which at first glance may not seem to have much in common with the bike but many skaters use cycling in their ‘cross’ training. Going back to Lake Placid, USA 1980 and the XIII Winter Olympics. The Man of the Games? With his 32” waist and 27” thighs clad in that famous gold suit, the very epitome of power and grace there could only be one. Eric Heiden. The man from Madison Wisconsin won all five gold medals in the long track speed skating over distances from 500 meters to 10,000 meters setting five Olympic and one world record in the process. That 10,000 meters record was just one of 15 he set during his speed skating career, not to mention seven senior world championships. And he wasn’t a bad cyclist either as taking up a new challenge as part of the now legendary red white and green of the 7-Eleven team. Taking the first US PRO Championship and riding the Worlds, Giro and Tour.
Eric Heiden – Speed skater to cyclist
Sheila Young was also a speed skater but remarkably, she competed in both sports at the very highest levels during the same period of time, as a sprinter. She won three world titles in each sport, twice in the same year, 1973 and 1976. In 1976, she also became the first American athlete to win three medals at one Winter Olympics. Her career on the bike extended over a decade, winning the US national sprint title from Sue Novara-Reber in 1971 and taking silver at the ’82 Worlds in Leicester to Connie Paraskevin.
Sheila Young – Skate and cycle
Another winter sport which has produced cycling champions is skiing, in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics the favourite for the individual pursuit was Germany’s Rolf ‘Turbo’ Golz. But few had considered an ex-downhill skier called Steve Hegg who Golz couldn’t match in the final. US downhill champion in 1982 he read a book by his skiing hero, Jean-Claude Killy where the great Frenchman suggested cycling as a means of strengthening the thighs. Skiing’s loss was cycling’s gain. Hegg also took silver at those ’84 Olympics in the team pursuit then enjoyed a 10 year career as a professional, winning three US national time trial championships along the way.
Steve Hegg – World beater
Cross country skiing makes huge demands on the cardio-vascular system and is a terrific endurance building exercise. Maria Canins was 15 times Italian Champion in this tough sport and also a multiple Italian Road Race and Time Trial Champion. She had a huge engine but at the expense of a sprint, accounting for her four World road race championships podiums but no gold medal. On the way to her two Tour de France GC wins she won 15 stages and also won the Giro and Coors Classic.
Maria Canins – Tour de France winner and ski multi-champion
And whilst I managed to forget about Greg Lemond in my ‘come backs’ piece, Editor Al reminded me that the three time Tour de France and double Worlds winner was another who started off skiing, using the bike for ‘cross’ training before going on to be Junior World Road Race Champion in 1979.
Greg Lemond used to ski, before…
Rowing is another sport which makes big demands upon the heart and lungs, Britain’s Rebecca Romero won silver in the quadruple sculls at the 2004 Olympics, turned to cycling and four years later was crowned as Olympic individual and team pursuit champion, in addition to winning the world individual pursuit championship.
Rowing to cycling – Rebecca Romero
In more recent times Hamish Bond of New Zealand is another rowing devotee made good on the bike. A multiple world and Olympic champion in the coxless pairs his foray into cycling yielded New Zealand championships in the individual time trial and pursuit not to mention a bronze medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games time trial behind Cameron Meyer and Harry Tanfield. That same year he took third in the prestigious Chrono Champenois in France behind Danish big hitters, Martin Toft Hansen and Mikel Bjerg.
Hamish Bond from water to the road
And now for something completely different, Dan Bigham who recently broke Bradley Wiggins former World, but still British hour record on the boards of the Grenchen Velodrome – where he was not too shy of Victor Campenaerts world record 55.089 kilometres with 54.723 kilometres – was a rugby player before turning to cycling. He’s won multiple British track and time trial championships and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of aerodynamics as it relates to cycling. Primoz Roglič, Wout Van Aert and the Danish team pursuit squad have all benefited from his wisdom.
Dan Bigham – GB Hour Record holder previously in the scrum
And to close, perhaps the most unlikely of them all, Scotsman Wilson Renwick was a professional jockey, riding some 400 winners, when I asked him how he got into cycling, he told me; “Liverpool University did a study on jockey’s fitness and how we go about managing our weight. One of the tests was VO2 max (VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. It is measured in millilitres per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min, ed.) and I scored 90, which was the highest that George Wilson the doctor conducting the test had ever seen – he couldn’t believe it. (The highest VO2 max scores are the preserve of the world’s best cross country skiers and professional cyclists; Norwegian Nordic skiing legend Bjorn Daehle is on 96; Greg Lemond was 92.5; Miguel Indurain 88; Thor Hushovd 86 and Lance Armstrong 84 – a figure which had Lemond questioning the Texan’s performances well before the storm finally broke for Big Tex, ed.). He said that I should take up an endurance sport like running or cycling – I’ve done my ankles in knees in with accidents so running wasn’t an option so I bought a bike.”
Jockey to cyclist – Wilson Renwick
Renwick has won a Scottish title against the watch and rode for continental team, Java Partizan in races as diverse as the Tours of Rhodes, Senegal and Quanzhou Bay in China.
Wilson Renwick could ride a winner