For some, the love affair with cycling has always been there. For others, it comes along later in life, having flirted with different sports before but never having really settled. After watching the Olympics and Grand Tours you’d think that the professional riders you see on TV were pretty much born on a bike, raised to go fast on two wheels from an early age. But not all elite riders started out on 700c wheels. We take a look at those riders who have competed at elite level in other sports before making the switch to cycling.
Cameron Wurf is an Tasmanian athlete who started out his sporting career in the water. Wurf was crowned U23 World Champion in 2003 and took part in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where he represented Australia in the lightweight double scull. However a wrist injury kept him out of the boat and to keep fit Wurf stared to train on the bike. The Tasmanian took to two wheels like a duck to water and within a year of taking up the sport he found himself in the 2007 Australian world championship team in Stuttgart. 10 months later Wurf secured a professional contract with Italian team Androni. Since then he has ridden the Giro d’Italia for Liquigas Cannondale and currently rides for the Asian ProConti team; Champion System.
Clara Hughes is a Canadian athlete who has appeared at both the summer and winter Olympic Games. A young Hughes showed great promise as a speed skater, but crossed over to cycling at the age of 17. She made her Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games winning two bronze medals in the road race and individual time trial, but was unable to repeat this success at the Sydney Games in 2000. After her unsuccessful bid at the 2000 Olympics, Clara crossed back over to speed skating where she won bronze in the 2002 Winter Olympics in the 5000m event. During the 2006 Winter Olympics she won a gold medal in the 5000m and a silver in the team pursuit. But that was enough for the determined Canadian. Hughes made a bid to become Canada’s most decorated Olympian as she made a return to cycling and set her sights on winning the time trial competition and also competed in the road race. Unfortunately it was not to be as the 39 year old finished 5th in the TT and 32nd in the road race. A crash 6 weeks before the Olympics had put doubt on whether she would be able to compete at all, later medical examination after her Olympic TT race showed she had suffered a broken vertebrae and had trained and raced with this injury. This meant that Hughes had been racing and training with a broken back for the past six weeks!
The Brit Rebecca Romero has been a professional athlete since she graduated from university in 2002. Her sporting career started out in rowing and this was the main focus for several years. She achieved great success on the water with silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and a 2005 World Championships in the quad sculls. As she hit full stride in her rowing career Rebecca started to suffer from a persistent back injury which kept her out of the boat and eventually forced her to retire in 2006. Upon hanging up her oars, the Brit took up track cycling and made a rapid progression through the sport benefiting from her years of endurance training as a rower. In late 2006 she won a silver medal at the track world cup event in Moscow in the pursuit discipline. A year later she won a world championship title medal which she repeated the following year in 2008. At Beijing Olympic Games she became the first British Women to compete in two different sports at an Olympic games and claimed a gold medal in the individual pursuit. After flirting briefly with time trials on the road Rebecca now competes in Ironmans across the globe.
You may recognise the surname, Jan Bos is actually brother of Rabobank rider Theo Bos. Originally Jan excelled at speed skater with the Dutchman winning the World Sprint Championships in 1998 in Berlin. He remained a top sprinter for over a decade specialising in the 1000m. He won Olympic silver medals in that distance in both 1998 and 2002. Jan was persuaded by his brother Theo to take up track cycling and joined his brother as a member of the Dutch team sprint squad before moving to road racing.
Do you do any other sports apart from cycling? Do skill sets you’ve developed in other sports crossover to cycling? As usual let us know in the comments section below.