What it takes to be a pro cyclist, and Aussies you should watch out for

Robbie McEwen Columnist

By Robbie McEwen, Robbie McEwen is a Roar Expert New author!


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    Richie Porte wins on Willunga Hill. (Team Sky)

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    Professional bike riding is more than fitted lycra and big sunglasses, and I’ve seen more Aussies embracing the cycle lifestyle.

    As the cycling infrastructure around Australia continues to improve, there has been a notable increase in riders on the road – whether it’s commuting to work on a bicycle, or participating in a casual competition with mates.

    Although there has been a rise in recreational cycling, it’s a big step up to pro cycling. We’re not just lean men in lycra, we’re professionals who train hard. Looking back on my time as a professional cyclist, there were moments where I questioned if it was worth it, and my advice to those just starting their career is simple – set your goals high and be regimented in your training.

    Success doesn’t come easy, but the pain, sweat and tears will make you appreciate all the hard work. These days there is a certain perception around success, where I’ve seen cyclists rest on their natural talents without putting in the hard yards. This is where they get burnt.

    Like almost every other aspect of our lives, technology has altered the way we do things, and cycling is no different. We’ve come a long way with technology since I started my professional career, which is really helping cyclists around the world achieve their goals on the world stage, and locally in their own backyards.

    There have been massive advances in carbon fibre technology, aerodynamic clothing and helmets, on-board cameras and the use of power meters to develop training programs. These advances in technology have certainly helped us all become better cyclists, and will continue to assist in world records being broken.

    When I was competing professionally, the key piece of technology that helped me train was the power meter. The software analyses data from races and then helps coaches create a tailored training program according to the insights, looking at what the key areas of improvement are.

    The altitude simulator was another great training tool, which allowed me to gain the benefits of training at altitude without having to leave home. These tools, along with other advances in technology, will see the sport take off into uncharted territory in the very near future. We’re in such an exciting time, and I can’t wait to see how technology advances the sport.

    In terms of emerging talent, there’s been some great riders come out of cycling in Australia, and with the recent completion of the Rio Olympics, there were some notable names on the road cycling team that are definitely ones to watch.

    Simon Clarke, Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte are Aussie men at the forefront of the sport. The four women who were on the Aussie road team in Rio – Gracie Elvin, Katrin Garfoot, Rachel Neylan and Amanda Spratt represented Australia with aplomb.

    All these riders are athletes with incredible ability and the ambition to match, and I imagine they will soar to new heights over the next few years.

    With the emergence of new technology combined with their daily sacrifices, these athletes are poised to launch Aussie cycling even further onto the world stage.

    Of course not just anyone can join in professional races and ride the Tour de France. However, there are many mass participation events for budding cyclists to take part in that include a race category, while others can ride the course at their leisure or challenge themselves to ride their fastest possible time.

    This year I’m participating in The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, taking place on the 26 November in New Zealand’s beautiful Lake Taupo. Only a quick flight from home, I’m looking forward to riding alongside a lot of fellow Aussies. It’s these types of races that gives amateur riders the chance to measure how they’ve improved and can be the starting point in their careers that catapults them to success.

    Robbie McEwen is a former professional cyclist who won 12 stages in both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. He is an ambassador for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, held in November in New Zealand. Check them out here.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • October 19th 2016 @ 7:38am
      Simoc said | October 19th 2016 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      And congratulations on your own recently completed Gold Coast Granfondo event. I missed this year but hope to ride it in future.

    • Columnist

      October 19th 2016 @ 12:03pm
      Geoff Parkes said | October 19th 2016 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      Thanks Robbie – always enjoy your contributions on TV.

    • Roar Guru

      October 19th 2016 @ 2:17pm
      delbeato said | October 19th 2016 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

      An an amateur cyclist who tries to train around a 9-5 job, the thought of being a pro and having all that extra time to train properly scares the hell out of me. I’m an unabashed cycling fan. I recall a Scott McGrory article where he compares pro cyclists with footy players who he coached. One group didn’t match up very well against the other in the commitment and discipline stakes.

    • October 19th 2016 @ 11:06pm
      Michael O'Donoghue said | October 19th 2016 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

      Great article Robbie on what it takes to become a Pro. It is fantastic to see how you have continued to support cycling after finishing your spectacular professional career.

    • Roar Guru

      October 25th 2016 @ 7:30am
      Carlos the Argie said | October 25th 2016 @ 7:30am | ! Report


      Amazing to have someone so successful writing for the Roar! I’ll have to tell my wife, big fan of yours.

      She took a picture of you in Champs Elysees, after the end where you are shaking hands with another rider, I think it was the German sprinter. She will be mad at me that I don’t remember his name.

      A great picture of a great champion. Cheers from the USA.

      • Roar Guru

        October 25th 2016 @ 8:01am
        Carlos the Argie said | October 25th 2016 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        OK, my brian full of cobwebs is thinking. Maybe it was Zabel in the picture.

        We’ve met many Aussie riders over the years, they have all been great.

        Many years ago, we saw a bunch of Saxo-Bank rider close to home in the Santa Monica mountains. I knew that one of their riders was an Argie, JJ Haedo, so I sprinted to catch them and asked if Haedo was riding with them. They were a bit cagey but one of them pointed to he rider in front. It was him and we spoke for a while. They guy I asked was Stuart O’Grady! And I ignored him. Crazy.

        I also remember at a Tour de Suisse time trial, an Aussie had a great time and sat in the winners chair for hours until Cancellara finished. But the Aussie guy won! We were teasing him that he would win and he was all shy and trying to remain cool. The TdS is a very friendly race.

      • Roar Guru

        October 25th 2016 @ 12:29pm
        Carlos the Argie said | October 25th 2016 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        Hi Robbie!

        My wife got back home and told me the picture was of you and Stuart O’Grady, the year he beat you in the CE sprint. You very gallantly shook his hand. Maybe Cheika in rugby should learn from you.

        I have no idea how to upload the picture but I would be glad to do it if interested.

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