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From Hill to Bike

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Seefeld 2019

From Hill to Bike

An interview with Slovenian cycling pro, Primož Roglič

Text: Simon Leitner, Picture: Hannes Maier / Alpsolut

Before Primož Roglič began his career as a racing cyclist, he was an active ski jumper for many years. The Slovenian chatted to sport.tirol about his transition from skis to bikes, the last Road World Championships in Innsbruck and the upcoming Nordic World Ski Championships, which will be held in Seefeld in 2019.

Primož Roglič has established himself as a major player in the cycling scene: this year alone, he won the Tour de Romandie, the Basque Country Tour and a stage in the Tour de France, in which he finished fourth overall. His achievements are all the more remarkable because until a few years ago the Slovenian was successful in a completely different sport: ski jumping.

How did you first get into ski jumping?
It was through my neighbour actually, who was a ski jumping trainer at the time. When you're young, you choose a sport, and for me it was only logical to get into ski jumping back then. I liked it very much and was also very good at it.

What is it that fascinated you about ski jumping?
I liked the feeling of being in the air, of flying. I think that is something everyone dreams of being able to do.

Why did you stop?
Unfortunately I suffered a number of injuries (including a serious fall in Planica in 2007), which caused me to lose my motivation for ski jumping somewhat. I looked around for something else, bought a bike and started cycling.

When was that?I think it was around 2012. At that time I sold my motorbike and bought a road bike instead. That was pretty much the start of my cycling career.

As a ski jumper, Primož Roglič has jumped several times from the Bergisel Hill in Innsbruck. As part of his preparations for the UCI Road World Championship in Tirol, he visited the famous ski jump.

Why did you choose cycling of all sports back then?
I don’t really know myself (laughs). Some of my friends owned road bikes, and I had the vague feeling that I might like it. I watched the Tour de France and other bike races on TV and thought that I could be a good endurance athlete. So I decided to give it a try.

Did you expect that you would develop such talent for cycling at the end of the day?
No, not really - especially seeing as I had never done it before. The bike I bought back then was my very first, I had never owned one before. As a ski jumper, we were not allowed to do a lot of bike riding. But when I finally started cycling, I was quite good at it from the start. I like the fact that it is a hard endurance sport, one that takes you to your physical and mental limits. 

What is the greater challenge: jumping down a mountain on skis or climbing one on a bike?
You can’t really compare the two, because they're completely different sports. Both are very challenging in their own way. Ski jumping and cycling require not only talent, but also a lot of hard work if you want to be successful. You have to invest a great deal and make some sacrifices. However, there are clear differences in the physical demands and the training aspect: as a ski jumper you need explosiveness, but you also have to train many other areas. It's a bit different in cycling: while you also work on your physical fitness, most of the preparation is actually done in the saddle. Accordingly, the training sessions in cycling are much longer, because you can and must cycle for several hours without a break.

Have you ever regretted making the switch to cycling?
No, definitely not. I'm glad that I took this step. I am lucky that I have had the chance in my life to do two completely different sports at the highest level.

Let's talk briefly about the previous Road World Championships in Innsbruck. How satisfied are you in general with your performance?
The results were not what we expected. But that's how it is in cycling, you don't always achieve what you hope for. Nevertheless we were able to leave Innsbruck with our heads held high.

What were the biggest challenges from your point of view? 
It is difficult to say: I think it was just very hard in general. For me it was only my second road race at world championship level, so maybe the lack of experience was also a contributing factor to why I didn’t accomplish a better result. But as I said before, that's how it is in professional cycling.

What did you think of the World Championship routes?
I liked them very much, not least because they were somewhat different. World Championship courses are usually more suitable for sprinters, but in Tirol it was the mountain specialists who had the advantage. It was good to have a change, and the routes actually appealed to me, even though they were very difficult. The "Höll" was absolutely gruelling - not just for me, it was a huge challenge for all riders to actually make it to the finish line in the road race.

During preparations, both you and the LottoNL Jumbo Team completed altitude training in Kühtai. Did that help you?
Yes, most definitely. Unlike many of my teammates, I was there for the first time and I really liked it. It was not only beneficial in terms of training, but also a great experience before the start of the World Championships.

How did you find the atmosphere at the World Championships?
The atmosphere was definitely very good.  Especially in Igls, it was crazy: every time we did an ascent there, crowds of spectators cheered us on. The fact that many Slovenian fans were also there to support the team and me naturally provided much additional motivation.


So as far as you are concerned, Tirol was a good host for the World Cycling Championships?
Absolutely. For me even more so, because Tirol is not far away from Slovenia and I still have many connections to Tirol, thanks to my former ski jumping days. 

Next year, the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld will be another major sporting event to take place in Tirol. Do you think the atmosphere there will be as good as it was at the World Cycling Championships?
For sure. It will be even better, because unlike cycling, ski jumping and cross-country skiing are already well established in Tirol. The people there have a great affinity for winter sports. A cycling event, however, was probably something new for many.

Will you follow the Nordic World Ski Championships?
Of course, I still regularly watch ski jumping competitions. Many of my friends and acquaintances are ski jumpers, and I still have a big connection to the sport - even if I no longer actively take part myself.

Have you ever jumped off the Bergisel Hill yourself?
Yes, many times. We had a few training sessions there in both winter and summer. It was never easy, especially because of the wind that seems to blow there all the time.

Many thanks for the interview.

Primož Roglič (29) is a Slovenian road cyclist and has been competing for the Dutch professional cycling team LottoNL-Jumbo since 2016. His greatest successes include winning the vice world champion title in individual time trials at the UCI Road World Championship 2017 in Bergen (NOR), as well as fourth place overall at this year's Tour de France, where he also won a stage. During his time as a ski jumper, he won team gold at the 2007 Junior World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.

FIS Nordic Ski World Championships 2019

The Seefeld Olympic Region will host the Nordic World Ski Championships for the second time since 1985 from 19th February to 3rd March. During this event, some 700 athletes from around 60 nations will compete for medals in the disciplines of ski jumping, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined.  Venues include Seefeld in Tirol and Innsbruck, where the jumping competitions are to be held on the famous Bergisel Hill.

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Seefeld 2019:

 

700 athletes from around 60 nations 

 

21 medals will be won over 12 days

 

3 disciplines with 21 competitions in total:

 

12 cross-country • 4 Nordic combined • 5 ski jumping

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