Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
We often forget that everyone started at the same place as cyclists. Almost none of us won our first race, none of us looked the part, and some of us didn’t even finish. But they all have one thing in common: they had a crack, and kept on trying. In the first of this ongoing series, we speak to some of the best athletes in the world where they tell us about their first experience that got them hooked into this wonderful sport.
Sir Chris Hoy – most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time
“My first track race was in Meadowbank in Edinburgh and it was a track league in a Tuesday night and I had only been on the track maybe three or four times before that.I just remember being terrified, not really knowing what was going on, lots of different events not knowing what each event was. But the one event that stood out for me was the 500m handicap because it meant that I got a good start and I was right at the front. I had pretty much half a lap start on the rest of the guys and I was leading it till the finishing straight and they all came flying past me. But each time I raced I got a little further before they caught me, and then you know..I eventually won my first race.”
Frank Schleck – Trek Factory Racing
“It was by the age of 10 or 11. There was this small race in Germany, because in Luxembourg you weren’t allowed or they didn’t have races for 11 year olds. So I went to Germany with my sneakers… I feel like I’m going to sound old but, yeah, I didn’t have a bike with the click-in shoes yet. I just sprinted so fast and so hard that I won the race and then I was really proud. I rode over to the two young missus by the podium and I fell off the bike right in front of them. So I won the race but I fell right over because I couldn’t undo the toeclips and straps. So that was my first win and my first race.”
Bob Jungels – Trek factory Racing
“I started cycling when I was six years old so that was quite early. My first race I was seven years old. It was an mountain bike race and I barely made it through the holes in the grass, I was really small. I finished third but I think there was only four guys at the start so it wasn’t a big deal.
I fell in love pretty fast with racing, that was my start.”
Lindus Gerdemann – Team Cult Energy
“I started quite late with the bike racing. I had no clue how to follow and who to follow. It was a bit weird to start that late with bike racing but it was interesting in that I didn’t finish that great but I think it was a bunch sprint. I probably placed 20th or something like that. I won my third race so it didn’t take me that long to get up there.”
Songezo Jim – MTN-Qhubeka
“It was a criterium race in Cape Town. It was a two kilometer circuit and there was this one guy who broke away. I was still under 16 years old back that and the guy lapped me four times and the bunch lapped me three times. I was dead last. After that race I didn’t want to continue but my friends convinced me to keep on going and said everything is gonna to be fine. I ended up winning my first race two years later. In the 2010 I made my way to winning the Western Province Championships.”
Brian Holme – Director sportif at Etixx-Quickstep
“It was 1972 and it was a time trial. It was only five kilometers and I didn’t finish. I remember my Dad…he was so pissed off with me because I didn’t finish. But the real reason was because I had an appendix inflammation. I was quite sick but my dad gave me shit because I couldn’t finish a 5 km time trial. But a few days after I went to the hospital and they took it out, a little bit funny, but a sad sad story at the same time.”
Zac Dempster – Bora-Argon 18
“I started racing BMX with Eagle Hawk BMX club when I was about ten. I just went down there as a BMX bandit. I was a pretty dirty rider, I didn’t have many mates down at BMX…I don’t think I had one. There was a table top which was the last jump and I pushed a couple of kids of the edge as they trying to pass me. I didn’t really give a hoot as long as I was the guy with the trophy at the end. There were three trophies up for grabs every Friday night, so that was pretty important to me at ten.”
Riccardo Zoidl – Trek Factory Racing
“It was a criterium when I was 14 years old. There were guys on the line without licences, both men and women at the startline. I won it but there were just 10 people. I had borrowed a bike from my father, clothing from my father, and I looked like a clown, but from that point on I was fascinated by the sport of cycling.”