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[article] Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing?

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[article] Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing?

Old 12-30-20, 02:50 AM
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gios
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[article] Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing?

Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing? 12-12-20 [ Cycling Weekly ]

Indoor rowing is my winter workout. Got my Concept 2 Model D Jan 2020 and it's getting a lot of use now due to the colder weather.
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Old 12-30-20, 04:02 AM
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There was a time when a lot of good pro cyclists were speed skaters.
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Old 12-30-20, 07:32 AM
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I wouldn’t consider 6 cyclists with rowing backgrounds statistically significant.
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Old 12-30-20, 07:40 AM
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Well, rowing is an extremely aerobic-demanding activity/sport. A neighborhood kid (friend of my son’s) is a member of the rowing crew at Yale. He’s a senior but ‘walked on’ to the crew as a freshman. The kid has always been an outstanding athlete...mostly soccer. But in h.s., due to a few concussions, had to find an activity that wouldn’t subject him to more head injury. So he joined a local rowing club...and excelled. That set him up for a seat on the lightweight boat at Yale. After freshman year he came home and asked me about cycling. Said he needed something other than just the rowing machine to keep in shape in the rowing off-season. So, I lent him one of my bikes. Set him up with helmet, shoes, etc. He LOVES it. I rode with him a few times but I was holding him back. He’s riding like I did in my 20s (I’m almost 60 now). No way I could hang with him. We’re friends on Strava and I see that his rides (alone), usually in excess of 25 miles, always average 20 mph or higher.

Dan
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Old 12-30-20, 08:28 AM
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I think there is quite a bit of crossover in sport especially where the sport's demands match up with the athlete's capabilities and capacities.

I do a lot of rowing both on the water and on my Waterrower and it does seem that the activity complements my cycling.
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Old 12-30-20, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
There was a time when a lot of good pro cyclists were speed skaters.
There were a few that were downhill skiers, too. Skiing like they do really beats you up but gets you in great shape. But I can't think of any that were XC skiers, which seems a little odd.

And if the OP is concerned with road cyclists, remember many came from the MTB world (Sagan, LeMond, and Armstrong come to mind immediately).
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Old 12-30-20, 08:56 AM
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The physical requirements of the sports are similar.
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Old 12-30-20, 09:03 AM
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Rowing is good core exercise. Strong core is needed in performance-oriented cycling.
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Old 12-30-20, 10:28 AM
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Rowing favors a tall body type, not many elite cyclists are all that tall, are they?
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Old 12-30-20, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by gios View Post
Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing? 12-12-20 [ Cycling Weekly ]

Indoor rowing is my winter workout. Got my Concept 2 Model D Jan 2020 and it's getting a lot of use now due to the colder weather.
I keep thinking of picking up an ergo; I have two Olympic medalist rowers in my immediate family (I'm the lazy one, for sure) and the balance would be good for me overall. Living in the desert Southwest now there's not a lot of chance to get out in a boat. My sister is a strong cyclist (strong everything!) and my step-Dad isn't slow either!

Honestly, knowing how driven you have to be to be top-level in the sport (any sport) have to wonder how much is just the mental fortitude.
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Old 12-30-20, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Rowing favors a tall body type, not many elite cyclists are all that tall, are they?
Grand Tour riders and CG contenders tend to be quite short as power/weight ratio is a major factor, and it's difficult to be over 6' tall and under 65 kgs and still produce enough power to win bike races. You still get the likes of Froome, Hugh Carthy, the Schleck brothers being quite gangly and winning mountainous races, but most GC riders tend to be in the 5'8-5'10 range (Roglic, Pogacar).

Classics riders and sprinters, where the kg side of the W/kg balance is less important, can be a lot taller. Tom Boonen, Marcel Kittel, Fabian Cancellara, Niki Terpstra are all over 6'. But there isn't much penalty to being short (Caleb Ewan, Oscar Freire).

I knew a lot of rowers in college, the athletic requirement are similar. One difference is that there's no hiding in the wheels and saving your energy when you're in a boat. Another is that it's over in less than 10 minutes.

Last edited by Leinster; 12-30-20 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 12-30-20, 12:08 PM
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Having been both, it's a pretty easy comparison, especially with regard to track cycling, as mentioned in the article. A lot of the same muscle groups are involved, as is the need to maintain a fairly high power output for an extended period of time.
Same goes for the emphasis on technique; having your form on point can take you farther, faster than just throwing more power at it.
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Old 12-30-20, 08:17 PM
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Many cyclists have backgrounds in sports that involve heavy use of legs and aerobic fitness. Remco Evenepoel came from a soccer background. As others mentioned, there have been speed skaters, downhill skiers and ski jumpers.

And in general many professional athletes who are best known for one particular sport didn't start out in that sport that made them famous or wealthy. Often it was a second or third choice, but offered better opportunities, or they were simply better at a sport that wasn't their favorite. Roy Jones Jr, one of the quickest, most gifted and unconventional boxers in history, preferred basketball, but wasn't tall enough to go pro.

BTW, that article in the OP dances over Bradley Wiggins' attempt to reboot a sports career in rowing, claiming he abandoned the attempt because of "other commitments."

Nah. Watch his attempt on YouTube. He was out of his element in the rowing trials. While he was big for a cyclist, he wasn't big and strong enough, with a background in upper body athleticism, to cut it in rowing. He looked flabby and uncoordinated compared with the real contenders in rowing.

The writer might be a friend of Wiggo, or afraid of Wiggins' notorious social media snark. Wiggins tends to burn a lot of bridges and friends with his reckless comments, then backtracking with left-handed compliments to try to make it right.

Last edited by canklecat; 12-30-20 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 12-31-20, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Many cyclists have backgrounds in sports that involve heavy use of legs and aerobic fitness. Remco Evenepoel came from a soccer background. As others mentioned, there have been speed skaters, downhill skiers and ski jumpers.

And in general many professional athletes who are best known for one particular sport didn't start out in that sport that made them famous or wealthy. Often it was a second or third choice, but offered better opportunities, or they were simply better at a sport that wasn't their favorite. Roy Jones Jr, one of the quickest, most gifted and unconventional boxers in history, preferred basketball, but wasn't tall enough to go pro.

BTW, that article in the OP dances over Bradley Wiggins' attempt to reboot a sports career in rowing, claiming he abandoned the attempt because of "other commitments."

Nah. Watch his attempt on YouTube. He was out of his element in the rowing trials. While he was big for a cyclist, he wasn't big and strong enough, with a background in upper body athleticism, to cut it in rowing. He looked flabby and uncoordinated compared with the real contenders in rowing.

The writer might be a friend of Wiggo, or afraid of Wiggins' notorious social media snark. Wiggins tends to burn a lot of bridges and friends with his reckless comments, then backtracking with left-handed compliments to try to make it right.
There is nothing substantive about the article at all, which is rather just a puff piece for British national sport programs. British Cycling and British Rowing are two of the best organized bodies in those sports in the world, and they are rightfully proud. 6 athletes, however, out of the 10s— if not 100s— of thousands of elite British cyclists does not come anywhere near supporting a causal relationship between a rowing background and cycling success. I’m absolutely certain a far greater number of elite cyclists have asthma, but I doubt anyone would anyone argue it’s the reason for their success.
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Old 12-31-20, 10:14 AM
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This article is questionable. The article is from a British periodical and focuses entirely on a very small number of British cyclists who have a background in rowing. Perhaps the fact that the best aerobic British athletes are more likely to be rowers than any other country in the world is a factor? Perhaps the huge state-sponsored rowing program in the UK is a factor?
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Old 12-31-20, 10:31 AM
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Rowers, at the top levels, are much heavier than cyclists of the same height. Rowing puts much more emphasis on upper body strength than cycling. Weight carries much less penalty for a rower. Rowers spend much less of their tie accelerating, while even relatively flat cycling terrain has numerous hills. Every hill requires acceleration.
Hiro make a good point also, the auk is an island.
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Old 12-31-20, 06:33 PM
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I can fully understand the reasons for the cross over between rowing and cycling. There would be more crossover if rowing was a more accessible sport. To get into rowing as a young person, you pretty much have to attend a school that has a rowing program.

Learning to row a single scull requires a certain level of balance and coordination that is similar to learning to ride a bike. Just getting in the boat without flipping it is a challenge for a beginner, and the stroke sequence is something that serious rowers spend years learning to master.

I live adjacent to a tidal creek, and I have a beat up old Maas Aero with fiberglass patches on the bottom. I didn't start to row until I was in my late 20s. I taught myself by reading books. This was before YouTube. I don't claim any great level of proficiency, but I have fun. I should sign up for a training camp. Perhaps they could teach me how to avoid obstacles while rowing facing backwards.

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Old 12-31-20, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Rowers, at the top levels, are much heavier than cyclists of the same height. Rowing puts much more emphasis on upper body strength than cycling. Weight carries much less penalty for a rower. Rowers spend much less of their tie accelerating, while even relatively flat cycling terrain has numerous hills. Every hill requires acceleration.
Hiro make a good point also, the auk is an island.
Not that it matters, but most major rowing competitions include divisions for lightweight rowers. The weight cutoff varies but is typically between 150 lbs and 160 lbs for men. For the 2020 (2021?) Olympics, the lightweight events will be limited to the double sculls for both the men and the women.
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Old 01-01-21, 05:27 AM
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Old 01-01-21, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gios View Post
Why do so many elite cyclists have a background in rowing? 12-12-20 [ Cycling Weekly ]

Indoor rowing is my winter workout. Got my Concept 2 Model D Jan 2020 and it's getting a lot of use now due to the colder weather.

why don’t you take a poll from forum members to get an accurate percentage. You will probably get less than 30%
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Old 01-01-21, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jay4usc View Post
why don’t you take a poll from forum members to get an accurate percentage. You will probably get less than 30%
Less than 30% of the elite cyclists on this forum have a background in rowing?
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Old 01-01-21, 11:51 PM
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Anecdotally, 2 (almost 3 but she REALLY hated hills) of the cyclists on my university team were ex-rowers. Cycling is way more accessible than rowing, from what I can tell. You can do it solo or with just a couple friends and you don't need water.

Asking why rowers make good cyclists is like asking why runners make good cyclists. These are all aerobic activities that use your legs. Not much to be said there.
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Old 01-02-21, 09:36 AM
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Britain, rowing and cycling........c'mon. That'd be like asking about why so many high school kickers were soccer players.

Regionally, I bet the crossover would be stronger in Nordic countries with some combo of cross country skiing and ice skating combined with cycling. I work for a Danish company and pretty much 75% of the coworkers I follow on Strava who ride bikes "strongly" also cross country ski at a proficient level.
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Old 01-02-21, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
Britain, rowing and cycling........c'mon. That'd be like asking about why so many high school kickers were soccer players.

Regionally, I bet the crossover would be stronger in Nordic countries with some combo of cross country skiing and ice skating combined with cycling. I work for a Danish company and pretty much 75% of the coworkers I follow on Strava who ride bikes "strongly" also cross country ski at a proficient level.
Yup. Exactly my point above.
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Old 01-02-21, 10:29 PM
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Question for indoor rowers:

Do folks roll wrists and raise/lower arms to mimic actual rowing while on a rowing machine?
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