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Olympic Rower Sir Bradly Wiggins Looks to Move from Cycling to Rowing

Bradley-WigginsFive-time Olympic cycling champion Sir Bradley Wiggins is looking to trade in his racing cycle for a rowing boat. But can he succeed in his new sports career?

Wiggins, who won the Tour de France in 2012, retired from cycling in 2016, but he took up rowing at the gym to stay fit.

“I took up rowing when I retired just to keep fit, but my numbers started getting quite good, so I’ve started taking it up professionally now and getting coached seven days a week,” said Wiggins to the Daily Mail.

The idea of switching to rowing didn’t come out of nowhere. Wiggins first introduced the idea of switching sports in his autobiography, My Time, in 2012. Now, he has announced his intention to compete in the British Indoor Rowing Championship later this year.

Wiggins hinted at attempting to go for a sixth Olympic gold when speaking at a corporate event in Manchester. The cycling champion is being coached by Olympic rowing gold medalist and friend James Cracknell.

In May, Sir David Tanner, British Rowing performance director, said Wiggins would have a difficult time transitioning from cycling to rowing. Three-time Olympic rowing champion Andrew Triggs Hodge echoed Tanner’s sentiment.

Now retired, Hodge said that while Wiggins will have a difficult time transitioning, he is excited to see what the former cyclist can bring to the sport.

Hodge said Wiggins will have to “do something that hasn’t been done before” and wished him all the luck in the world. The retired rowing champion said the sport would welcome him with open arms.

He advised Wiggins not to come to the sport expecting to become an Olympic champion, as he’ll “put himself under a lot of pressure.”

Wiggins wouldn’t be the first Olympic champion to change sports, and succeed at doing so. Rebecca Romero was the first Briton to win medals in two sports. She made the switch from rowing to cycling.

Wiggins isn’t afraid to try new things. After all, he successfully transitioned from winning on the road to winning on the track – and back again. He won both Olympic and world titles in each discipline.

Weight will be one issue that Wiggins will face, but he has stated that he plans to be 31 kilos heavier than he was when he went on Tour.

Sir David Tanner said Wiggins may be up to the task physiologically, but he will have to work on his core and upper body.

Age is another obstacle in Wiggins’ way. The 37-year-old will be 40 years old by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Hodge pointed out that most top rowers retire between 35 and 40. Hodge himself retired earlier in the year just before his 38th birthday.

The level of training required for rowing, says Hodge, “takes a toll on the body.” Hodge says it’s not so much muscles or bones specifically, but the whole body and metabolism.

Wiggins will have to deal with the high level of training required, and Hodge says it can take a few years for even young rowers to overcome that hump.

Before even thinking about the Olympics, Wiggins will test the waters in the British Indoor Rowing Championships at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark. The competition will take place on static rowing machines – the same ones used in fitness clubs.

Indoor Rowing Chapionships

Races are held over a range of distances, from 500m to 2km, and in different age categories. There are also open events.

It is still unclear whether Wiggins has actually been out on the water. Hodge says it will be a challenge to transition from the gym to the regatta. He says the boat is where the “magic” lies in the sport.

Some would say working as a team would be challenge for Wiggins, but the cycling champion is used to competing as a team. He was part of the Olympic team in 2008 and 2016, and he’s also experienced team success on the road.

Hodge notes that the tactical elements of rowing are different from cycling.

To succeed, other rowers in the sport suggest that Wiggins join an eight team. Doing so would help him pick up the necessary skills faster than usual. Unlike in cycling teams or smaller rowing teams, there is less focus on an individual or leading star. Wiggins would be forced to integrate into the team aspect.

Smaller rowing teams would focus more on the individual and precision technique.

Regardless of whether Wiggins will succeed – either at the indoor rowing competition or the Olympics – the cycling champion should be admired and respected for his ambition to transition from one sport to the next. Top rowers are looking forward to seeing what he can do.

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