One of the leading figures in the ski mountaineering world Anton Palzer is to hang up his skis in order to race for Bora-Hansgrohe.
The German is one of the best athletes in his sport, finishing second at the 2019 SkiMo World Cup. He is also an accomplished mountain runner, this June running across the three main peaks of the Watzman mountains in Germany in a sub-three hour record time.
Until April, the 27-year-old will continue with his winter commitments, before swapping his skis, his climbing skins and his running shoes for the bike to team up with the German WorldTour outfit.
Palzer has no previous experience of bike racing, but is a friend of Bora rider Lukas Pöstlberger, a winner of a 2017 Giro d’Italia stage.
Palzer, who is also a sponsored RedBull athlete, said: “For a long time, this was just a thought in the back of my mind, a little dream that seemed unattainable and miles away from the my realm of possibilities.
“Over the course of the year, [team manager] Ralph Denk and [coach] Helmut Dollinger have given my wildest dreams real potential, and I am very grateful for this.”
He had been in close contact with the team for a while and joined a summer training camp in Austria and immediately impressed the team management.
Coach Dollinger said: “It was soon clear that some of his performance values, such as his V02 max, are exceptional.
“In summer, he trains a lot of the bike anyway, so we examined his data in detail. However, the decisive factor for this change was that Toni was certain he wanted to try it. The potential is there, but data isn’t everything.”
Denk commented. “It may look like a daring venture and a certain risk is definitely involved, but we have been following Tony for quite a long time and are convinced of his physical abilities,”
“You can see from examples like [former ski jumper Primož] Roglič or [ex runner Michael] Woods that such an experiment can be successful, and we have always said that we would scout within different sports.
“I don’t mean to say that Toni will be competing for the Tour victory within two years, however we see a lot of potential in him, particularly in the high mountains.
“We will utilise him more and more at the beginning of the season for difficult one-day races and mountainous week-long races.”
Palzer admits that the change will be a major undertaking and doesn’t expect immediate results. He will be 28 when he makes his racing bow. “I will have to slowly grow into cycling and develop a certain racing intelligence,” he said.
“In the first year, I will also have to cope with the challenge of a double season (winter and summer).
“My strengths certainly lie in the high mountains – but since the paths into the mountains are often flat and windy, I will have a lot to learn.”
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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