In Luke Rowe's latest column for Cycling Weekly, he reveals who his first cycling hero was and who he admires now
Welshman Luke Rowe is Team Sky’s Classics specialist and often the team’s road captain, and he writes exclusively each week for Cycling Weekly. He’s also a huge Cardiff Devils ice hockey fan
Growing up as a young lad I had many heroes. Coming from a family that has a strong cycling background, the sport was always a huge passion of mine, and when I was young my dad would always be sat in front of the TV, tuned in for any of the big races.
Both my grandparents cycled and so did my parents so it’s a sport that has always been in the family.
The first time I spotted my real hero was way back when Marco Pantani won the Tour de France in 1998, when I was eight. We headed over to France to watch the race, leaving Dover on the ferry with just our bikes and our luggage strapped onto them.
We went over as a big crew and toured around for a few days, pitching up tents as I watched the Tour with my jaw on the floor, mesmerised by the whole thing.
It was after that trip that I got the cycling bug. When I arrived back in Cardiff one of the first things I did was to go the local bike shop and buy myself (well, my dad bought me…) the Selle Italia custom Marco Pantani saddle for my bike.
The saddle was probably worth more than the rest of my bike, but I thought I was the coolest kid in town with my new yellow Pantani saddle. I just thought he was a pimp; the way he smashed his rivals up the climbs with his big hoops in his ears. For sure, if my parents had let me, I also would have got my ears pierced.
Nowadays, who are my heroes? It’s hard to look past Tom Boonen; he has class. When you race him he is always in the perfect place at the exact moment he needs to be there; he’s the King of the Cobbles and is a super-humble guy.
Away from cycling I’m also a huge ice hockey fan and love watching Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara on the ice. He’s the tallest player in the National Hockey League at 6ft 9in, is an absolute wrecking ball on the ice and always puts in a solid shift, which is exciting to watch.