Cycling: Olympic rowing champ Hamish Bond takes bike career to track

Hamish Bond contests the Tour of Southland
Hamish Bond contests the Tour of Southland. Photo credit: Studio Jubb

Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond is adding another strange twist to his already amazing and bizarre sporting career, shifting his cycling aspirations from the road to the track.

Since retiring from the water, Bond, 32, has established his reputation on the bike, setting a new course record at the national time trial championship, winning a Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medal on the Gold Coast this year and finishing 25th at the world championships.

But after his mid-field finish at Innsbruck, he admitted the result was "a reality check" and that has prompted him to re-think his aspirations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Now, he will attempt to break into the already successful team pursuit line-up on the velodrome.

"I guess it was a pragmatic decision, after reviewing how far I've come in two years with a time-trial focus," he told Newshub.

"Looking forward to the Olympics, there's still a long way to go to make up the distance required to be a serious medal contender.

"It was always a very steep curve to get to the speed required over the 3-4 years I had given myself. If I'm honest, I felt as though I was starting to look at marginal gains, when I actually still needed a couple of considerable chunks of speed.

"I know elite sports and at the world championships, I was probably the only 'amateur' competing against professionals."

New Zealand has a strong record in team pursuit, winning the men's world title three years ago and taking second in 2017. The quartet also finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

But their 2018 campaign proved frustrating, as they finished fifth at the world championships and were disqualified in a bronze-medal ride-off at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Having based himself in Cambridge for both rowing and cycling, Bond is familiar with the velodrome environment, although the skills required are subtly different.  

"It's been a nice change, it's been refreshing," he told Newshub. "Obviously, what I was doing as a trime trialists was largely off my own back.

"Immediately, you come down here and it's like having a professional team in your backyard. Life's just got a little bit easier - not physically, but logistically - and that's been a nice change."

Pursuit races are traditionally contested over 4000 metres and about four minutes, quite a drop from the 50km distances for road time trial events, but more like the demands of a 2000-metre/six-minute rowing race.

"I guess I'm bringing it back to a race distance that I'm more familiar with... but there are also large technical components I will have to pick up over the next year or so."

Perhaps the biggest adjustment will be generating power from a standing start to gather speed quickly, while the endurance and strength from time-trialling will serve him well in the latter stages.

"I'm not formally part of the New Zealand cycling team by any means," he said. "There's still a long way to go to get to that level.

"Cycling NZ is making it easy for me - they're not putting any road blocks in front of me - but eventually I will have to prove myself that I would be a beneficial element to the team pursuit team, come the Olympic Games."

Bond still plans to defend his national time trial title and continue racing on the road, but only to complement his new track goals.

"In terms of a focus, I think you can only do one thing at a time."