The 4th rider on the Australian team
The beauty of the Olympics Games is that introduces people to the art of sport. (There are plenty of things wrong with it too, but that’s a conversation for another time.) But now, as we close in on the opening ceremony in Rio it’s time to focus on the good of the Games. And it’s time for an apology to Scott Bowden.
Last night, while perusing the provisional start list for the men’s road race in Rio, I noted the line-up of four for Australia: Scott Bowden, Simon Clarke, Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte.
It’s not news, it was announced weeks ago that Bowden would be part of the Australian team for the Olympics. He’s a 21-year-old mountain bike rider from Tasmania with a big reputation. But still, the sight of his name alongside three others who have long plied their trade as road racers was a surprise. It prompted a comment on Facebook: “Apparently,” I wrote on RIDE‘s FB page, “Scott Bowden is one of Australia best road cyclists… hmmm, The Curious Games are about to begin.”
The reaction was swift and essentially the gist was: the original comment on FB was ignorant. I should know that Bowden is a rider who has a big, bright future.
I’d like to apologise for insinuating that the selection of Bowden is “curious”.
“He’s one of Australia’s best mountain bikers and in the team for the MTB race,” wrote Dave Evans.
“Because of the ridiculous Olympic rules that means a certain number of athletes can be selected across all cycling disciplines – road, track, MTB [and] BMX – he has ended up being added to the road team.”
Great, an introduction to an Olympian in a public forum. I was embarrassed for, as the publisher of a cycling magazine in Australia, I should know who Bowden is and understand that his pedigree serves him well.
He is bound to be an asset for the team and he certainly looks the part lined up alongside Simon, Richie and Rohan at Ipanema Beach in Rio.
It may have been a surprise for me to find out that Scott Bowden is one of the four men who are representing Australia on Saturday but it is not news.
Like many, Bowden finds himself in elite company for one of his first international road races. It happens to be on the Olympic stage and, of course, we wish him all the best.
This is not the first time that riders from other disciplines have raced the Olympics; consider Scott McGrory, Madison gold medallist in Sydney, who duly switched from track duties to the road race a few days later.
Admittedly, McGrory had also served his time as road cycling professional, racing with the Gerolsteiner team at the time of the Games in 2000. He would do what he could to help in the road race and get on with the rest of his life.
There would be more races, some on the track, some on the road. And it makes perfect sense that cyclists are cyclists: they should be able to test themselves in all manner of disciplines and if they happen to get a chance to showcase their talents on an international stage, so be it.
Of course Bowden has earned his place in the Olympic team for good reason: he’s a MTB racer of repute. Plenty before him have switched to the road after time off the road and enjoyed enormous success.
In the road cycling realm, The Man of the Moment is making a switch for Rio: Peter Sagan, the winner of three stages at the recent Tour de France and the reigning world champion, is going to try his luck in his original discipline – mountain biking.
What makes sport great is that it’s something for everyone. And one of the big issues with cycling is that there is a tendency to pigeonhole riders into one category or another: road vs MTB vs track vs BMX vs cyclocross vs commuter vs… etc.
My original reaction to Bowden’s selection perpetuates that. And that embarrasses me. It’s no excuse that I was at the Tour de France, focussed on another race and therefore didn’t know of the consideration that Bowden could prop up the other trio for the road race in Rio and take advantage of the rules that allow that to happen.
Kudos to those involved in taking a gamble, working within the rules of selection for the Olympics and nominating a talented young rider for a race that is bound to be intriguing when it unfolds in Rio this weekend.
This is a topic that should be explored further and I look forward to eating more humble pie when Bowden and his cohort do their country proud in the road race… and, of course, the mountain bike race later in the program of the Rio Games.
– By Rob Arnold
Note: for the record, the original comment on FB has since been deleted.