Recently the name of a talented young bike rider turned up on the start list of a road race and surprised a few people. The Australian road cycling coach, Brad McGee, was one who confessed that he didn’t know much about Scott Bowden until July this year. And there was my query on social media about his inclusion on the national team for the Olympics alongside Simon Clarke, Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte. (Followed by an apology to Bowden.)
At 21, the Tasmanian makes his debut at the Olympics. He’s a mountain biker who rides for the Focus-4Shaw team.
Instead of scoffing at his inclusion in the road race, this is a time to recognise that the Olympics offers a great opportunity for athletes around the world to show off their talents to a broad audience.
It’s not unusual for mountain bike specialists to cross over to road cycling; we don’t need to remind anyone about the background of Cadel Evans before he turned his attention to his second sporting love. And, of course, there’s also the likes of Jean-Christophe Péraud and Peter Sagan (and many others) who have morphed into road cyclists after having started racing bikes off-road.
Bowden may follow those examples but only after having acquired his place in the Olympic road race following stints as a triathlete, runner, BMXer and mountain biker.
With the road race due in a little over two days, it’s as good a time as any to find out a little more about this talented young man with a diverse sporting background.
We spoke to Dion Shaw from 4Shaw Agencies who has worked with Bowden, initially as a coach and currently as a sponsor, for five years.
Below is the transcript of an exchange with Shaw who offers a quick summary about Bowden, a rider who is in Rio and about to experience a couple of amazing races in front of a global audience.
– By Rob Arnold
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RIDE: I’m speaking with Dion Shaw who is a sponsor of Scott Bowden who I didn’t really know much about until yesterday but evidently he’s a rider of some repute. How did you come across him?
Dion Shaw: “I was in Tasmania looking for young talent for my team. He had shown a lot of pedigree on the bike.
“He’s an ex-state BMX champion and also had a cross-country running background, he represented Tasmania in running.
“Basically, in my role in marketing for Adidas Eyewear, I was searching for young talent to sponsor and I took him on board after my brand (4Shaw) started to gain a bit of momentum, he joined a four-man mountain bike team.”
A lot of people would be keen to know some numbers. Have you put him in the lab? Do you know much about his physiology or did you just watch him on the bike and realise he can handle himself pretty well?
“I don’t know much about his numbers. Obviously he does a lot of his testing at the TIS (Tasmanian Institute of Sport) and he doesn’t really discuss that sort of thing with me. I wouldn’t know a lot about it if he did.
“I started coaching him initially but realised that he really needed a professional coach to go forward, so I handed him over to Jenny King and she’s done a wonderful job with him over the last four years.”
He’s only just turned 21. Obviously he’s going to the Olympics primarily as a mountain biker. Has he got ambitions on the road?
“He raced with Charter Mason before that team became State of the Matter-MAAP. He had a short stint with Focus-Physio Health.
“Basically he has only ever dipped his toe in water with road racing.
“He has done a lot in Tasmania with local races around there and because his primary focus, as you said, is mountain biking – the World Cup season last year, spring boarding to this year to see if he could get Olympic selection, which he’s done.”
It was only confirmed mid-July that he was off to the Olympics. I understand that there was even an appeal after the selection was made. Do you know much about that?
“I don’t know a lot about the appeal. I know about the selection criteria which was based on, what I’m led to believe, was three races including the Oceania championships in New Zealand which he raced in the elite category – and he won the Oceanias as an under-23 the previous year.
“He won the under-23 national title this year.
“But the Olympic selection criteria was Oceanias; the World Cup in Cairns which I was told he had to finish in the top 10 and I think he was seventh; and the world championships in Nove Mesto… he was supposed to finish within the top 30, from memory, and he finished 20th.
“I’m assuming that they’ve made their selection based on this road aspect as well and thought that maybe he was the better prospect.
“I know that, within the selection criteria, he ticked all the boxes.”
The Olympics is a funny thing and my initial reaction, which was of a bit of surprise to see him on the road list alongside Simon Clarke, Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte – all formidable road riders – was of surprise but I think what’s beautiful about it is that you get a guy who started running, went to BMX, goes to mountain bike and ends up in the Olympic road race. We should celebrate that diversity of talent.
“One hundred percent. And he’s also had a stint in triathlon as well I think as a 14-year-old and he was doing quite well with that.
“I think he realised that triathlon wasn’t his thing and he turned to mountain biking.
“He’s had some great support with an ex-Olympian in Sid Taberlay who has given him a lot of guidance over this journey.
“I think it’s fantastic and maybe, depending on what Scott decides to do after the Olympics, he might turn his hand to the road. He’s sort of up in the air about what he’s going to do after this.”
I know that you, for example, have a diverse background in cycling. You like your road cycling, you’ve raced a bit of BMX, you’ve got a big following in mountain biking and fashion… it just shows that this is a coming together of people with a passion for cycling – and congratulations for supporting a guy who seems to have been flying under the radar, particularly when it comes to road cycling, and he’s about to make a big splash by starting the Olympics.
“Yes, it’s a very exciting time for Scott. To be honest with you it’s a credit to the person that he is; not only is he a great athlete, he’s a great human.
“He has considerable academic prowess as well and he could have pursued a few other careers. I think he had the marks to go on to study medicine but, for the time being, he’s decided to chase his dream as a mountain biker.
“To become an Olympian at 21 years of age is a big thing and I think it is something to be celebrated. Hopefully he can go forth and do what he wants to do on a mountain bike or turn over to the road and pursue a career there. But the sky is the limit for him.
“The guy can do whatever he wanted to. When he sets his mind to something, he just goes and gets it.”