Selected alongside Dan McConnell to represent Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in the mountain bike event, it was in Rio that Scott Bowden made his professional debut as a road cyclist and started his transition away from the dirt. The 21-year-old Tasmanian isn't ruling out a future return to off-road racing, but for now, he is focused on his first full season on the road with Australian Continental IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness team.
Having made the decision to focus on the road to pursue his dream of being a professional cyclist several years ago, the lure of an Olympic Games on the mountain bike meant 2017 would be the earliest he would commit to a new discipline. Bowden, a two-time U23 national mountain bike champion, is looking to emulate Jack Haig (Orica-Scott) and Chris Hamilton (Team Sunweb), and transition to the road via the IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness set-up and onto the WorldTour.
"I am still finding that out," Bowden told Cyclingnews of his characteristics and strengths on the road. "It has been great to work with Mark Fenner of FTP Training and that is going to be a really big help. I think we already have a pretty good relationship and those guys like Jack and Chris were coached by Fenz and he has a pretty good track record in terms of helping convert the mountain biker to the road rider physiologically. ACJ [team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston, ed] as well is the perfect guy to learn the tricks of the trade on the road. I think it will be great to try and do what those guys have done."
Bowden's road career with IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness started on Wednesday night in the U23 criterium where he put in a 'man of the match' performance, dragging a chase group to what was the winning breakaway. Catching them on the final corner of the race but finishing empty and in seventh place.
"The criteirum, I think everyone treats it as a blow out and hit out for the road but at the same time it is still a national championship so it is one that everyone wants to win," he said of the race won by Alexander Porter (SASI). "I did three criteriums in Tassie over the last week and there were a few good guys there and managed to win one of those and overall in the series so I felt like the form was quite good. The hardest thing was being the only guy from my team in the race.
"It was a bit hard trying not to spend too much energy early on in following moves but that is always a bit of a risk and probably bit me in the butt that I did miss that winning break," he added. "I got across eventually but it was the last corner and I thought I would use that momentum and hit them early in the sprint but it is pretty early to underestimate how long it is from the bottom corner to the finish line."
For Saturday's 132.6km road race, Bowden will have several IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness teammates for company as he starts with the ambition of a good showing to convince the national selectors he is worthy of a place in the UniSA-Australia Tour Down Under wild card team.
"In terms of the team objective, win the race but we haven't had the team meeting yet," he said of the road race. "I'll be aiming for a good result and looking to start the year on a high and seeing what I can do out there.
"First of all it is get to the race and focus on getting the job done there. It is definitely on the back of my mind and has been for quite some time now," he said of the Tour Down Under. "Given that there is quite a few riders preselected and quite a few of them are U23 to gain that spot is going to have to be a pretty special ride for another U23 rider. I am definitely hopeful that I can pull something off to earn a ride for the Tour Down Under."
Bowden's path to the road and future directions
The likes of Richie Porte, Nathan Haas, and Paddy Bevin are among ten riders from IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness to have joined the WorldTour while simultaneously helping the team to establish itself as the premier Australian domestic team. At the Olympic Games in the road race, Bowden was teammates with Porte and explained his introduction into professional cycling could hardly have been more welcoming.
"It's pretty unique thing I guess going into the deep end there," he said of the Olympics. "It was pretty cool to be teammates with the likes of Richie, Rohan and Simon and I definitely learned a lot there from that time I spent with them. Hopefully I can springboard from that and move forward from there. 12-months earlier or even less I wouldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be lining up for the road race there."
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in Queensland and Bowden is considering a brief return to the mountain bike for the April event but is otherwise solely focused on the road, content with his fist 'cycling' career.
"I am pretty happy with what I have done and whether I did I didn't make the Olympics I was always going to make the decision to focus on the road more for 2017. Obviously having been able to go there and do that, that is definitely quite satisfying and it easy to focus 100 percent on the road now," he explained.
Post-nationals, IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness have invites to the Herald Sun Tour in Australia, across the Tasman at the NZ Cycling Classic, and then the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. They will then embark on the annual voyage to Asia for several tours, before heading to Europe to complement its Australia National Road Series (NRS) race programme. Yet to have his racing schedule finalised, Bowden is confident either way that he will be exposed to a high level of racing to ensure his gains the requisite experience for his dream of moving into the WorldTour.
"The riders Isowhey are taking to particular upcoming races hasn't been finalised or I haven't been given much of an idea of what the calendar for myself will look like and I should have a bit better idea in the coming weeks. Sun Tour and Langkawi would be two races I would love to do as well as some of the other Asian races early on like Japan which might suit me quite well," he added. "Even New Zealand Cycle Classic but it is hard to say and being part of and having so many strong riders on the team, you have to be going well to just get a start for the races. I think that is a healthy environment."
With a long off-season that has Bowden feeling mentally fresh, he is "ready to rip" into what his biggest, and arguably, most important season to date.
"At 21 there is still plenty of time to keep learning but I want to learn quick and with it being my last year as a U23 I want to make it the most of it. As does everyone I guess, wanting to progress quickly but I will be doing all I can to try and make sure that happens," said Bowden who is dreaming of mixing it up in "hilly European classics, one-week tours and the ultimate goal to be competing in a grand tour for sure."