Bora-Hansgrohe have added ski mountaineer Anton Palzer to their 2021 roster, describing the German as a “lateral recruit.”
Team manager Ralph Denk hopes the 27-year-old could emulate former ski jumper Primož Roglič and former runner Michael Woods by making a late but successful transition to professional cycling.
Palzer will complete the current ski mountaineering season before linking up with Bora-Hansgrohe in April. Ski mountaineering is an endurance discipline that sees racers climb and descend mountains using backcountry skiing equipment.
“It may look like a daring venture and a certain risk is definitely involved, but we have been following Toni for quite a long time and are convinced of his physical abilities,” Denk said in a statement released by the team.
“You can see from examples like Roglič or Woods that such an experiment can be successful, and we have always said that we would scout within different sports. I don’t mean to say that Toni will be competing for the Tour victory within two years. However, we see a lot of potential in him, particularly in the high mountains.”
Palzer spent time with Bora-Hansgrohe during a training camp in the Austrian Alps last summer, where his ability caught the eye of team management.
“Our interest was then piqued and we noticed that Toni was looking for a new challenge. He ultimately convinced us with his enthusiasm and professionalism,” said Denk, who envisaged fielding Palzer in “difficult one-day races and mountainous week-long races” in his first season.
Palzer has been working with Bora-Hansgrohe coach Helmut Dollinger since April. Their collaboration was initially focused on preparing for the World Ski Mountaineering Championships, but Dollinger noted that “some of his performance values, such as his VO2max, are exceptional,” which prompted them to explore the idea of turning to cycling.
“In summer, he trains a lot on the bike anyway, so we examined his data in detail,” said Dollinger. “However, the decisive factor for this change was that Toni was certain that he wanted to try it. The potential is there, but data isn’t everything. You still need to show your horsepower on the road.”
A native of Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, Palzer admitted that he had previously thought of life as a cyclist but that it had “seemed unattainable and miles away from my realm of possibilities” until his contact with Bora-Hansgrohe this year. He described himself as a climber and acknowledged that his transition to professional cyclist will not be straightforward.
“The challenges for me personally are, on the one hand, embarking on the development from individual sportsman to team player, and also a certain change of rhythm: Up until now I was primarily a winter sportsman, and now the focus is on summer,” said Palzer.
“From a sporting point of view, I will have to slowly grow into cycling and develop a certain racing intelligence. In the first year I will also have to cope with the challenge of a double season (winter and summer). My strengths certainly lie in the high mountains - but since the paths into the mountains are often flat and windy, I certainly have a lot to learn there!”
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