Bill Demong, winner of the first gold medal in Nordic combined for the USA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is no stranger to elite-level cycling and was a popular figure at the Tour of the Battenkill.
While the 30-year-old didn't partake in Sunday's UCI-sanctioned Tour of the Battenkill, Demong did take in the complete 100km circuit on Saturday as part of the Ride 2 Recovery Cyclefest, an event to benefit the non-profit organization which assists in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured armed forces veterans through indoor spinning and outdoor cycling.
The affable Demong had just returned from a whirlwind trip to visit American troops in the Middle East with his nordic combined teammates and was eager to suit up on Saturday for his first day on the bike in 2010.
"The Ride 2 Recovery was something I planned on doing with Dieter [Drake]," Demong told Cyclingnews. "Having gone to Iraq over the last week and a half, visiting wounded warriors over there and becoming a little more up to speed on some of the programs the armed forces is doing with their vets, it dovetailed really nicely and I was able to connect with those guys a lot better.
"I started riding and worked my way up from the very last guy on a mountain bike right up to the front, saying hi and getting their stories along the way. It's really cool to hear all that and what brought them here on Saturday."
While Demong is a Cat. 1 cyclist, the lap of the Tour of the Battenkill circuit, conducted in rain and chilly conditions, was a shock to the system. "Obviously, getting back on the bike for the first time in eight months was rough. I had 40 good miles in my legs then ended up getting housed by a couple of high school kids," laughed Demong.
"It's my big reminder that you are what you train," he added. "That's my incentive to get back on the bike as much as possible and get ready for racing. I think Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will be my first race this year, and then I'm going to do Cascade Classic and Tour of Utah.
Demong, who famously hitched a ride to the finish line of a 2008 Cascade Classic stage on Chris Horner's bike, has spent his recent summers competing for Utah's Cole Sport Racing team. He has become a strong proponent of using cycling as an off-season activity for Nordic combined skiing.
"For my situation it's a great team that's supported me really well over the last couple of years," said Demong. "It's a perfect situation for the amount of time I can dedicate to racing this summer.
"The whole [Nordic combined] team has started using cycling as off-season training, especially since I started racing four years ago. We've all started to ride more and run less. It's helped us to maximise our time training because we recover so much better," said the four-time Nordic combined Olympian.
"Other national teams think we're crazy, and I hope they continue to think that we're crazy because for us it's worked out really well. We cut out a lot of the 'we do this because it's what nordic combined skiers always do'. We spend our time more wisely and hit these peaks for world championships and Olympics far better than other teams."
Demong had originally planned on starting his cycling season at the Tour of the Gila, but the abundance of post-Olympic events following his gold and silver medal winning performance in Vancouver has delayed his training. Before getting back on his bike in a week's time to begin his cycling training program, he's taking a brief respite from the post-Olympic spotlight.
"I'm looking forward to having a week to myself. You do the Olympics like it's any other race, but then you get the medal and you start to remember all the Olympic moments in your life and realise the implications of that accomplishment.
"I just hope that as the years go by it's something that I'm able to carry with pride and make something out of for my sport."