With Hamish Bond's selection as an international cyclist, Andrew Alderson looks at the difficulty he faces in transitioning from rowing to elite riding.

Hamish Bond took liberties when he was selected as a time-triallist for New Zealand at the world road cycling championships in Norway.

The double Olympic rowing gold medallist reached for the fridge, gouged at the wrapper encompassing his 85 per cent cocoa chocolate stash, and hesitated. He thought of the 3.4km climb at the end of his 31km journey into the unknown on September 20 and calculated how much a moment's gluttony might affect his power-to-weight ratio.

Satisfied with his answer, he doubled his daily intake by wolfing two squares.


Bond embraces the monastic lifestyle that comes with pursuing a time trial Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

To give context, 81 athletes have secured medals in separate Olympic sports, with 14 coming post-World War II and four this century.

Of the latter four, one came in a transition between two summer sports.

Britain's Rebecca Romero went from a silver in rowing's quadruple sculls at Athens to a gold in cycling's individual pursuit at Beijing.

Such sporting anomalies provide the perfect appetite for a man who, with Eric Murray, remained unbeaten in rowing's pair for 69 races at 24 international regattas across eight seasons.

Bond's ready for scrutiny on the pedals. He leaves for England in the first week of September and crosses to Bergen, the championships' host city, a week before the event.

"I find the time trial suits me physically and mentally. It's honest," Bond says. "A lot of cyclists don't like time trials. It's hard, there's nowhere to hide, you're good enough or you're not. That attracts me to the event because it makes it more controllable, like a rowing race.

"If I can train specifically for that, rather than racing in a team, maybe I can turn it to my advantage. The time trial allows me to peak at one point in the year and will be decided by two main factors: how hard can I pedal and how slippery can I be through the air?"

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were unbeatable as a pair. Photo / Photosport
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were unbeatable as a pair. Photo / Photosport

Bond spent part of the New Zealand winter in Europe, gleaning all he could about his new trade and doing reconnaissance on the world championship course. Before that, he was based in Wellington with wife Lizzie as she completes her surgical training as a doctor. Part of his routine was pedaling to his "personal" time trial track beyond Wainuiomata.

"Not many people, maybe only my wife, know the all-encompassing single-minded approach to what I'm trying to do. She's borne the brunt of me taking my work home with me. Competing at the world championships is what I'm after. It's slightly daunting that my first UCI time trial is the world champs, but I'm used to competing on big stages."

Bond will race the time trial with fellow Kiwi George Bennett. In a touch of serendipity, Bennett was one of the few Bond consulted before "going down the rabbit hole" and dedicating himself to the sport. Bond also cheered Bennett on from the roadside in the Pyrenees during July's Tour de France.

"He was encouraging when I told him about my plans at the Rio Olympics, and I expect he'll be encouraging now. Hopefully working together can be mutually beneficial.

"The consensus would be that the climb won't suit me as much as George, who's about 20kg lighter. I'll just have to put out more power to be as fast as him."

One school of thought is that riders might swap bikes, opting for a road rather than time trial model when they hit the ascent.

"The organising committee are making provisions for that, but I'm relatively comfortable climbing on my time trial bike," Bond says.

Before Joseph Sullivan won the America's Cup as a "cyclor", he earned Olympic rowing gold in the double sculls and fought fires for a living, he rode regularly with Bond. He says the public should be under no illusion about his former teammate's capabilities.

"I've known him more or less since I started rowing. Anything he aspires to, he tends to achieve. His attention to detail is amazing. If people are doubting him, I think they're going to get a surprise. I was watching his tour of the UK on Instagram and Facebook. The speed he was gaining and the knowledge he was getting was brilliant.

"Back when we cycled together [pre-London 2012] it was a case of 'hang on to the back of Bondy' to get into his draft. Hamish made no secret of his passion for cycling, even when he rowed. I imagine it was an easy transition."

Hamish Bond climbing Coronet Peak near Queenstown. Photo / Steve McArthur
Hamish Bond climbing Coronet Peak near Queenstown. Photo / Steve McArthur

Sullivan says becoming a professional athlete in more than one sport poses more of a mental than physical barrier. He made his switch to sailing in 2015. He was invited to trial as a grinder then, about a year in, joined the clandestine testing programme to compare grinding with cycling for hydraulic effectiveness.

"It was a pivotal moment as we made that crossover, given a lot of the boys had come from professional grinding backgrounds and hadn't done much work on their legs. I was lucky because, as rowers, we did a lot of cycling as cross-training. It was impressive to see the gains they made in a short space of time and, by the end, some were pumping numbers to match professional cyclists."

Another Olympic gold medallist whose eyebrows raised when he first spied Bond on a bike was Rob Waddell.

New Zealand's Olympic chef de mission is no stranger to sporting transitions, having twice morphed from rower to America's Cup grinder, as well as enjoying a dalliance with provincial rugby.

"I remember years ago in the Round Taupo race that Hamish jumped on a bike and damn near won the thing. He lost the end sprint by a tiny margin."

Waddell says his fresh challenges were driven by passion.

"I came from a limited sailing background, and was probably brought into the team as a bit of an apprentice. I did every bit of sailing I could, jumping into any boat, any time, anywhere. That included maxi yachts for the Sydney-Hobart and Fastnet races, through to taking a Finn dinghy to Lake Ngaroto. By coincidence, that was also the first place I had a rowing regatta aged 14. That was a disaster, and my first sailing race there wasn't much better.

"I got a nickname - among many - when I went to Team New Zealand which was 'hero-to-zero'. That was appropriate, given where I was at."

Waddell's self-deprecation can't disguise the fact his single sculls victory at the Sydney Olympics saved New Zealand from missing a first gold medal in 52 years at a Games.

"In sailing, you had to think more about what the opposition might do, whereas rowing was more about tunnel vision, focusing on your boat. You have to go through a period of adaptation, which can take years. You get big gains initially - probably 90 per cent of the way - but the last 10 per cent takes time for the body to adjust its systems.

In his first foray as a grinder, Waddell put on about 20kg, much of which came naturally when he cut back from up to six hours of Arthur Lydiard-type training a day with the oars.

"By stopping the huge miles, you could get muscle growth when combined with dedicated time in the gym. It wasn't so much a change in diet, but you weren't burning it off the same way.

"Grinding was probably a bit like boxing. You had to be fast because the handles spun incredibly quick, but you had to back it up all the time, which required fitness.

"The most important thing I stuck to every day was the Sir Peter Blake mantra: Have I done everything I can to make the boat go faster?"

Bond is applying a similar philosophy as he prepares for next month's adventure. Hopefully he remembers to pack some chocolate.