Throwback Thursday: 5 Riders Who Have Crossed Between Road & Mountain Bike Racing

May 13, 2021 at 12:45
by Alicia Leggett  
Tom Pidcock clawed back 90-something positions and by the second lap was sitting in sixth. He d finish the day one better and on the podium.
Tom Pidcock's assault on the World Cup races has us talking about which racers have successfully competed in multiple cycling disciplines.

Tom Pidcock is the talk of the town these days, and for good reason: The young road racer has taken the cross country races by storm, putting down incredible race results so far this season.

But Pidcock is far from the only crossover rider, and there are many racers who defy easy categorization. Here are some others who have crossed from road racing to mountain biking or vice versa, with varying degrees of success.



Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan has roots in mountain biking - he was junior cross country world champion in 2008, after all - but when he lined up for the Rio 2016 Olympics, he hadn't raced any high-level dirt races in seven years. The reigning road world champion was awarded a wildcard spot to represent Slovakia, and although he started from the very back of the pack, he had a real shot at the podium. Unfortunately for him, the race was a roller coaster. He battled his way up into the five-rider lead group, then lost his position at the end of the first lap when he punctured. His fate was sealed when he punctured again on the fifth lap and was eventually pulled from the race, settling for an official 35th of 44 finishers. He has said he does not intend to try to race cross country in the 2021 Olympics.

It s not just about power. Road cycling World Champion Peter Sagan had to deal with technical issues. He snapped a chain when train the start had a flat tire at course check in the morning and two more flats in the race finished 35th. It would be very interesting to see how he could do without theese
Whether you believe flat tires happen because of bad luck or faulty technique, as some prominent pro riders said at the time, Sagan's Olympic mountain biking endeavor was an intriguing glimpse at something that almost was.

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos had several junior mountain bike national championship titles to her name by the time she went pro on the road. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, she gave elite mountain bike racing some serious effort, even considering trying to race cross country in the 2016 Olympics, but she struggled with the technicality of some of the courses. Still, her mountain bike campaign was relatively successful: she beat out some of the top mountain bike racers to collect both short track and cross country wins at Sea Otter, as well as riding two impressive World Cup races, finishing 11th and 23rd in Albstadt and Leogang, respectively. Still, despite her success and obvious ability, she decided that mountain bike racing is not for her, partly because she doesn't have the technical ability that she feels she needs, and partly because she enjoys the tactics and team dynamics in road racing.


Mathieu van der Poel

Cyclocross and road star Mathieu van der Poel has shown that he can be dominant across several disciplines at once, and he is increasingly focusing on mountain biking. After dabbling in cross country racing in previous years, van der Poel turned the jets on in 2017 and earned a second place behind Nino Schurter in Albstadt. He solidified his position on the podium in 2018, then started taking consistent wins in 2019. After a hiatus in 2020, he's back for 2021, with his sights set on the Olympics.

The first statement of the 2021 season goes to Mathieu Van Der Poel.

Cadel Evans

Cadel Evans started his international racing career on a mountain bike before shifting to road racing and becoming one of Australia's most notable bike racers of all time. Evans won a series of World Cup races and stood on two U23 world championship podiums. In the early 2000s, he officially switched to road racing and signed with a pro team, eventually winning the Tour de France in 2011 and not returning to mountain bike competition until 2017, when he took on the Cape Epic stage race with former teammate George Hincapie.


And for a true throwback film, here's Chainsmoke, a 1996 film that features several of the mountain biking legends alongside the future road champion.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

Given her long list of mountain biking achievements, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is a name we all know well, but her impressive performances on the dirt sometimes overshadow the fact that she excels not only on the trails but on the road as well. At age 23, she became the first person ever to simultaneously hold the road, cyclocross, and cross country mountain bike world championship titles. She also placed 9th in the London 2012 Olympic road race at age 20 as the youngest competitor in the women's field. This season, she's focusing on mountain biking in preparation for the Olympics, but her dominance over the last decade has shown that she could likely return to the top of the road racing scene if she chose to.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot taking the first XCC of the season. Sunday however is the real test.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot won the Albstadt World Cup short track race. She seems prepared for an excellent season.



This list is obviously not exhaustive, and there are plenty of notable multi-discipline riders out there, particularly cyclocross crossover racers (Simon Andreassen and Jolanda Neff come to mind). Which other crossover riders should we be talking about?


113 Comments

  • 138 1
 How about the the original: John Tomac? He even did drop bar mountain bike racing!
  • 38 19
 or in modern terms; gravel biking
  • 19 5
 @owenbfoster: oh what you don't know
  • 12 0
 100% upvote. Tomac stormed!
  • 6 2
 @Molesdigmyjumps: I dunno, he's pretty spot on with that comment! Gravel biking is nothing 'new', any drop bar bike from the 80's has a very sim form factor to modern day gravel bikes.
  • 29 0
 Crap. Who is the author? Tomac. Tomac. Tomac. Geez. Tomac for crying out loud. Won road. Won XC. Won DH.
  • 9 1
 And even winning Supercross nowadays, unbelievable!!!
  • 6 3
 What about Lance? I remember watching him race Mount Snow back in the day.
  • 10 0
 Ned Overend also started as a roadie likely because MTB racing barely existed when he started.
  • 1 3
 @tbubier: Basically most every dime of sponsorship and event revenue at a mountain bike race was from the Lance effect.
  • 2 0
 Used to love to watch Tomac at the Mt. Snow World Cups in the 90’s, racing both XC and DH, podiums on both, usually.
  • 1 0
 I also loved it when Lance showed up at Mt. Snow one year after winning the Tour. He got 4th. Yeah, boyee! Mountain biking is actually kinda hard.
  • 4 0
 My first year of racing (road) in 1988 I flipped on the TV one afternoon and caught the USCF Nationals criterium. It came down to a four man break and this mtb guy, John Tomac, won the sprint. The guy is such a badass!
  • 2 0
 IIRC Tomac just rode drops for a while so his riding position was close to his road bike when he was riding both disciplines. He just happened to be so skilled that he still kicked ass on his Yeti (pre-Dentist). I want to disagree with Owen, but to be fair Squamish gravel biking is a whole lot different to most other places ha ha....
  • 2 0
 @tbubier: @Dirt4Breakfast I was there, it was cool. We didn't know all the crap ahead for Lance.
  • 2 0
 @Dirt4Breakfast: ...don't forget the HC (Hill-Climb)! J.T was the only one who could get the hat-trick!
  • 4 0
 Ned Overend
  • 3 0
 And don't forget that Tomac originally switched over to MTB from BMX!
  • 1 0
 @Molesdigmyjumps: you owe what I don't know
  • 40 0
 Jakob Fuglsang Ryder Hesjedal Floyd Landis Tom Danielson Micheal Rassmussen John Tomac
  • 13 0
 Egan Bernal
  • 4 0
 Now that's a throwback! The above content should have been been posted two days ago as "Today's Tuesday".
  • 16 0
 Bob Roll!
  • 12 0
 Miguel Martínez?
  • 5 1
 @PauRexs: That guy wasn't really mountain biker. Sure, he rode mountain bikes and had considerable success, but he lost minutes to Cadel Evans, who was a hell of a good technical rider, on the descents of more technical old-school courses, like Canmore. Martínez was also known for using XTR cantilevers - not even V-brakes - for many years after superior brakes came along and for replacing the internals of his suspension fork with a rigid aluminum shaft.

Martínez is a good example of the kind of rider who could be successful in the old days, but probably wouldn't be a viable candidate to win modern races.
  • 5 0
 @R-M-R: uh Matinez was pretty damn competitive up to 2016 in World Cup and National races at age 40. Plenty of technical skill in that guy. Also he was world champ, World Cup Overall winner, etc. You don't get there in any age of mountain biking without skills.
  • 3 0
 @R-M-R: I guess you are not completely right, mig 17 was known to be an all rounder by the time standards, he was a hell of a climber right, but also a wildcat in technichal sections. On the other hand Cadel Evans was one point below martinez on mtb.
In the end histoy was written with the aussy getting a TDF, and the frenchie never really making it to success on the 28 wheels.
  • 1 0
 @vaqui: I attended multiple World Cups with both racers and observed their riding for myself. I stand by my assertion that Martinez had below-average technical skills among the top riders. His climbing was exceptional, though. Sometimes the time gained on climbs was more than the time lost on descents; sometimes it wasn't.
  • 1 0
 @PauRexs: yes!
He was a little badass
  • 1 1
 Frishy
  • 1 0
 My whole childhood in one comment!
  • 2 0
 Ondre Cink gave the road a go Lance gave MTB a go, watched him race Mt. Snow one year
  • 1 0
 @R-M-R: He won the gold at Sydney olympics
  • 1 0
 @Baseball67: Yes, he did. It wasn't the most technical course, so it suited a rider whose strength was power to weight ratio, and whose weakness - relative to some of his top competitors - was bike handling.

The points I'm trying to make:

1. This article implies the recent, high-profile riders who have crossed over from road to dirt may not have as strong technical skills as riders who compete mostly on dirt. I disagree. In particular, Evans, Pidcock, Sagan, and van der Poel are among the best bike-handlers among the men's WC XC field, despite having achieved greatest notoriety on the road.

2. Sub-average technical skills were less of a detriment in the old days than now. Many courses from decades past were less technical than modern courses, while most modern courses are technical enough that riders of sub-average skill will lose a problematic amount of time every lap. A high degree of technical skill has always been an advantage, but now it's absolutely required on most courses for a rider to win.
  • 34 0
 Have to include Lightning McQueen. He raced both dirt and pavement. That's some real speed there, I don't care who you are.
  • 3 0
 I taught my boys the concept of counter steering the same way Doc taught Lightning McQueen.
  • 28 0
 These aren't "road riders" who have crossed over to mountain biking, they're riders who have chosen to mostly make a career of road riding, but probably still ride more dirt than amateurs who ride only dirt. It's common for recreational riders to ride both pavement and dirt, so why should it be a surprise that people who ride ten times as much also ride both surfaces?

Evans, Sagan, van der Poel, and Pidcock - to name a few - have all been featured in mountain biking videos looking as skilled and stylish as "true" mountain bikers ... because they are true mountain bikers, they just got paid more when riding pavement.
  • 4 6
 Not true. Bob Roll comes to mind as a full time road pro first, mountain biker second.

That’s less common these days just because most promising young riders cross disciplines-not many road, MTB, or any other one-discipline riders out there to “cross over” later.

I was no pro, but I raced road, track and XC when I was younger.
  • 13 0
 @wyorider: Obviously there's a whole spectrum. There will always be a few road pros who dabble in dirt and a few dirt pros who awkwardly try to fit into a peleton. My point is the tone of this article is completely off the mark, implying some high-profile cross-over athletes lack dirt skills. Quotes like "Whether you believe flat tires happen because of bad luck or faulty technique, Sagan's Olympic mountain biking endeavor ..." are embarrassingly uninformed. Sagan is more skilled on a mountain bike than some dirt-only pros. Same with most of the others in this list. van der Poel's times on the descents at Albstadt were faster than Nino's and right up there with Flückiger, who are widely regarded as the two fastest. Pidcock didn't lose any time on the descents. These "road" riders area actually some of the best mountain bikers in the front pack of a mountain bike World Cup.

There certainly was a time when almost any mid-pack road pro could opt to be near the top of the mountain bike scene. Courses were less technical and there would always be some squid holding up a line of traffic on the descents, so it was all about the climbs. Those days are long past.
  • 4 0
 @R-M-R: Sagan showed up at a local race here when he was training for the Olympics, one friend who saw him ride said he had no idea anyone could corner that fast.
  • 8 0
 @panchosdad: The man can ride. One of the most impressive things I've ever seen on a bike was done by Sagan: On the attack in a rainy spring classic (Flanders? P-R? Don't recall), this madman goes into a foot-up two-wheel drift, then uses a curb as a catch-berm. Appeared to have been fully intentional.

Fabio Wibmer may have done it in To The Limit, but Wibmer had a foot out and wasn't on 1" wide tires, essentially naked, in the middle of a 200+ km race! We could argue which was more impressive, but we would still be comparing Sagan to Wibmer, which suggests Sagan isn't just some semi-skilled rider who's having a go at mountain biking.
  • 2 0
 @R-M-R: He’s doing some drifting in this MTB-video also: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwTy3N5T9uw
  • 1 0
 @R-M-R: Sagan is capable of some remarkable things on a bike. When I think of his technical skills shining during a race I always think of him bunny hopping over a fallen Fabian Cancellara on the cobbles during Paris Roubaix.

There are plenty of Sagan videos showing his skills too. From no handed wheelies to jumping on to a car to hopping up stairs. He’s a wizard.
  • 19 0
 PFP is by far the most impressive of all of them. She held 3 World Championship titles at the SAME time.
  • 14 1
 Bob Roll?

Or how about Julie Furtado? She was outstanding across disciplines.

Actually, there’s a long list of successful (and less successful) crossover racers. If you’re fit enough to do well in DH, you’ll be a decent XC or Enduro rider. If you’re a solid XC enduro racer, you’ll likely do well on the road or racing cross. The whole “us vs them” mentality in cycling is perpetuated by wankers who aren’t particularly good in ANY discipline of cycling to soothe their sorry little egos.
  • 3 0
 Julianna Furtado switched from Alpine DH skiing after multiple knee surgeries.
  • 3 0
 @deeeight: Furtado rehabbed her knee on the road and won the Collegiate Road Nationals before switching to the dirt.
  • 6 0
 Julie Furtado is an absolute legend.
  • 3 0
 Julie would be on the top of my list. I remember her biking between Boulder and Laramie just for a ski team party. (in April)
  • 1 0
 @1000paces: 1989 - US National Road Champ - first year in comp. Goes MTB - wins 1990 MTB Champ
  • 1 0
 @tbubier: I agree. I have a signed poster in my MC of JF "caffeinated". I use to see her a lot in Santa Cruz when I hung out with the vampires at Caffe Pergolesi in the 90's
  • 13 0
 Who could forget Egan Bernal?

The same year Ratboy got his silver at the Worlds, Egan got the silver at Junior XC Worlds. Went on to win the TDF in 2019.
  • 1 0
 @Molesdigmyjumps:

Me too. Google didn't.
  • 9 0
 I will add Allison Sydor as a name who should have been listed... 1991 World Road Racing championships bronze, Silver in CC at 1996 Olympics, three consecutive world champion XC titles (94-96), five second place world championship XC podiums, three 3rd places. Team XC Relay world champion in 2002 (there was a short lived team XC title in the late 90s / early 2000s trying to emulate team road racing categories).
  • 1 0
 I was going to add Allison here as well. So totally dominant that she should be remembered as Canada's best ever MTB racer. But started on the road.
  • 12 0
 Ryder Hesjedal
  • 7 0
 and Roland Green, must bother Vancouver Islanders that could be added.
  • 2 0
 @kraf: Green was a beast back in the day
  • 2 0
 @james182: also quite rocket filled I believe! As was Hesjedal.
  • 1 0
 @cowsincars: I raced against them both prior to Roland's big breakout in 96-97 and they were fast then, even as a young teenager Ryder was destroying the men's fields, later on? I can't speak for that but they were both next level even prior to being pro.
  • 8 0
 You omitted Jean-Christophe Péraud who crossed over and got 2nd in the Tour. If memory serves he was the first frenchman to podium in many years.
  • 1 0
 As well as Olympic medalist at Athens.
  • 6 0
 Although obviously the 90's heroes, John Tomac, Ruthie Mathies, Thomas Frischknecht , Alyson Sydor, Tim Gould, David Baker, Rishi Grewal etc who did make the swap from road or cx but given that the sport was so new it's not quite the same thing as the list above. The fact that they were good at/doing other disciplines before MTB was hardly surprising.

Then there is also, Jerome Chiotti, Micheal Rasmussen, Miguel Martinez, Ryder Hesjedal, Roland Green, Lance Armstrong etc that we might want to forget as they don't represent a great period of the sport!

The article is missing names but possibly rightly so.
  • 1 0
 Possibly rightly nothing. The article should be “as far as I know, which is about the past decade.” It was written by a kid.
  • 2 0
 @b1k35c13nt15t: But as I said the 90's riders where mainly from other disciplines anyway so somewhat moot. And do we really want to give time to the guys and girls who cut short the careers of the 90's hero? Or took away/made more difficult the careers of honest riders? Be the riders left out due to poor research (could be old or young) or due to design is fine with me.
  • 8 1
 Are we allowed to talk about this guy?

stevetilford.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/armstrong99mtn2.jpg

My father and I went and watched that race.
  • 1 0
 Yes Tilford! The first USA mountain bike national champion.
  • 3 0
 As long as it was someone else’s water bottle…
  • 7 0
 Seriously PinkBike?! Tomac is a no-brainer as he is the best Mountain bike racing GOAT. ‍♂️
  • 8 1
 John Tomac if we want to throw a really long way back.
  • 1 1
 Not that far is it really? By other sports standards
  • 8 0
 Alison Sydor is another.
  • 2 0
 Definitely worth a mention. I remember watching her on TV in the Sydney Olympics. One of Canada's best ever.
  • 4 0
 VDP is so fortunate to have such awesome support Tomac & Cadel were forced to choose one way or another. VDP sponsors are getting great publicity & he is having a great time. Kudos to Ineos as well.
Great times.
  • 7 1
 Rishi Greywal goes from MTB racing on to win an Olympic gold medal. Pink Bike historians are clueless.
  • 3 0
 It was Alexi (Rishi's brother) who medaled in the Olympics!
  • 6 0
 Come on, Tomac is the preeminent example
  • 3 0
 Why is he missing here??!!!!
  • 5 0
 @noplacelikeloam: Total slacker of an article with little knowledge of bike history.
  • 3 0
 The lack of photos showing the athlete on road and mtb side by side is a missed opportunity and indicates this article is half baked.
  • 5 0
 Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey (The senior slayer), and many of the Marin County Klunkers were all top riders on the road.
  • 4 1
 Surprised not see Miguel Martinez on this list. Dominant XC racer, cyclocross winner. Switched to road at the height of the doping era. Decided he wasn't willing to cross that line.
  • 1 0
 PFHHHHT!!!
  • 2 0
 Said it too
  • 2 0
 Jean Christophe Peraud did too most recently and with more success than Miguel on the road (time trial national title, podium on TDF...)
  • 1 0
 ... 'did it'...
  • 1 0
 @PauRexs: because he was a doper or not on the list?
  • 6 1
 I expected more out of this article Wink

Thank goodness the interesting content in the comments saved it
  • 5 0
 Nothing beats Pauline Ferrand-Prevot winning World champs in all 3 disciplines. Unreal achievement
  • 2 0
 Here's the next question - Has any mountain biker ever had a more impressive step-up to road racing than Annika Langvad in 2019?

I know she had some TT results and did smaller road races in years prior, but those might as well be local 10s from a tactical standpoint. Then in 2018, Denmark used her climbing legs to help as a domestique at a climb-heavy Worlds (which she did very well) after which Boels Dolmans dropped her straight into the Women's World Tour Spring Classics, where she had top fives in three of the hardest damned races, both physically and tactically, in the world. (2nd at Strade, 3rd at Fleche and 4th at Amstel, which is surely the hardest race for peloton newbies)

Hesjedal and Green got similar chances to go straight to the front with USPS, but didn't make that type of impact. Cadel obviously reached the pinnacle of road cycling, but took a long road there (awesome, but long). To me, the only thing close (albeit the opposite direction) would have been Sagan getting a top five in Rio, but the air in his tires decided to go elsewhere.

So, did anyone make the immediate impact at the top that Langvad made?
  • 5 0
 Jakob Fuglsang U23 world champion beating Nino Schurter in 2007
  • 5 0
 Floyd Landis is a name that shall not be mentioned...
  • 3 0
 His 100mg full spectrum CBD gel caps are pretty good - no joke.

floydsofleadville.com
  • 9 1
 He's more mentionable than the other guy.
  • 1 0
 @Lemmyschild: Accurate. Landis also raced a few Shenandoah Mountain 100s with mixed success.
  • 1 2
 @Lemmyschild: are you referring to my buddy Lance?
  • 2 0
 @grizwald: Noooooooooooooooo.
  • 1 0
 Gerhard Zadrobilek. Austrian road racer, raced cross country for GT in 1994. He put slicks and aero bars on his GT Zaskar, competed in a (regional) road race, and ended up on the podium IIRC.

Does crossing over from cyclocross count? Thomas Frischknecht...
  • 1 0
 I seem to remember it was fairly common practise for road pro’s to pick mtb after their road career peaked.

Also....Adrian Timmis. Superb road and Cross rider who dominated xc when he switched.
  • 4 0
 Annika Langvad had a very respectable stint with Boels-Dolmans.
  • 3 0
 Vincenzo Nibali. He raced MTB in junior years, if my memory is not faulty
  • 2 0
 What about king of the cobbles?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NMyaXG17Wg
  • 3 0
 Ryder Hesjedal is mtb racer in gary fisher and 2012 Giro d italia winner.
  • 1 1
 I mean, for a Canadian site to not mention Ryder Hesjedal seems fishy...kind of like his mysteriously spinning wheels and years of doping allegations.
  • 2 0
 A Tomac retrospective is in order. Ned Overend was a total O.G. also.
  • 1 0
 Let's not forget Miguel Martinez and Jean Christophe Peraud
  • 1 0
 I've got a road bike and a mountain bike, if that helps...
  • 1 0
 correct myself, xc.. not road..
  • 2 0
 Steve Larsen.
  • 1 0
 Wasn't Egan Bernal a Jr. National Mtb Champion before going rogue ?
  • 1 0
 How is Ryder hesjdal not on this list?
  • 1 0
 Diego Rosa!

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