PEZ: Firstly Reidar could you tell us a little about your background, how did you get into cycling?
Reidar: I was a decent longtrack ice speedskater for many years, a sport with long traditions in Norway. I have won 3 national titles and a 12th place was my best rank in a World Championship. My career had ups and downs, and an ankle injury made it difficult to perform at the highest level. I was close to qualifying to the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010, but decided to quit after that season.
But before I gave up my sporting career (at age 30), I wanted to see what I could do in cycling, a sport I had done a lot in training. And that season I won silver in the National TT Championship after Boasson Hagen, and I was signed by continental team Joker Merida.
PEZ: Going from speed skating at the highest level to a pro team in cycling in just a short period of time is a pretty amazing effort. What were the biggest challenges that you faced in that time?
Reidar: Road racing for sure, as time trialing is based on the same principles as speedskating (all alone, pacing your effort over a given distance). The length was a challenge, 10km is the longest speedskating distance, so before this season I struggled to keep up in 160-200km races. But I think most of all the tactics of a road race, knowing how and when to save energy, and not the least knowing how to get around in a bunch of 150-200 madmen on two wheels. Cyclists are just as friendly as speedskaters when not competing, but there is a war going on when we are racing.
PEZ: Had you ever raced your bike before you ended your speed skating career or was it just something you did for training?
Reidar: Yes I did some racing as a junior, and I have done some sportive competitions as a part of my training. I always wanted to do more racing but it was difficult to fit into my training schedule.
PEZ: You’ve been with your current team Joker-Merida since 2011, a team that has developed stars such as Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and Lars Nordhaug. How has the programme been this year? What have been your favorite races?
Reidar: This year has been the first season that I really focused on road races, and it has been a very exciting year. I have really enjoyed stage races in France like Tour de Normandie, Loir et Cher, Ronde de l’Oise and Tour Alsace, a new experience for me and a big change from my former speedskating career. If I was to pick one race it has to be Tour de Normandie, which was the first race where I saw that I could keep up with the best riders in the Europe Tour. It was a big moment when my sportsdirector Gino came up to me, telling me I was a cyclist, no longer a speedskater or just a time trialer.
Some parts of bike racing have been easier to handle for Reidar than others. Getting kisses from the podium girls hasn’t been too difficult….
PEZ: Looking at your palmares it seems to me that your strengths lie in time trialling with your superb victory this year beating the World Tour riders at the Norway National Championships to win the National jersey. That must be the highlight of your career so far?
Reidar: Of course, it was a huge moment to win the national title ahead of Boasson Hagen and Nordhaug, an achievement I hardly dared dreaming of. And I rank it higher than any other achievement I have done. But still, thinking back at my season, I am almost just as proud of being able to make a huge step in the right direction in road races. I see it as the season I went from being a time trialer to being a cyclist.
A huge moment for Reidar, standing on the podium at the National Championships after just beating two WorldTour stars for the win.
PEZ: Following on from your National title you had a ride in the recent World Championships in the Netherlands but that didn’t quite go to plan. What happened?
Reidar: With about 10km to go it started raining, pretty heavy. I knew it would be slippery, but I still miscalculated the last roundabout before Valkenburg (with about 4km to go). I entered the roundabout too fast, and my front wheel slipped. I like to blame the tailwind for going faster than I thought.
Reidar using his brute time trialling power at the World Championships just before disaster struck….
PEZ: At 32 years old, most of your team are about 10 years or more younger than you and yet you only have a couple of years experience in the professional ranks. Do you have ambitions to try and move up divisions in the coming years?
Reidar: I like to think that anything is possible, and I have already come way farther than I thought was possible. So why not? But to be realistic, I know it is difficult. All I can do is focus on developing myself as a cyclist, doing what I can to help my team, and win races. And I love my team and my teammates, so I would not be disappointed if I end my career in Joker Merida. But I would like to win more races first!
On his way to a superb win at the National Championships.
PEZ: With the success of Thor Hushovd and Boasson Hagen in recent years has cycling seen a jump in popularity in Norway?
Reidar: Yes, a major jump, which I think started with the rising careers of Kurt Asle Arvesen and Thor Hushovd, and the way the TV channel TV2 has followed those careers. No one followed the Tour de France 10 years ago, and no one knew what cycling really was about. Today everyone is watching and there is a lot more knowledge about the sport. And lots are travelling abroad seeing races live. We have lots of talents at the moment (gold and silver at the junior world championships), and I think we should thank Hushovd, Arvesen and Boasson Hagen for showing us that Norwegians can win bike races.
PEZ: If you could add just one more victory to your palmares, which race would it be?
Reidar: My goal for next season is to win races, as I have yet to win a mass start race. But if I was to pick one race at the moment, I would say Tour de Normandie. Because it is a nice, hard race, and because it was my breakthrough race as a cyclist.
PEZ: Along with yourself, who should PEZ fans look out for when they see Joker-Merida at the races? Are there any more up and coming Boasson Hagen’s in the team?
Reidar: It’s almost impossible to walk in the footsteps of Boasson Hagen, but we have some huge talents. We just signed the junior TT world champion Oscar Svendsen. I would also look out for Kristoffer Skjerping and Vegard Robinson Bugge, they don’t feel pain when close to the finish line, or the “oldie” Stian Remme in hilly races.
Reidar time trialling in his new National Champion’s jersey. Look out for this man in 2013!
PEZ: What’s your training programme like over the tough Norwegian winter? I know that I struggle to get outside when the temperature dips below 10°celsius in the winter, how do you do it?
Reidar: When you live in Norway I think you need to do some alternative training, temperatures below zero is not optimal for cycling. I think my speedskating background is an advantage there, I can do different types of training like speedskating and cross country skiing to develop strength and endurance. The high intensity work is done on the rollers inside, but I ride my CX bike outside to about 10-15 below. When dry and sunny, 10 below is actually great weather to ride in!