Roman Holzer is 20 years old and in his second year as an U23 rider. Having mostly competed in MTB races in the past, he will now be riding mainly on the road as part of the Tudor Pro Cycling Development Team.
Roman, what got you into cycling?
I was looking for a hobby and tried out different things. I then tried cycling and it just stuck with me. I loved the appeal of racing and gave it a go.
When did you start cycling?
I was about 14 when I attended mountain bike training once a week with our local club. From there the amount of training built up.
And how did you get into road cycling?
At first, as I said, I raced mountain bikes. I then wanted to improve and started to train in a structured way. I started to ride my road bike more often and that's when I realised that I also liked this type of cycling.
How many races did you do on the road during your time as a mountain bike rider?
In MTB, I mainly rode with the team. During my time on the road, I often raced on my own, but I also had the opportunity to race with the national team from time to time.
Why are you now focusing more on road cycling?
Above all, I had the feeling that I wanted to do something different. Although I still enjoy mountain bike racing, I have come to realize that I also enjoy racing on the road. But I still want to race MTB. I think it helps in general if I combine MTB and road. That way I can learn in both disciplines and develop physically in the best possible way.
Why do you think more young people ride MTB instead of road racing?
I think many people start cycling for fun. And many boys simply enjoy riding in the forest and the dirt more. This could be a reason why you start like this but then eventually do both.
You took part in two races as a stagiaire in the autumn. What were your impressions? Was there anything that surprised you?
The experience was extremely cool. I enjoyed getting to know the team and seeing how everything works. I had only ridden road races in Switzerland before and these two races took place in Italy. I realised that racing in Italy is something else. There are more riders and bigger pelotons. The roads are also a bit worse. It was a super cool experience, and I was grateful that I was able to be there. I also learned a lot. Road races are much longer than MTB races and I didn't know how long I would be able to ride at the "limit". After 3.5 hours, I realised that I was empty. Experiences like that are extremely valuable.
And what impression did you get of the team?
The atmosphere is very relaxed and fun. At first, I was a little worried that everyone would be a bit dogged and extremely focused. But that's not the case at all. We all chat to each other and have fun. It's really cool.
"It's similar but just bigger."
Is this the first time you've been on a road team?
In MTB we were already in a bigger team. However, I’ve not been in a team the size of Tudor before. This is also the first time I've experienced a group of guys training together in the same age bracket.
What is different in terms of support within a road bike team in comparison to a MTB team?
There's a lot more staff here and the structure around it is much bigger. It's similar but just bigger.
What type of rider are you? What would you describe yourself as?
That's still difficult. I hear that question a lot. In my opinion, as a mountain biker, you can do a little bit of everything, but you can't really excel at any one thing. That’s how I feel, as I don't have a clear strength yet. That will probably develop over the next few years. I feel that I can climb well, but I'm also punchy at short intensities. Maybe that's my strength - short climbs - which I'm used to from mountain biking. But I'm curious to see if I can time trial, how I do on longer climbs, and if I can sprint.
What is your favourite thing to do in training?
Shorter, more intensive sessions. As I said, that's something I'm already good at. Efforts of five to ten minutes, shorter climbs that are extremely hard but not too long. That's my favourite thing.
What are your goals and dreams for the future?
One dream is to ride in the Tour de France one day and to be able to live out my passion/dream as a professional. In MTB, the dream is to be on the podium at a world championship.
Are mountain bikers better cyclists on the road than pure road riders?
I would say that a mountain biker who takes to the road is normally technically better. But there are also road riders who are also very good. It's not that the level is better per se, but the level of mountain bikers on the road is generally good.
Why do you feel that is?
The technical factor is a lot greater on the MTB than on the road. You can lose a lot of time on the downhill on an MTB, which can make a big difference in the end. On the road, it's mainly the physicality that makes the difference. That's why biking places much more emphasis on technique training. And I think as a mountain biker it's also a bit in your blood. You're riding on different surfaces; you make more turns in comparison to the road and that probably makes the difference in the end.
What else do you like to do apart from cycling? What hobbies and other interests do you have?
Until the summer I was still doing my apprenticeship and I didn't have time for anything else apart from sport. Sometimes when I have free time, I almost feel a bit lost (laughs). I know how to help myself, but I don't have a specific hobby that I enjoy doing. I like drinking coffee and I'm trying my hand at being a barista, but that’s about it for now.
What kind of apprenticeship did you do?
I completed a commercial apprenticeship for athletes.
How much of a challenge was it to combine this with sport?
I was able to do a sports apprenticeship. A normal apprenticeship would certainly not have been possible, so I was able to work 60% and still have 40% time for sport, but now it's certainly even better without having to work.
What is your favourite region to train in?
I'm a big fan of Central Switzerland, where I also live. It has everything here. But you can also ride over mountain passes. I like that. I think Graubünden is very cool for mountain biking, but not so much on the road. But as I said, Central Switzerland is very good for both.
Do you have a favourite climb to train on?
I like to ride the Glaubenberg during the week. Unfortunately, there's often a lot of traffic there at the weekend. But it's a climb that I enjoy doing.
Are mountain bikers and road riders very different in terms of their personality type and their sporting goals?
They are certainly similar, as they are both athletes and practice a similar sport. But I think there’s a lot of bikers who are more self-centered and less team players. They also exist on the road, but I think you're more likely to find them on mountain bikes. For me, that's exactly what's new. I used to be an individual athlete and only had to look after myself. And now I also have team-mates who I can help or who help me and that's very exciting for me.
This story is also published in Musette, the Team's magazine. More about it soon.