Sport500 is following the rowing career of Emily Craig, who has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That means getting on her bike, just as Sir Bradley Wiggins is getting off his and on to the rowing machine.
Emily Craig goes into the new year fresh from two weeks on cycling camp in Mallorca with the Great Britain women’s rowing squad. The link between rowing and cycling is well recognised, with cycling as a method for cross-training and fitness for those coming back from injury and as a welcome change from the sometimes monotonous ergometer (rowing machine) sessions.
For Emily, this was the first cycling camp as part of the GB squad. As a relatively novice cyclist, she had never trained for longer than two hours on a bike. There was bad weather, which meant the team were stuck indoors on several occasions for weight and erg sessions, including on Emily’s birthday.
A cycling camp consists of much longer steady-state sessions than a rowing camp would, as long rowing sessions make athletes vulnerable to back and rib injuries, whereas cycling is a lower impact sport with a reduced risk of such injury.
Rowing and cycling share many of the same physical and mental characteristics required of an athlete. Both are leg and lung sports and have the same depth to which you can mentally push yourself. While cycling is perhaps more of a tactical sport and doesn’t have the same recovery time mid-stroke that rowing does, the similarities are an easy explanation for the crossover between the two sports.
Emily cites this as one of the reasons rowers often turn to cycling following retirement.
Hamish Bond, formerly of the New Zealand rowing pair, has 10 international gold medals to his name on the water, and now a bronze at the Oceania cycling championships. Britain’s Rebecca Romero won silver in Athens as a rower and gold in Beijing as a cyclist.
As Britain’s most decorated Olympian, Sir Bradley Wiggins has five cycling gold medals to his name, and is now, at the age of 37, pursuing a sixth as a rower. Weighing in at 93kg and 6ft 3in, Wiggins is smaller than most of the GB rowers, which, as Emily points out, is one of the key differences between the two sports: “As a rower, you aim to keep as much muscle mass as possible, whereas cyclists will aim to be as light as possible”.
Wiggins launched his rowing career at the British indoor championships in December. After some confusion which led him to stop rowing – “a schoolboy error,” he said – he finished 21st out of 99 competitors with a time of 6min 22sec for the 2km. With the GB athletes all clocking in at under six minutes, Wiggins was disappointed with a time considered off-pace for anyone with aspirations to compete in a boat in Tokyo 2020, but he called it “a fantastic experience”.
In spite of this sub-optimum performance, given that Wiggins is such an exceptional athlete and has James Cracknell as his coach, Emily says she would not be surprised if he is capable of much more, though whether he can move a boat quickly is yet to be seen.