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An underdog story: Rower Hamish Bond is the man to watch at the 2017 Worlds Time Trial

Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond could provide a major upset at the World Championships TT next week

Rowers and cyclists seem to be a in a strange sort of tangle these days, with champions of each sport eyeing a move to the other.

Bradley Wiggins’s promise to make the switch from bike to boat for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 probably hasn’t been keeping the world’s best rowers up at night.

Yet Hamish Bond’s move from the top echelon of international rowing to time-trialling has animated an otherwise predictable side of the sport.

As an outsider to the sport, Bond hopes to blaze a trail as a time-trial specialist outside of the world of WorldTour pro cycling. If he makes a dent in the order at the top of the sport, it will be a major disruption to the discipline of time-trial.

He enters next week’s UCI World Championships as a true underdog, having never competed at a top-tier UCI event before. We look over his progress, and speak to him about his chances next week.

Unbeaten record

Hamish Bond’s career in the coxless pair with Eric Murray was an historic one: the two Kiwis collected back-to-back Olympic gold medals in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, and never lost a heat, semi-final or any race in that time.

They clocked up a record 69 unbeaten consecutive races, the best unbeaten streak in the sport’s history.

Bond and Murray stand out as the sport’s most talented champions of all time. They currently hold the world record for the men’s coxless pair with a time of 6min 8.5sec achieved in the London 2012 Olympics.

Given that this effort bettered the decades-old previous world record by James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent by six seconds, a veritable abyss in the world of rowing, it spoke to an exceptional physiological and technical capability.

‘Eric and I were both very good physiologically,’ Bond tells us. ‘I would put us both in the top 5 across all rowers internationally.’

In a sport dominated by exceptional physiologies, that’s a significant accolade.

Indeed, normally crossover from the heavyweight side of the sport is rare, as world-class rowers are too tall and too heavy to convert easily to cycling.

That’s one reason why Bond’s journey has been a particularly challenging one.

His decision to abandon ship, as it were, did not come entirely out of the blue. Until risk of injury persuaded him to hang up his wheels in 2009, Bond had balanced his rowing career with a keen passion for cycling.

But despite riding at elite level Bond failed to make the inroads into the cycling world which he now hopes to achieve.

He finished 68th in the general classification in the 2009 Tour of Southland, part of the UCI Oceania Tour, in which Bond remembers - with some pain - ‘riding in the gutter for kilometre after kilometre’.

But on his return to cycling Bond is certainly more committed, beginning riding on a turbo trainer whilst still in Rio, before returning to New Zealand to clock over 2,000km monthly during the rest of 2016.

Contemplating his quick jump to the bike, Bond told Cyclist, ‘it’s pretty nuts but I figured if you’re at the top of one mountain and you need to get to the top of another it’s better to jump off the top and land half way then start at the bottom.'

Impressive return

This dedication has paid dividends: Bond finished a spectacular third in the New Zealand national TT championships in January, just 71 seconds adrift of Quick-Step Floors pro Jack Bauer over the 40km course. He has come on significantly since then too.

Bond ventured to Britain, eager to participant in the buoyant local time-trialling scene, and duly won four of the five major amateur events he participated in by considerable margins.

These results were aided by Bond’s partnership with UK-based company AeroCoach, which worked extensively with him in the velodrome.

‘I think principally it was about reducing drag, that’s Xavier’s modus operandi,’ Bond tells us, referring to Dr Xavier Disley, performance coach and AeroCoach director.

‘We cut my drag down by 10%, which at 50kmh means needing 30 to 40 less watts. You could spend a whole career trying to develop that sort of power increase.’

‘That was my single biggest take-home, but of course there was also race experience,’ Bond continues.

‘Although it’s largely against amateurs, they are specialists and having those organised events, even just set up in a town hall where you enjoy a cup of tea and a cake afterwards, there’s something different about getting on a start line and pinning on a number.

‘That’s played a big part in my preparation for racing and race plan.’

Disley agrees that this racing will pay dividends for Bond’s experience. ‘The UK TT scene is the largest in the world’, Disley commented. ‘The amount of racing really helps to further his experience with TTs and get a lot of race prep done in a short period of time.’

Hamish undertook a large training block in the Pyrenees too, where he spent long days in the saddle of his time-trial bike – clocking up 190km and 7500m of elevation on one occasion – to strengthen the specific muscle groups used whilst riding a time-trial bike.

That’s a specific commitment to the time trial discipline seen by few even WorldTour-level riders.