As a lateral entrant to the Giro: Vice World Champion swaps skis for a racing bike


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As a career changer to the Giro
Vice world champion swaps skis for racing bikes

As a ski mountaineer, Anton Palzer makes a career in a niche sport. The Bavarian is hardly known to anyone as a vice world champion. That changes now after his daredevil lateral entry: on the racing bike he fights his way into a top team at the Giro d’Italia.

Chris Froome has won the Tour de France yellow jersey four times and is no match for Anton Palzer in the mountains. 23 kilometers, 2300 meters in altitude – the German professional cyclist mastered the brutal Watzmann crossing in a record time of 2:47 hours in his earlier career as a mountain runner.

He was Vice World Champion in ski mountaineering, one of the best in his profession. Two years ago, the 30-year-old from Berchtesgaden succumbed to the allure of the new and dared to make a daring career change: “Doni” now rides a “bike” – and at the highest level. At the 106th Giro d’Italia, Palzer faced his greatest challenge to date.

He’s still learning. “Tell Chris Froome that he should run over the Watzmann in under three hours. That won’t work in a year or two either,” said Palzer. Riding in the peloton and the tactical components of cycling were the biggest challenges for Palzer.

From “passenger” to reliable professional

He said he entered the Champions League with “zero point zero cycling experience”. After a few weeks of racing practice, he started at the Vuelta in Spain in 2021. “It was like throwing a little baby in the water: swim or sink.” Palzer stayed afloat.

Ralph Denk, team boss at the German team Bora-hansgrohe, gave Palzer the chance to become a professional cyclist – and he remembers it. “Driving hands-free and putting on the rain jacket, getting bottles and talking on the radio: Those were the first to-dos for us,” said Denk. According to Denk, the experiment was a success. If Palzer was initially just a “passenger”, he is now someone “on whom you can rely. It is phenomenal what Anton has achieved.”

Palzer was rewarded with a nomination for the Tour of Italy. This is not a gift. Palzer worked hard for it. He is supposed to support the Bora-hansgrohe captains Alexander Wlassow and Lennard Kämna on the mountain stages. On the flatter sections of the first few days, this worked very well. At the latest in the demanding final week, however, his qualities in the high mountains are in demand. Palzer has proven this sustainably. And meanwhile also on the “Radl”.

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