Ian, tell us what led you to this new transition and adventure with Wahoo?
Going way back, even to 2018, I had a really successful year. It was my first year with Katusha-Alpecin. I had come to that team from Team Sky at the time to ride the Tour de France, and I rode the Tour in 2018. In a lot of ways it was my best season to date in terms of the progress I made and the steps I made towards being a Tour rider and participating in that event. And I learned a lot. I was hoping in 2019 to go back with the experience I had gained.
It started off pretty similar to every other year. I spent a lot of time in Vermont in the winter and was just gradually building up through the spring. And I was in Tirreno–Adriatico, my first European stage race of the year—I had done the Mallorca Challenge and Tour of Oman prior. And on stage 4 I had a bit of a…it was more of a fluke incident, just a crash on a downhill…still not really sure what happened. And I went over the bars at pretty high speed and landed on the back of my head, which took the brunt of the force from the crash. I had very little road rash, nothing was broken, but I was left unconscious on the pavement where I crashed.
The immediate thought in my mind when I crashed was: “Oh boy, I need to get back on my bike and ride to the finish line, because if I drop out on stage 4 then I can’t finish the race and you’re not getting those race miles in your legs.” By the time I was conscious again, the team car had gotten to me—my team director at the time was Dmitri Konyshev—I was like, “Where’s my bike? I want to get back on because it’s only 3 kilometers to go and all downhill.” And he’s like, “No, we’ve got 60 kilometers to go. You’re a long way from the finish.”
Ultimately, that crash changed the course of my life and my career. From that crash in the middle of March I didn’t race again for the rest of the 2019 season. And there was a lot of up and downs from that crash until I decided what to do next. And there was a big choice to make. In late August, I was offered a contract to race on the road for the 2020 season. Eventually, I came to terms with things and evaluated my health and my life and what I’ve accomplished. I very much consciously made the choice to walk away from road racing and pursue something different.
What’s happening for 2020?
Over the course of the summer, I was going back and forth with what I’m going to do next. I’m gonna be 29 years old in 2020. I need a job—I can’t just retire and start hobby farming here in Vermont. I’m also still too motivated and too driven to just hang it up. So I made the choice to not race, and I didn’t take that contract offer, very much on my own terms. Soon after, I had been talking with Wahoo as the title sponsor of our Peacham Fall Fondo and they offered me a job to fill a position that they didn’t really have in place, as an ambassador for one but also as a liaison between the brand of Wahoo Fitness and the WorldTour teams that they sponsor and some of the other endurance athletes, because I know what athletes are able to do, want to do and enjoy doing. So, in some ways, I have a unique perspective that uses my background to help them.
Wahoo has also been incredibly generous in understanding that this is very much a transition for me. And it’s difficult for an athlete—especially at my age—to go from a professional athletic career into an office job 40 hours a week. Obviously, the gravel movement in the U.S. is growing strong and it’s a new frontier for a lot of riders. And Wahoo very much wants to enter that market and be a part of it. Together, we came up with this idea where I continue to ride my bike at a competitive level, and under the Wahoo banner take part in the gravel races of 2020.