Have you watched the documentary? Thoughts?
I think it was two weeks ago that I saw the first rough cut and it was around one hour, so they cut it down to 45 minutes. It is super cool. Also, for me to see my decision in a movie, it's quite special. For sure, I always knew what I what I did and what I do. Also what I what I do now with the cycling, but to see that I left behind my whole life as a ski-mo athlete, all the nice memories, and especially my last race at the World Championship. To see this, I have to admit, I had some tears in my eyes because it was my whole life. And now it's the past and afterwards, I also say that it was the right decision to do this. Even it was even it was super special.
What did you hope to achieve by partnering with Red Bull to make this documentary?
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Well, first of all, I would say the decision was completely for myself. I was not happy any more with ski-mo. With ski-mo I was happy but I was not happy about my life as a professional athlete. I was a professional ski mountaineering athlete for eight years, so it was my work. And my work was to be successful in ski-mo races. But it was always the same. We went to Andorra for the World Cup, always Italy for the World Cup. Every two years was a World Championship and I felt a bit tired of always doing the same. So the project was, first of all, for me, but I want to tell the story of Anton Palzer and not try to imitate and be like Primoz Roglic or someone like this. They also came from different sports, but I want to tell the story of me and to show the people if you are bold, if you're fearless, if you work hard for your dreams, you can achieve a lot of things in life. And I think when you change the sport, I was 28 years old - so it's not that young - I would say in professional sport, it's a bold step. And yeah, I did it. Now I would say the project: Anton goes Pro Cycling is pretty successful.
Did you notice the cameras when they were following you?
No, the first time I saw them, we had a meeting with Ralph Denk, the boss of BORA-hansgrohe. I was there with my manager and yet to talk about the future. I had no contract yet. It was like “Okay, we will do a meeting to talk about the future if it's possible to go in pro cycling and to the team”. And then there were some cameras. It was pretty funny because I really had no idea what happened now. And then it was super special because it was the time we were in the COVID pandemic, everybody had a mask. I didn't realise the people behind the mask. There was one guy, I noticed his voice and I thought that I knew this voice, and it was my boss from Red Bull and I said “What are you doing here?” He said that they had heard I want to go to pro cycling and we want to join you. So it was really funny.
Was it like your first day at school when you met your team-mates for the first time?
Yeah, definitely because I had no idea about pro cycling. I have a good friend Lukas Pöstlberger who has been with the team for six years. So I always thought about how is the construction of the team, how is the life of a pro cyclist. But I was a winter athlete I really had no idea, I never competed in a real cycling race before.
I was super nervous. Before the first team meeting, it was December 2020, we had the performance tests there and the medical check. And it was like going into school for the first time. I thought, okay, I'm 28 years old, I'm eight years in professional sport, I think one of the oldest guys in the team who are professional athletes. But I felt super nervous and I'm really the small kid now.
From the documentary it looked like the team were very, very welcoming. Is that correct?
Yes, definitely. Definitely. It super cool with BORA-hansgrohe because it's a German team and there are a lot of German athletes, also Austrian athletes, I live in Austria. So, I knew a lot of guys and for sure, it's easier to talk in your mother language. It's was a really warm welcome for me. From the first meet meeting I had a super good welcome into the team. The beginning of my new story in life was quite easy from the start. I'm not sure if I joined another team, a British team perhaps, that it would not be so easy because, with the language, it's quite difficult to show the people that you are real. You can talk, but it's not always easy to show your real self. In this team, it was quite easy.
How much have you enjoyed being part of the BORA team?
It was amazing, it still is amazing. I always say I am not only a rider for BORA-hansgrohe, but I also a big fan of BORA-hansgrohe. I was always a big fan of pro cycling, I was the small guy who sat for four or five hours in front of the television and watch the Grand Tours. I'm super proud to be part of this team, it still feels still like a dream to be part of it, to go to training everyday by the BORA-hansgrohe kids, to ride the bike of BORA-hansgrohe. So yes, the motivation to be in the sport is super high and you enjoy the time a lot.
What do you enjoy the most about being a professional road cyclist?
I would say the professional feel in the team. It's not only the riders who are be part of the team, it's also the staff. We have around 100 guys in this team who work super, super hard to give us the best opportunity to race well and that's pretty cool. I had eight years in ski mountaineering and there is also a federation, but it’s not professional like in pro cycling. The dream of pro cycling was to do it. I was tired of ski mountaineering but I also said I need a really, really professional place to be in to improve myself to be a better athlete - that's why I enjoy a lot in this team. It starts with the coaches, it's super professional training, then we have guys who only look after the nutrition for us. We have physiotherapists, we have the best mechanics. It’s a really professional team that we are part of and that's super-cool for an athlete. I think that the the main goal for an athlete is always to improve, that's, that's pretty cool.
It sounds more like a family than a team?
Definitely yes, for sure. During the races, it's super stressful but I think it's normal. You are on the limit, the other guys are on the limit. Sometimes it's a bit quiet in the team bus but it really feels like a family. It's super important that it feels like a family because you spend so much time on the road with this team - something like 300 days a year. And when you feel comfortable there, you're a much better athlete.
I remember the day when Jai Hindley won the Giro and I was at an altitude camp in the Austrian Alps with Lukas Pöstlberger. And we said that it's so cool that Jai won the Giro. Not only because he's he was the best rider, but that he's the same small guy like we are. When you remember a training camp, it's super funny with all these guys because they are all young, they are all super-motivated, but they are also just human beings. One rider might be better than another but we are all humans and have fun, have a good time on the road, and I think everybody enjoys the time with the team and lives the dream.
What has been your highlight so far since you transitioned to professional road cycling?
Maybe the Vuelta, even if it was maybe the three hardest weeks of my life - I have to admit it took some time afterwards to realise what I did. During the Vuelta I was not super happy with the situation to be riding a Grand Tour after five months of cycling. But afterwards I took two or three months to realise what's happened. Now I would say it was a highlight. I would say this season is a highlight of this project because now, in my opinion, I ride really good and I did some really, really good work for the team. Also the victory at Catalunya with Sergio Higuita and in Romandie with Alex Vlasov - they were definitely some really cool moments.
What was the experience like competing at La Vuelta last year? Did it surpass your expectations?
Well, I really had no expectations for the Vuelta. My first race was the Tour of the Alps and it was a five day stage race in Austria and Italy and it was my first race to really ride in a peloton. It was super special, for sure, super stressful for me. Afterwards I get Covid, I went to altitude camp and did the Tour de Suisse, an eight-day stage race. After the Tour de Suisse, I was really, really tired because it's not only the performance on the bike for me, it was really the stressful moments in the peloton which makes me so tired. For normal riders who spent their whole life on the bike, the flat stages when you're not a sprinter are almost rest days. For me, it was like every day was completely on the limit.
Then I get got the call of four of our sports director that I'm in the line-up for the Vuelta. I said to him, “No, we can't do this. I did only two races. I can't do a Grand Tour.” I was told “No, it's good for you. It's good for your performance. And afterwards you will be a completely different rider.” I then called my coach Helmut Dollinger. I said, “Helmut, you have to call the team. It's not possible that I do a Grand Tour!” But he said, “No, it's good for your performance”. And then I called the leader, Felix Grossschartner, and I say “Felix, you have to call the team, you need a better climber during the Vuelta who can help in the tough mountain stage”. And then it was Felix who said, “It's a really good opportunity for you, it's a big chance to improve yourself.” And then I said I would do it. But I went to the Vuelta with no expectations. My goal was to ride as long as possible and I didn't think about finishing the Vuelta at Santiago de Compostela after 21 days.
21 days can be really, really long. In the in the first week, I had a crash. I never was in a situation before to have pain and to do sport. In cycling, I think it's the only sport where you have pain, you can't sleep, but you continue. In different sports, like in ski mountaineering or in running, when you're injured you stop for training, you stop for competition and wait until you're healthy again. And then you start again. And in cycling, it's different - when you when you can pedal, your pedal.
Were the team right to say that you would be a better rider after riding at La Vuelta?
Yes, they were right. That's the funny part of it. Afterwards, after 21 days, I finished the Vuelta in Santiago de Compostela and I have to admit, I was not really happy. I thought maybe it would be the best day of my life to finish a Grand Tour. The problem was I was so tired, there were so many emotions during these three weeks for me, that I was not happy. I say “Okay, finally I can go home, I can recover”. I gained 10 kilogrammes of body weight. It was like my body was completely down. I started with 62 kilogrammes, and I went hungry, went up to 72, and it was all the water in my body. It really took some time to recover from it.
But afterwards, I was a completely different rider. One week after the Vuetla, I did four races in Belgium. I was also super tired. And then I had off-season for three or four weeks. Last season was also super special because I had the full winter races. My last race was the World Championships in the middle of March. Then I had one week of rest, went to Gran Canaria for three weeks and then I started the cycling races so it was a double season at the end. After last season I had a real break. I spent the whole winter on the bike and then there were the first races in Majorca, Algarve and then Catalunya. The sports director says to me Anton “you are a real cyclist now, now you can say you're a cyclist.” Last year, I didn't know, but now they are maybe right that after the Vuelta that I am a different rider.
If called upon, do you feel ready for La Vuelta?
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I did Catalunya and Romandie, I did the Tour de Suisess to day six until I got Covid – Covid knocked down the peloton which was pretty crazy, I think 100 riders stopped because of Covid. Now I would say I'm ready for it. I recovered well. The races are more relaxed and than last year, I have no problems with my body weight anymore. I would say I'm super ready for it.
What do you think the team can achieve at La Vuelta this year?
I am sure they can fight for the victory. BORA-hansgrohe is now a completely different team to last year. The main goal is the GC and we have maybe the best GC riders in the world with Jai Hindley, with Wilco Kelderman, with Sergio Higuita - they showed already that they are one of the best riders. Not only with Jai winning the Giro, Sergio won Catalunya, he was second in the Tour de Suisse, he is super, super strong. I think with the lineup like in the Giro, we really can fight for the victory, I'm sure.
What are your future ambitions as a professional road cyclist? What are your personal ambitions?
Well for sure my main goal is to be successful again, like in ski mountaineering races, or in running races. I think that's in the DNA of, of an athlete to win races. In cycling, it's quite difficult, I would say. But my first main goal is to be a really, really good climbing helper for the real GC guys, to support the real GC guys in the big mountains. The next dream is to win races again, for sure. But I know it will take some time. It's 14 months ago that I started this project and it took some time to be successful again. But it's a dream and I think you need dreams to be motivated for training, for races.
Then there's also a dream - I want to get to do the Giro d'Italia, it's my favourite race. For sure, the Tour de France is the biggest race in the world. But I have so many friends in Italy and I know a lot of nice places there and it would be super nice to do it.
Is there anyone – past or present – who you have particularly looked up to in cycling?
Looked up to an athlete? No, no, I don't have heroes. I also didn't have the heroes in ski mountaineering because for me it was always important to go my own way, to tell the story of Anton Palzer and to not tell the story of Jan Ullrich or guys like this. I do my own thing, it's my own style. I think for sure there are so many fantastic athletes but I also say always sport is important for us because we are we are professional athletes and it's our work - but there are so many guys who do much better things in life.
Have you had any regrets at all since transitioning to road cycling? And would you have done anything differently?
No, it's still super nice. I have enjoyed the time a lot. For sure, last year it was just tough for me. But I knew it was going to be tough to change sport. But I think you need to go on the limit in sport and also in life to be happy again. You need to leave the comfort zone, and last year I definitely left the comfort zone and now it's getting better. I'm sure next year it will get better again and then it makes it more fun. The decision to change the sport was really the right thing for me.
Do you miss a ski mountaineering?
No, no. A lot of guys asked me if I missed the mountaineering and I said no - because it's such a big opportunity which I got from the team (BORA-hansgrohe) which I got from Ralph Denk, and I'm super, super thankful for this opportunity, for this offer to be part of it. I don't look back to what happened.
Ski mountaineering becomes an Olympic sport in 2026 and a lot of guys asked me, “Hey, are you interested to go into Olympics?” And I said, “No, I'm happy with it. I'm happy to be here as a small rider in a really big team.”
Last year, I think I did 10 ski-mo tours just for training with my girlfriend and I also used the wide skis and the heavy boots, we were like super ski-mo tourists. I enjoyed it because I met so many guys who know me from the ski-mo racing and they say “what happened with you?” And I said now I'm a tourist. I just do super-easy walking in the in the mountains. I really love cycling. It is lot of fun. I spent the last winter completely in the south and it was completely okay, I will do the same next year.
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