October 21, 2005 – After sixteen years of bicycle racing, two MTB World championships, and literally hundreds of top results, Canada’s Roland Green has decided to retire from the sport. The Victoria, B.C. native began in road racing, and then moved to mountain biking in 1996. Pedal caught up with Green to get his thoughts on his decision – looking back, and looking forward.
When did you start thinking that you might retire?
Roland Green: The idea was there early this year – in the back of my mind, but this year’s MTB Worlds were the final straw. It would have taken a pretty big result to keep going, but I wasn’t sure I’d get one. This year I didn’t do many world cups – just one at Mont Ste-Anne, so it was hard to gauge where I was at, in comparison to the Euros.
You’ve been riding for years. When did you start?
RG: I started racing in ’89. I was in highschool, so I’ve been effectively fulltime since I was 18, because in grade 12 I had a few spares and then a few mickey mouse clases in the afternoon so I could ride a lot. In Februrary 1993 I got a job when school was done, then went to France, rented a little hole in the wall apartment with Dom Perras, and Jean-Sebastien Beland. Actually, interestingly the apartment was the same one that Sean Kelly had when he started and was discovered.
You’ve ridden a long time and have had a pretty full career. What are some highlights?
RG: I’d start off by saying that the Tour of Whiterock 92 was one because I sprinted against Alex Stieda and beat him. It wasn’t for the win – it was for 16th, and after the race he presented me with an award. The award was named after his father and was for most promising junior or something. It was really special because Stieda was such a hero of mine.
I’d also say the Espoir MTB Worlds in Australia in 1996, because it confirmed that I could ride with the best. I was actually leading for a lot of the race but then flatted and ended up fourth. But I was ahead of guys like Cadel Evans and Miguel Martinez, so it was just confirmation for me that I could ride well.
And of course I’d say winning the 2001 MTB Worlds in Vail, Colorado. Kaprun, Austria, the following year was a great win too but there was something very special about my first win in Vail. Kaprun confirmed it wasn’t just me riding well at altitude, but I’ll never forget the first win at Vail.
You must have had some lowlights too.
RG: I can remember breaking down in a stall at the Amsterdam airport after I failed to perform well for my French team US Creteil. I was pretty anemic because I’d trained so hard, and had no help with diet or advice, so my ferritin was super low – I just ran myself into the ground. I came home and took some time off while doctors helped me get back to normal by giving me iron pills to regain my iron levels.
I remember riding with you and Michael Barry in January 1996 in Victoria, B.C. and you lamented not continuing with US Creteil, as they had turned pro that year with La Mutuelle. I remember you saying you felt that you’d lost an opportunity. But life has a funny way of working out, doesn’t it.
RG: Yeah, and I started riding with Kona in 1996. I was a bit down after US Creteil, but at the same time, I felt like I had lots to prove. When you are younger and just starting cycling you feel like anything is possible – like there are no limits to what you can do. But as you get older, you start to realize your limitations, your strengths and your weaknesses. There’s something really beautiful about having no limits when you’re young, and dreaming about doing whatever you think you can achieve. For me, I’m happy with my career, because everything I was told I’d be good at and bad at, ended up being the opposite. Coaches told me I’d never climb, that I should stick with sprinting and flat races – and I ended up being a strong climber, and a good time trialer, and a bad sprinter. But it took work, lots of it. In cycling, I’ve always believed anything is possible if you work hard.
Was that the biggest lowlight for you back then? After US Creteil?
RG: Well, I had another real fork in the road in 1993. It was my first year as a senior, and I had come back from France in the early part of the season. I had met the nicest Norwegian beauty – she was incredible. I had to leave and go back home and she said “well, let’s see what happens with us.” That year, the Road Worlds were in Oslo, so we kept in touch and I said that if I went to the Worlds we could see each other. I had a good season on Espoirs de Laval, I won a stage in Beauce, the overall Canadian Tire series, and figured I had a good chance to race in Oslo. But the CCA told me I was too inexperienced and I was a bit down about that. Maybe things could have been different.
Who do you see as the future male stars of mountain biking in Canada? Your heir apparent, so to speak.
RG: There’s a few young guys out here – Max Plaxton and Neil Kindry, that are top talents. Both BC boys – I don’t really know the Easterners since I don’t race out there so much. But those two are really strong.
Speaking of BC, will you continue living in Victoria, up by Shawnigan Lake?
RG: Right. I have three properties and I will continue to manage them. I have a master plan, and lots to keep me busy. And I’ve also got to burn off all this energy every day since I haven’t been riding. I’m doing a lot of running, trail running, I love uphill – similar muscles as cycling.
Will we see you competing at any local races?
RG: I can’t do cycling halfheartedly. I will always ride but you won’t see me at a race.
Best of luck, Roland.
RG: Thank you very much.