Exclusive! British Cycling "in conversation" with top skier about switching to bikes

35-year-old Alain Baxter being sized up as a sprinter for 2012

by Tony Farrelly   June 10, 2009  

Alain Baxter 037.jpg

British Cycling has confirmed to road.cc that they are having “conversations” with Alain Baxter Britain's most successful ever skier who retired in April about him becoming a cyclist, Baxter has said that he wants to compete on a bike at the 2012 Olympics.

A British Cycling spokesperson told road.cc that Baxter, who has enrolled on a special talent transfer programme at Stirling University, had approached them about becoming a cyclist “we are still in the early stages of that conversation” we were told, but we understand that Baxter will be going to Manchester in the next few weeks to do some preliminary testing on the track.

Nicknamed “The Highlander” the 35 year old Scot was at one point ranked as high as 11th in the world as a skiier an impressive feat for an athlete from a non-alpine country. He is best know though for winning the Slalom Bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, becoming the first Briton ever to win a skiing medal in the process, and then failing a drugs test after using an over the counter inhaler containing the banned substance ephedrine. He was subsequently stripped of his medal.

Most people accepted that this was an innocent mistake, but given that piece of history there will inevitably be those with reservations about British Cycling welcoming him in to their setup.

However, Alain Baxter the cyclist is not a done deal yet. Although he is being considered as a possible sprinter and on a first assessment sprint coach, Shane Sutton is said to think he has the right physical makeup we were told that both Baxter and British Cycling are in the process of figuring out if they were right for each other: “Shane is explaining our philosophy and approach” and Baxter will have to buy in to that totally if he wants to have a future on two wheels.

If he does, British Cycling are not concerned about his age – he would be 37 pushing 38 by the time the London games rolled around, but apparently if everything else falls in to place from what they've seen so far the coaches in Manchester think he is a good enough physical specimen to play a part.

If there are any concerns about Baxter's physical condition they are likely to centre on his back, when Baxter retired in April he cited continuing back problems as the cause.

He told insidethegames.com: “I competed at the very top but I had to quit as my discs have gone. I was getting really deep back spasms.
"I’m still in pain.
"But it was for the best as you have to put yourself at risk with every race.
"That becomes harder as a parent.
“So for cycling to be worth my while, I have to be at the highest level.
“That means next year’s Commonwealth Games, which could be a stepping stone to the Olympics.
"Really I should have been heading to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year.
“So cycling at the Commonwealth Games has given me light at the end of the tunnel.
"That’s why I have to do this."

Whether Baxter will get “to do this” will we are told become clearer in the coming weeks.

If he does he may not be alone as we've been told that inspired by the cycling team's success in Beijing, and no doubt noting the example set by Rebecca Romero in particular, “several” top athletes have enquired about making the switch to cycling.