ROUBAIX, France (VN) — The Tour de France isn’t the only place the big names in television and movies make appearances with the professional peloton. Famed in the U.S. for his roles on “Saved by the Bell” and “NYPD Blue,” Mark-Paul Gosselaar is a big fan of both Paris-Roubaix and last year’s winner, Johan Vansummeren, and talked with VeloNews Friday about the crossroads between big-time bike racing and Hollywood.
Gosselaar stopped by the Garmin-Barracuda team hotel on Friday before Roubaix to visit the riders and join them for a ride in the Chantilly countryside outside Paris. After a quick chat with team mechanics, he was quickly fitted to a Cervélo for the outing. The stubble-faced star then headed out for several hours on the bike with some of the sport’s best riders.
“I got into cycling because I wanted to compete and I wanted to get better,” said Gosselaar, a cat. 2 racer with a good finishing kick. “When I found out I couldn’t be a pro cyclist, it crushed me. I thought, ‘You mean everybody can’t be a pro cyclist?’”
For years, the actor used cycling as a way to stay in shape and sometimes lose weight. Like many riders, Lance Armstrong sparked an interest in European racing for Gosselaar. In 2005 he started racing himself and went from cat. 5 to cat. 2 in two seasons.
Gosselaar’s visit to Europe is his first as a race spectator, but he’s no novice. He knows his stuff, easily naming off race favorites and showing extensive knowledge of the sport.
“I’m stoked to be riding with last year’s champion,” he says. “I didn’t realize he was so tall! I mean, he’s a cyclist? He’s like six-feet-six. He’s huge. But the guy that got me connected with Garmin is my buddy Dave Zabriskie. Zabriskie is in L.A. and we’ve ridden a couple times. But it’s cool to go for a team ride.”
As for Sunday, Gosselaar will be out on course cheering with the masses.
“I don’t want to go to a hospitality thing. I want to be on course,” he said. “This is something that I’ve wanted to go see more than the Tour de France, more than anything else. This and I wanted to be here last weekend for Flanders. But this is my first time as a spectator at a race in Europe. My first time riding in Europe! This is everything, as a cyclist, you’ve ever wanted to do.”
This is also a very special occasion in his life.
“It’s sort of my bachelor party, too. I’m getting married in July and they asked me what I wanted to do and I said, ‘I don’t want to go to a bar. Let’s go to Belgium and go ride.’”
As the team rolled out for its training ride, the sun began peeking from behind the clouds. As Gosselaar found his place in the middle of the pack, Garmin team director Allan Pieper commented, “You can tell he rides. The way he sits on a bike.”
It may not sound like much, but that’s high praise indeed for the actor. Unlike many stars along for a photo op, Gosselaar’s passion for cycling is clear. Hopefully Sunday’s race has enough excitement to serve as his bachelor party.