Reports in French media link 2000 Olympic mountain bike gold medalist Miguel Martinez to a comeback to road racing at the ripe age of 44.
Martinez, who previously mixed road racing into his mountain biking career in the 1990s and into the 2000’s, said he’s signed a deal to join continental team Amore e Vita-Prodir through the end of 2020. Team officials could not be reached Saturday to confirm the reports.
“I brought the proposal to Amore e Vita, because they were the only ones who would consider me due to my age,” Martinez told Cyclism’Actu. “The first idea is to get back to a high level on the road, and if that does not work out, then work as a sport director. I want to open this door because cycling is my passion and my life.”
Martinez was one of the top cross-country mountain bike stars during the boom years of the 1990s, capping his career by winning the gold medal in Sydney 2000. A son of a former pro racer, the Frenchman raced briefly at the elite road level, with Quick-Step in 2002, finishing 44th in the Tour de France that year, and Phonak in 2003. After returning to mountain biking, he raced again on the road in 2008 with Amore e Vita, a team dating back to the 1990s now registered in Latvia.
Martinez came out of retirement to race in mountain biking again, and won the French marathon mountain bike title in 2017. He said he’s been dabbling in electric mountain bike racing, and stayed fit during the coronavirus lockdown by delivering food packages to his elderly neighbors. Martinez said he’s signed a deal June 1 to complete the 2020 season.
“I’ve been training hard, and the sensations are returning, but who knows if I can do it? Given the opportunity, I want to give the maximum,” he said. “The way I look at it, I have nothing to lose.”
Martinez said he’s already scheduled to race the Volta a Portugal (July 29 to August 9) as well as the French national championships in August. He said he sees the opportunity as a personal challenge, and finds inspiration from riders like Davide Rebellin, who raced into his late 40s.
“I’m more worried about the physical challenge than the mental aspects. I’m used to competing with a lot of pressure and stress,” he said. “I’ve done some testing, and they’re saying it’s as if I am 30 years old. I’ve taken care of myself, and if Rebellin can do it, why can’t I? There’s a sense of unfinished business, so why not give it a shot?
“The coronavirus put everything in perspective, and since I have this chance, I want to try,” he said. “I’ve been registered in a French club and a French racing license, so I’ve been controlled, and I can show that I am coming back to a high level without doping. I want to show that I only here for sport. I’m sure I’m going to have a lot of fun.”