By Ezra Black
Fifteen years ago, Fernie resident Roland Green was at the top of the sport of cycling.
He dominated the World Cup cross-country mountain biking circuit from 2000 to 2003 and won the world championship in 2001 and 2002. He was the first Canadian male to win a mountain biking world championship gold medal.
He accumulated over 40 first-place finishes at various national and international races around the world. In 2001, Green won the Overall International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup and became the first person to ever win a world championship on a full-suspension bike. He competed for Canada in mountain biking at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and is a four-time Canadian national mountain biking champion.
After a series of devastating injuries, which culminated in a crash during a race in the United States, Green was forced to retire from the sport of cycling. It was 2005, he was only 30 years old and it was all over.
But a few weeks ago he was reminded that the sports world remembers his achievements. In early December it was announced that Green is being inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
He and eight other individual athletes from this year’s class will be formally inducted to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the annual Banquet of Champions at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.
The 41-year old has reinvented himself as a husband, father and business owner. Shortly after retiring, Green married, moved to Fernie and now has two children, aged seven and nine-years-old. A decade after he retired, Green has a new career as a custom welder, plays with his dogs and raises his family. He rarely, if ever, gets on his bike.
“When I was done with the sport, I was really done with it,” he said.
Standing in his work clothes at his fabrication business, Ironspawn Welding, Green reflected on how his life has changed since leaving professional cycling.
“It’s so different from being an athlete,” he said. “Really, to be a successful athlete at any sort of level, you realize pretty quickly that if you don’t commit yourself one hundred per cent to your sport you’re not going to make it, you’re not going to make money at it, you won’t survive. You have to be a selfish individual. You can’t do anything but train, eat and sleep. It’s the only way you’re really going to have success.”
Green was born in Victoria B.C. and said Vancouver Island was a good spot to develop as a young cyclist. Mild winters and agreeable weather meant he could train 11 to 12 months a year. He began cycling professionally in his late teens along with a core of other young athletes. Among them were Ryder Hesjedal, the first Canadian to win Italy’s Grand Tour, two-time Olympian Geoff Kabush and mountain biker Andreas Hestler.
The athletes pushed each other to train harder, which Green said is the key to succeeding as a professional cyclist.
“It’s kind of cliché and corny but there’s no substitute for hard work,” he said. “Of the people I got to know through cycling, a lot of them thought they were working hard but then you’d go for a ride with them. You would be on a three to four hour ride and they’d say ‘I’m tired, I’m heading home;’ while it had just started. The good guys were out for another two hours. You’ve got to be willing to do a lot of work and there’s no substitute for just putting your head down and just suffering and loving it and embracing it.”
Though he misses being in top physical condition, Green does not miss the intensive training and sacrifices he had to make as a professional cyclist.
“I feel like I’ve become someone totally different,” said Green. “Cycling is something that I used to do. It defined me. It was all that I was. At that point in my life it was all I did. Now I have a completely different life compared to back in the bike racing days. I’ve got a family and a little business in Fernie and it’s all about making time for the kids and being a dad.”