Tour de France unsung heroes: Amund Grøndahl Jansen on ski mountaineering and being the master of his own destiny

Norwegian rider Amund Grøndahl Jansen can often be found on two skis when he's not on two wheels.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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Throughout the Tour de France, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.

When Amund Grøndahl Jansen isn’t on two wheels, he can often be found on a pair of skis.

The Team BikeExchange rider from Nes in Norway is racing his fourth Tour de France. While he loves to hit the slopes in the off-season, you won’t find Grøndahl Jansen using a lift or a gondola to get him to his destination.

He’s taking the long way up.

“If I’m in Norway, I like to go skiing. I normally go there in winter and then we go cross country skiing quite regularly. I like to go ski mountaineering,” Grøndahl Jansen told VeloNews.

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Ski mountaineering is as it sounds, climbing mountains with a pair of skis. It’s a tough activity but it does have the added bonus of a very quick descent – if you’re keen on that sort of thing.

“You’re climbing a mountain with your skis. Depending on the difficulty of the mountain, you either go on skis or take them off to do some of the steeper parts until you reach the top,” Grøndahl Jansen explained. “You have skins under your skis to give you traction while going uphill, and you take them off at the top, and put your boots into downhill mode, and then you ski down.

“Of course, now in with warmer winters every year, you need a good layer of snow to be able to go out in the mountains. At the same time, when there’s a lot of snow, you have to be aware of the avalanche risks, and you have to pay some caution to where you’re going. But once you’ve got it under control, you can enjoy it. I enjoy ski mountaineering, it’s a very nice activity to do.”

Despite being at one with a pair of skis, Grøndahl Jansen has never been tempted to follow his former teammate, Primož Roglič, into some ski jumping. With the high speeds, and technical skills needed for it, it’s hardly something that you can pick up on a Sunday afternoon.

It also doesn’t provide much exercise for a professional cyclist trying to keep fit in the off-season.

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“It’s not training, and ski jumping is a technical sport. You can’t really substitute cycling with ski jumping in the winter, because you take the elevator up and you just fly down. It is not a very conditioning activity,” said Grøndahl Jansen.

“It’s also something you have to start very early. We didn’t have any ski jumping hills where I’m from. It was not a sport that was easy to take up and practice where I’m from. But it’s a big sport in Norway as well as and there are lots of kids doing it so.”

Taking up cycling

Like many in the peloton, Grøndahl Jansen grew up watching the Tour de France on the television. However, it wasn’t due to an early passion for cycling, it’s just that it was the only thing worth watching at the time.

His love of riding still came young, but it took a little more time to develop.

“Before I started riding my bike, during the summer holidays the television was turned on more or less from the start of the stages. I would play with my siblings or do the other stuff during the day, and every now and then stop by the television, have a look at how the situation was, and watch the finals, which was always a nice way to spend your days,” Grøndahl Jansen told VeloNews.

“At that moment, I was just watching the Tour de France in the summer because there were no other things on television and there wasn’t that much to do. The interest for cycling only came somewhat later.”

Grøndahl Jansen isn’t entirely sure what first led him to ride his bike but his cousin, who raced, and the long summer days in Norway helped him to develop the passion. He could also set off on his own when he wanted to.

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“I had a cousin who was competing in mountain biking and on the road. I also rode on the mountain bike with my brother and my father quite regularly,” he said. “I’m from a very quiet area in Norway, and there’s not much to do. Cycling was an easy way to find some distraction when you had time off from school. You play soccer or go ride your bike, and riding your bike is something you can do alone as well. To play soccer you need at least a few friends.”

Grøndahl Jansen has been a pro since 2017, after signing with Team Jumbo-Visma from the prodigious Team Joker Continental squad – an outfit that has boasted Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff among its alumni. He joined Team BikeExchange over the winter.

For Grøndahl Jansen, spending time outside and being the master of his own destiny is what he enjoys most about his day job.

“I love the freedom that it involves, you can basically decide for yourself sounds exactly when you want to train, how you want to train,” he said. “Of course, you have a trainer nowadays… but when you’re at home, you can decide if one day you want to go at eight o’clock in the morning to get the training done. And afterward, you can do something with your family.

“We have a lot of time outside where you see things you wouldn’t see in a normal office job typical a lot of hours on the bike, and we see things in nature. We have great scenery around the places we train, and you see both the animals, mountains. It’s a very scenic office to have.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.