39 year-old former Tour de France superstar Johnny Hoogerland, who retired in 2016 only to return to compete in gran fondos and win the 2021 amateur UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, is returning to the pro peloton at the Tour of Sharjah.
The Dutchman now living and running a guest house in Austria, who became world famous in 2011 when he was knocked into a barbed wire fence by a car while racing in the Tour de France, has dominated the European amateur gran fondo circuit in recent years and won an oh-so-prized amateur rainbow jersey at the 2021 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Sarajevo.
Now Hoogerland is putting his gran fondo career on hold to returning to the pro cycling peloton this week as a guest cyclist for the Shabab Al Ahli Cycling Team at the Tour of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, a five stage UCI 2.2 pro race.
Hoogerland will race with good friend Grega Bole who won the Tour of Sharjah in 2022 and the €500,000 Gran Fondo Abu Dhabi last November with domestique support from Hoogerland.
“It’s one race and then I return to Carinthia [Austria],” Hoogerland told ProCyclingStats. “Grega is still a good friend and he asked me to join in. I had to discuss it at home, but that worked out pretty quickly. The guest house is closed these months and it’s nice to challenge yourself every now and then. I thought, why not?”
Photos: Johnny Hoogerland