“It’s a dream and I hope I don’t wake up.” Those were the first words…
EF Education-NIPPO are proud to announce that Odd Christian Eiking will pull on our jersey in 2022.
Eiking has been racing professionally since 2016 and recently came to prominence at this year’s Vuelta a España where he wore the leader’s red jersey for seven stages. “It’s not something I ever imagined. I was hoping for a stage win but instead to have had the red jersey for so long, it was really, really amazing,” he said.
The Norwegian considers what leading a Grand Tour taught him. “It’s changed me as a rider. It gave me more confidence, seeing that it’s possible to stay with some of the best riders. I want to continue on this good path where I am now.”
For Eiking, continuing on this good path means finding new opportunities and new goals. “I need to be in a place where I can grow and develop and EF looks really great for me to develop. It looks like a really good group and I want to be a part of it,” he said.
In addition to leading the Vuelta, he finished second overall at the Arctic Race of Norway and seventh at the Clásica San Sebastián. The Norwegian is coming off of his best season to date and is highly motivated. “I’m excited to meet the team and to win races together. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters has had his eye on the Norwegian for some time. “I was watching him throughout the season. He was great in San Sebastian. He almost won the Arctic Race of Norway and then went to the Vuelta and had a great run in the leader’s jersey. Almost pulled off a top 10 overall. I watched it all. I was talking to his agent the entire time and an opportunity came up to pull the trigger on it and I did not hesitate,” Vaughters said.
The 26-year-old credits the sport with teaching him the value of discipline. “Cycling is a hard sport, of course. It’s a lot of hard work to get to the top of cycling – I’m not even at the top. To get to where I am now, it’s a lot of hard work,” he said.
Fortunately, Eiking isn’t one to shy away from hard work. “Every aspect of cycling motivates me, whether it’s riding, the good atmosphere within the team, or training outside. It really drives me, especially the competition,” he said. “To be able to travel and see different parts of the world while competing in the biggest races, that’s what really motivates me.”
When Vaughters realized just how keen Eiking was to show his potential, the CEO was enormously impressed. “He didn’t want to talk about a contract until he’d proven himself in races and I thought, ‘Damn, this guy’s got some guts to basically turn down a potential offer and want to show his worth first.’ Very few riders in his position would do that,” Vaughters said. “The fact that he wanted to prove himself, I feel like that’s an attitude that’s going to take him a long way.”
Eiking has always had a competitive streak. As a child, he grew up Nordic skiing, a common pastime given Norway’s snowy winters. “But when you see you’re not reaching the top, you have to find another sport,” he jokes. “Then I started cycling. Cycling was more my thing. I started because a few friends of mine started and I liked to be outside. I was a really energetic kid.”
While racing has taken him all over the world, his home roads remain his favorite. Picture towering glaciers, cascading waterfalls, mountains speckled with trees and rock, and colorful towns dotting the coast. “I really like to ride at home. I’m from Bergen and the landscape on the west coast of Norway is pretty spectacular. It’s where I grew up so I know all the roads. The nature and the roads are really special there,” Eiking said.
“I really look forward to getting started next year. I hope as a team we can win races together. I hope, of course, that I also will be able to win some races. To be on a winning team is great no matter what. It’s a really special feeling. I hope I can have a lot of that feeling next year and in the coming years.”
We hope so, too, Odd! Welcome to the EF team.