A world champion in our midst
04 March 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Welcome to this edition of the Old Mutual mountain bike podcast, as you know by now, if you’ve been listening to us regularly, thank you for joining us again. We talk to all sorts of people, personalities, riders, people who run the races, the race owners and organisers. But we don’t often get the chance to talk to a World Champion and this week we are.
This edition is devoted to the World Champion in cross country mountain biking, Nino Schurter who spent some time in Stellenbosch preparing for what is a momentous year for him. He’s a Bronze, Silver and hoping to be Gold Medallist in Rio.
He won the Bronze in Beijing and the Silver in London and that is the main focus for him. He’s here with us in Stellenbosch today. Nino, thanks very much for joining us here and doing this interview. Here in South Africa, what brings you here now?
European riders just love South Africa
Nino Schurter: First, I really like South Africa, it’s a beautiful country and it’s just perfect also for us Europeans. We can come from winter straight to summer without time difference and I’m really enjoying being here in Stellenbosch. It’s a nice town and I have nice trails around and it’s a good place to train.
GDK: What sort of training are you doing here?
NS: Right now I’m still doing a lot of base training, a lot of miles and it’s a really nice region. You have good trails, but also the roads here around are quite quiet. I do road rides, long ones, mountain bike and also go to the gym.
GDK: We want to talk about your gym because we’ve recently seen your incredible workout that you do, your half hour workout. It must be very important but how much of an improvement do you think your gym work has given you?
Nino Schurter’s 30min workout
NS: It’s just one piece that is really important. I can’t say how important it is, it’s just one piece of a lot of different pieces. Mountain biking, you have to be really complete, you also need a lot of power. That’s why I also go often to the gym, to also be complete.
You’re not just a road rider where it’s all about pedalling. If you go up a steep uphill, you need your arms, your core, you need a lot of power and I think it’s really important. Also the balance and , we have a lot of descents, sometimes it’s wet and really slippery and you have to adapt fast and you need a lot of coordination and balance.
GDK: How often do you do that session, the one we’ve seen on the YouTube clip, how often would you do that?
NS: In winter back home I’m doing it 2-3 times a week, now that I’m here, I’m doing a bit more cycling. But I still do it twice a week, this secret training and some squats. I’m doing the whole year through also and when I have races I’m doing squats. If there’s one weekend no race, I also do secret training and yes, it’s also during the season important.
2015 was a steller year
GDK: Let’s go back to 2015, a very successful year for you, if you look back at that year, would you look back at it and say: couldn’t have gone any better?
NS: I would say, it was quite a perfect season for me. I won the World Cup, the World Championships and European Games. It was an amazing year and I’m really happy about the last season. I hope this season is going the same.
GDK: The rivalry, the clash, the battle you had with Julien Absalon was, I mean every World Cup, everyone was looking at that. For us as viewers it brings a great magic and we love to watch it. Is it something you look forward to? Were you excited by the challenge of racing Julien in those races last year?
NS: Yeah, really, he’s the most successful mountain biker ever. So it’s always nice if I’m able to battle with him and maybe beat him. He’s a great guy and I really enjoy to race with him and hopefully also beat him.
Is your technical skill your advantage?
GDK: People talk about the differences between the two of you, the theory is that he goes up the hills a bit faster and you go down the hills faster, the technical stuff faster, do you see it that way?
NS: Yes, it always depends on the course. He’s definitely, if there are longer climbs, he’s probably a bit better than I. But as soon you have to ride more in power, I would say I’m a bit stronger. But it also depends on how the preparation went and yeah, also about the track.
Especially at World I would say that I was lucky that there was that slippery descent and I always was able to win a bit of seconds there. But there were other races which is mostly just an uphill race. I was a bit stronger than him there, so it depends a bit how the preparation went and how the daily shape is.
GDK: All of you at that level are doing what you can to improve, but you had a great year last year. If you had to look back, was there something that you say, this is what I’m going to try and focus on for this year?
What can you improve on?
NS: Just try to do everything as good as possible and every small thing, to do as good as possible. I’m not changing anything from last year, I just try to do everything as good as possible and to do it 100%. It’s a format that works for me, so I hope I get healthy through and the whole preparation gets good.
GDK: If you look at last year, to win the World Championships is a great achievement, that must be a favourite race for you. Is there a race that you say: that one I was as near to perfect as I could be last year.
NS: Yeah, Mont Saint-Anne I was really on my best shape. I came straight from high altitude training and I had the feeling I was on my best level. There I also felt that I’m stronger than Absalon, also in the climbs. So it’s really that shape I’m looking for to have it at the Olympic Games.
Olympic Gold the priority in 2016
GDK: There you go, we’ve come to the Olympic Games. You’ve got a whole lot of World Cups before then, so how do you prioritise? How do you manage to peak and when do you peak?
NS: Sure, the Olympic Games has to be the big peak this year. But the World Cup and especially also the World Championships was a course I’m really liking. That’s also going to be a peak for me, but actually it’s really all about the Olympics this year.
GDK: Obviously for all you guys, have you ridden that course yet?
NS: Yes, I was last year at the test event and I liked the course. It’s a fast one, it’s a bit more climbing and I’d say it’s a good course for me.
GDK: You’re in South Africa and all the talk at the moment is about the ABSA Cape Epic cause it’s just around the corner. But you’re not riding it this year, is that because of your focus on the Olympics?
Cape Epic a risk in an Olympic year
NS: It’s a great race and I really love to do it, but in the Olympic year it’s a bit dangerous also. It’s a long race, you can get sick, you can crash or you can just go too hard on those eight days. So for this year, it didn’t fit into my programme. But I’m sure I’m coming back one day and doing the ABSA Cape Epic again.
GDK: Some guys do choose to do it in an Olympic year. I know Manuel Fumic is doing it and he’s going to the Olympics. But most have that same, I mean Jaroslav Kulhavy is not coming, Fontana is not coming, is that the general feeling, it’s too long, too hard, too risky?
NS: Yeah, I would say, the most I see it as too risky to do it. You can come out of it in great shape, but you also can come out and be already a bit tired and it’s also quite early. So the Olympic Games is the end of August, so it’s also early to get really in perfect shape. My goal is to wait a bit and also, I’m not doing a lot of races, I wait really a bit to start late into the season. Then we’re a bit fresh also when it’s getting really important.
Being a Dad and a World Champion
GDK: Your life has changed a bit in the last four months as we can hear, how’s fatherhood changed you?
NS: I really enjoy it, Lisa, my daughter is a great child. I enjoy my off time and my recovery even more now. Coming home, it’s great feeling to also have them here and I really enjoy it.
GDK: I suppose that push and pull when you go away and you leave them behind, it’s a different emotion isn’t it?
NS: Especially right now, at the moment, so many things happen. She learns every day something new. So I don’t want to miss too much. So that’s also the reason why they are now here. During the season they can’t always be with me, but as much as I can, I take them with me to enjoy a good time also with my wife and my daughter.
GDK: Finally, you talked about, you only do a few races in the year, so you’ve got the first round of the World Cups in Australia. What will you do leading into that, in terms of races?
NS: I’m going to do two races in Italy before and then start with the World Cup and I nearly just do World Cup races. One Swiss race and that’s it really before the Olympics, I nearly just do World Cup races.
GDK: Difficult one because I’m going to ask you about yourself, to describe you. What quality makes you a great cross country racer, do you think?
NS: I would say I’m quite complete, so I’ve got good technical skills, from everything. I’m maybe not as fast on the flat section like Jaroslav, Absalon is maybe a bit faster, if it’s just an uphill race. But general, I’m quite complete and that’s also how I try to train. That I’m really not going just in one direction, in all aspects that I’m good.
GDK: How important is the brain, the head in all of this, particularly in the races?
NS: I would say it’s something that’s most important. As long as you believe in yourself, you can be strong. As soon as you start to think, I’m struggling a bit, everything is over. To be mentally strong, you need to have that talent first and I think it’s really important.
GDK: Bronze, Silver, there’s one missing, Rio?
NS: Maybe yeah. I hope I can get the perfect race there and go for that last missing medal, if not, maybe I have in Tokyo my last chance then.
GDK: Thank you Nino, fantastic that you’ve given us your time and for joining us here and good luck for the year. A huge year for you in the Olympics and of course for the World Cup where you defend the World Cup title. This has been another very special edition, I think, of the Old Mutual Mountain bike podcast.