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Christoph Sauser

Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander winning the 2012 Cape Epic

Remembering Burry Stander

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
January 29, 2013, 16:58 GMT,
Updated:
January 29, 2013, 17:10 GMT

Honoring a lost friend and teammate

On the 23rd of December, I drove from Stellenbosch to Cape Town International Airport to pick up my mom. I was listening to the radio, and I heard that 733 road deaths had happened since December 1st. That means 32 per day, an absolutely incredibly sad number, but it was only a number which rolled in my head for a bit, and quickly I was listening to the continuing news again; plus I was late as always and worried my Mom could be grumpy after spending another extra half hour in the airport.

When I got the call on January 3rd that Burry Stander had passed away, this was not just rolling in my head, it felt like a explosion which spread into my head and from there into every smallest part of my body. It was so surreal! It was just a totally different experience, suddenly there was a face behind all those deaths. The person we all had so much left for.

We can ask us a hundred times why or if he would have left the bike shop five seconds later or earlier, Burry probably would be still with us. It was simply the wrong time at the wrong spot. Have we ever thought how many times we have been lucky and we even did not even know it? Not being at the wrong time at the wrong spot, just because we probably had to stop at a traffic light and we then missed the deathly car...

I will always remember Burry as a family man, a fighter, very fair, talented, mature, very down to earth and peaceful, proud South African.

Burry could not even kill a fly. Over all the years, I have never seen him angry once, even though he would have had hundreds of reasons for it. He did argue with people with whom he was very close, but he would never do so with others like, for example, the receptionists for a better hotel room. Most of the time, Burry accepted what was or often asked me to sort it out.

In another example, when we travelled to Canada. Burry as usual had the longest trip, flying first to Europe then on another long flight to North America. He arrived two hours ahead of me. Luckily, he decided to get our rental car, making himself busy. Once I cleared customs, he had already been waiting for me in the rental for a long time, but we still had to wait for Jaroslav Kulhavy, who was on a delayed Frankfurt flight. I got pretty impatient since we still had to drive 3.5 hours to Mont-St.-Anne, but Burry did not care and was fine with the situation.

Burry was a family man and a great husband. He loved to be around his family and to have his family around him. I think that he could tank so much energy from the family and he gave a lot back, too. I often thought he is doing too much in addition to cycling: bike shops, importing products, big house, dogs, cars and whatever else he had on his plate, but to me it seemed like the whole family was pulling on the same string, hand in hand: a Stander family powerhouse.

After Burry's death, it was hard for me to get back to training and normal life again and to set goals. But I had to remember Burry and that I probably have the smallest problem in the world. Our pain is so secondary compared to Burry, who lost his one and only loved life!

By the way, there are some songs which will always remind me of Burry and the Cape Epic: Black Eyed Peas/Imma Be, Kid Rock/Born Free, Snoop Dogg & T-Pain/Boom. For the last three years, we always decided on our Cape Epic song. It was not planed beforehand, just spontaneously by listening to the iPod we suddenly decided, that's the one! We always played the song very loud before we left for the start.

Burry was just such a good guy, and now I really can't wait to race my heart out for Burry, Cherise, his family, friends and fans.

[Editor's Note:  Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser have won the Cape Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race together.  They were also teammates together on the Specialized Racing team.  In 2013, Sauser will partner with another teammate, Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, to race the Cape Epic in memory of Stander.]

Christoph Sauser enjoyed a beach ride in Brasil

Batteries recharged

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
December 19, 2012, 16:00 GMT,
Updated:
December 19, 2012, 16:11 GMT

Off to South Africa for Cape Epic training

The 2012 season is history, and now I am already training for the new year again!

Actually, I am writing this on my way to Stellenbosch, South Africa. This year, I left a little bit later then usual, so I had to get into my training routine while still in the midst of a Swiss winter, but more about that later...

Like every year, Roc d'Azur was my last race of the season, and afterwards I packed my bags for a holiday in Brazil. The first half of it, we spent at Bahia's beaches. Then the rest was in the mountains and city of Belo Horizonte.

Since I would get pretty bored just sun bathing at the beach all day every day, we organized bikes (thanks to Specialized Brasil) and rode them on the sandy beaches towards the south. The sea was always on the left side, the palm trees and Caipirinha bars were on the right side. Zero traffic, zero climbing, 100 percent sun and zero chance of getting lost. Sometimes we ended up walking when the sand was too soft. We made about 20-40km from town to town just with minimum luggage. Perfect holidays!

After my return home, I could did some very cool enduro rides until it was time to go to South Africa. With my charity Songo.info, we organized a few events there. For example, we took part of one of the most beautiful stage races "Wines2Whales", where you could win in an auction the chance to ride with Burry Stander, myself and a few other celebs. Dinner and a ride were also on the schedule.

By mid-November, I was back in Switzerland again. The time, I recharged my batteries for the upcoming year. I find it very important to also get bored. Not too much though, otherwise I feel rotten, but it is good to feel ready and full of energy when it is time to sit onto the bike, lift weights in the gym or go jogging.

Deep winter hit Switzerland prior my departure for "winter" training in South Africa. I love snow sports, and I also don't mind the cold. As a kid, winter was by far my favorite time, and I spent every free second on my alpine skis. Now I do more backcountry skiing, but still go to my home ski resort for snowboarding or alpine skiing.

For the last three weeks I was at home, there was no day I did not ride on the snow, either with my cyclo-cross bike or my mountain bike. I definitely tested my toughness many days. Like riding in negative temperatures for five hours on snowy roads. But somehow, I liked the challenge. It is all about the perfect gear isn't it?

But now, it will be great to be at my second home in Stellenbosch to have the quality training I need for the next two months. Everything will be about my season's first goal: the Absa Cape Epic.

I wish you all Merry Christmas and a awesome New Year!

Thanks for reading.

Now Christoph Sauser has the Leadville belt buckle too

Looking forward to final cross country world championships

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
September 05, 2012, 21:44 BST,
Updated:
September 05, 2012, 22:51 BST

Specialized rider reflects on runner-up performance at Leadville

I went back home to Switzerland after my Leadville 100 adventure in mid-August. I definitely don't mind having oxygen in the air again. I already felt the difference at Frankurt airport where I had to walk up stairs. It was like I got fit over night, plus I lost my asthmatic attacks too!

The Leadville race was a 6.5-hour long asthma atack and there was a "sea of lactic acid" in my legs. I never felt good except on the long downhills... I also think Alban [Lakata] was super strong, winning his first Leadville title while I , on the other hand, had to ride too much over my limit. I learned my lessons and I will be back with much more experience next year again. You can find out more by watching the awesome "I-am-Specialized" footage from Leadville plus some of me at home.

On Sunday morning after Leadville, we watched a super exciting Olympic cross country race on TV. Well done to my Specialized teammate Jaroslav [Kulhavy] who won gold on his Specialized Epic 29er!

Sure it was hard not to be there racing. Instead, I was watching it on TV, same as when I was a kid 1996 in Atlanta. What ever you can not do or not have, makes you wish you could, I am sure if I were in London, I'd feel like I was missing out on Leadville.

After Leadville, I made use of our incredible summer weather and went camping for the weekend in Crans Montana, Switzerland. That's where the included pictures are taken.

Now it's time for my last cross country world championships in Austria. I am very excited! Since I started racing 1993, I have participated in every world champs, so I have seen 20 total venues.

As a junior, I raced both downhill and cross country. Back then, I was much better in downhill and finished around 10th. Nicolas Vouilloz and Cedric Gracia were flying. 1995 in Kirchzarten, I participated in the downhill only, and I remember that I crashed out hard.

After the new U23 category got introduced, I changed to cross country completely and left my downhill bike at home.

I hope we will have good weather at this year's Worlds in Austria, not like last time back in 2002 in Kaprun when it was so cold and raining. That was probably my worst Worlds performance ever. I was already freezing at the start, and I remember a big wooden fly-over which was steep, long and slippery. I did not have the power any more to ride over the top and slid down the same side again...

Thanks for reading,

Christoph

[You can follow Christoph on twitter at www.twitter.com/sauserwind.]

An old gold mine

Bikes and nutrition dialled in for Leadville 100

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
August 09, 2012, 21:00 BST,
Updated:
August 09, 2012, 22:07 BST

Marathon world champion looks forward to longest race yet

Only a few days to go until Leadville!

I am finally adapting to the altitude. I sleep much better, plus also my heart seems to pump comfortably at higher rates, which is more than necessary when I am thinking of how many times it will pump over the course of the six-hour race.

Leadville is going to be my longest race ever, and by accident last Saturday I did also my longest training ride ever. With my old teammate and friend Alban Lakata, I rode from Breckenridge over Mosquito Pass (4000m high) to Leadville, rode the course from Powerline on and then back via Copper Mountain to Breckenridge again. 170km in seven hours with over 3000m of climbing. I must admit I was pretty dead the day after.

You might be interested what bike I am going to race: It will be my 29er Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. It was also Todd Wells' winning rig last year. Sure, I would have much more fun and comfort on the Epic or Stumpjumper 29er softtail, but I am racing for the result only, and for that, I want the lightest and best rolling bike in the world.

You can not compare Leadville to the grueling Cape Epic stages, which are so rough, plus Cape Epic is a stage race where you have to be recovered again for the next day. Tire wise, I am rolling with my Renegades - the tire I designed with Specialized engineers together a few years ago. It is our fastest tire with still enough knobs for good traction.

I am wondering if I will see any 650b wheel sizes out there. In Europe, they are highly discussed at the moment, but to me, it seems like the Americans know that the biggest (29ers) is the best. The other day tried out a 650b bike, and I felt like I'd stepped back in time - like being on a 26er. I am pretty sure I could not feel any difference between a 26er and 650b during a blind test.

It is a lot about the bike, but even with the best equipment you are not going far with the wrong nutrition!

For breakfast, I will eat rice with Nutella and have a cup of good coffee two hours before the start. That means it will be 4:30 am and still dark outside. My race fuel is going to be Sponser Competition drink mix, plus I love their oat bars and long energy gels, which are not sweet. It gives me great, sustaining energy for many hours. But for such a long race, I also want a normal sandwich with Parmesan cheese and avocado. In case I run out of energy and speed, it is my body and head only... no excuses!

Breckenridge, Colorado

Pre-Leadville training and racing in Breckenridge

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
August 07, 2012, 16:09 BST,
Updated:
August 07, 2012, 17:19 BST

Miles logged on the Colorado Trail

My 14th place at the World Cup in Val d'Isère was more and less what I expected. There were three incidents worth mentioning from the race: my Superman crash on lap two, a bee sting on my tongue, plus the lack of oxygen due to the altitude which sped up our breathing but slowed down our legs. After each sip of drink, I was worried I was turning into an asthmatic!

So I'm wondering how I will cope with Leadville's altitude which is another 1000m higher then Val d'Isère, plus we will race over six hours.

Well now, more or less I know. I just finished some power workouts here in Breckenridge, which is at the same altitude as Leadville, just a valley further east.  Training is like a roller coaster. At some stages, I feel super good, then a few minutes later I just want to lay down flat next to my bike... My heart is pumping so intensely at a heart rate of 150 that it almost want to pop out my throat.

Riding here in Breckenridge is flip'n awesome! My favorite is the Colorado trail. One day, when I am big, I will do the whole thing, all the way from Denver to Durango. More and less 750km sweet singletrack!

What is very unique and great to see is so many families with small kids riding the bike paths here. It is seriously busy! If I ride fast, I have to ride on the main roads, otherwise it becomes like a slalom race. I did not expected so much family cycling in America.

It would be also nice to see bikes used for shopping or commuting to work, instead of hopping into a V8 Chevy Truck mostly just for moving an 80kg human body around...

Training wise, I am doing two long rides of five and six hours and the rest is more quality with 5x6-minute power workouts and longer progressive sprints with one minuted of recovery in between. I will end up training 20 hours this week and around eight hours in the week leading up to Leadville.

Thanks for reading,

Christoph

Some beautiful scenery for training

Last World Cup ever

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
July 20, 2012, 22:04 BST,
Updated:
July 20, 2012, 23:16 BST

Focus on Leadville 100

My Leadville 100 focus is on! It is the biggest mountain bike race in America. The course and town area at more-or-less 3000 meters or higher above sea level! That means you definitely want to adapt to the lack of oxygen beforehand.

At the moment, I am sleeping at the Niederhorn mountain hotel for one week. It's a super beautiful mountain nearby. To ride slowly up there takes not longer then 1.5 hours, or with car and cable car, it takes only half an hour. It is more than peaceful up here.

Next Tuesday, I will drive to Val d'Isère [France] for the World Cup finals, which luckily is at altitude as well. It is going to be my last World Cup ever! The first one was back in 1993.

That makes me feel old instantly when I see that nineteenninety number! Now don't make me write something sentimental about it... I might do something after the race.

But why look back when we move forward?

After the World Cup, I am leaving with Paddy (mechanic) and Gavin (soigneur) to go to Breckenridge for one week and then the following week to Leadville. Breckenridge which is at the same altitude as Leadville but has much better accommodations, plus it is good for the morale to change the training area after one week. Roads are pretty limited at America's altitude.

All the best,

Christoph

Stay tuned for more pre-Leadville blogs from Christoph Sauser (Specialized).

Author
Christoph Sauser

In 2008, Christoph Sauser fulfilled a long-time dream when he became the mountain bike cross country World Champion. The 35-year-old Swiss rider of the Specialized Racing Team is part of a talented crop of Swiss cross country racers.  He races for Team Specialized.

Sauser has won more than a dozen UCI World Cups and has twice been the World Cup overall champion - in 2004 & 2005. He can go fast over long distances, too. Sauser won the mountain bike marathon World Championships in 2007 and 2011 and finished as the runner-up in 2008.  He is also a multi-time winner of the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race.

Follow Sauser's adventures around the globe as he races the World Cup cross country circuit and marathon and stage races throughout 2012.