Switzerland's Nathalie Schneitter will be spending some pre-season training time in Australia in the coming weeks. The Colnago Südtirol rider is coming off a frustrating 2012 season and hoping to find form while doing races such as the Australian Mountain Bike Series this weekend in Mt. Buller and the Kona Odyssey MTB Marathon on February 16.
Schneitter burst onto the scene in 2004, when she won the junior world championships in Les Gets, France, and she was second at the U23 world championships in 2008. She represented Switzerland in the Beijing Olympics and is aiming to climb back into the top 10 of the cross country World Cup after an injury-marred 2012.
Rapid Ascent, the organizers of the Odyssey MTB Marathon spoke with Schneitter in advance of her trip Down Under.
Nathalie, you're consistently a top 10 rider on the world stage - including wins as a junior cross country world champion and in the elite World Cup. Talk us through some of your biggest MTB achievements.
My biggest achievement was for sure winning my home World Cup in Champéry (Switzerland) in 2010. In 2011, I finished fifth at the world champs on the same course. Winning the European Champs and coming in second as a U23 at Worlds in 2008 was very exciting. Winning the junior world champs in 2004 is a long time ago, but the rainbow jersey is something very special to me!
And aims for the future?
After having a very difficult season in 2012. (I broke my arm in May and struggled to get back on track afterwards), it is my goal to get back to top 10 in the World Cup series and a medal at the world championships is still a real dream for me. However, my next big goal is to win the Cape Epic stage race in South Africa in March 2013.
How did you get into the sport and how tough has it been to progress?
I started mountain biking when I was 14. As a kid, it is quite easy to learn technical skills, because children are not so afraid of crashing and do not envisage all the upcoming things that might happen. The first few races were quite bad, but I could feel progress pretty soon. The most important thing to progress is have clear goals - if you have goals you want to achieve the motivation for training just happens and it’s more fun. Fun is always one of the key aspects of mountain biking!
What is your key MTB strength?
I am technically good and like short powerful uphills. I am kind of a sprinter.
Long steady uphills. I just get bored with them soon.
How do those both line up against the 100km Odyssey course that you'll be tackling in February?
I think the course will be a challenge. There are two big hills I'll have to survive, but the sweet singletrack will make it fun anyway
What got you on to the Kona Odyssey?
I asked a friend of mine, Naomi Hansen, what races she would suggest me to do while being in Australia - there was no question for her that the Kona would be the one I have to do.
You're racing a few other events while Down Under - what is the idea behind your trip here - serious competition or a riding holiday with a few competitive outings for fun?
The idea is to do a proper training camp with some serious competition. I will be training hard, but of course also enjoying the sun, landscape and the nice tracks. I've been injured during the season 2012 and lack a bit of race practice. So the trip is kind of a mix of escaping the snow and cold back home, get good training in and gain some race practice.
Have you raced in Australia before?
Only once at worlds in Canberra in 2009. (Finished fifth with Switzerland in the team relay and has a DNS at the cross country because of food poisoning.)
What are your expectations of racing in the Odyssey?
Hard to say, but I will of course try to make it a hard day for the other girls!
How tough is competition these days in marathon style MTB racing?
It is hard. The level is getting higher and higher and the girls are all very serious about racing. Cross country (what I normally do) is just fast and full speed from the start line. A marathon is hard, too, but it is also a lot about tactics, knowing your own body and making no mistakes.
You get around the globe a bit for all sorts of exotic races - tell us about some of your favourites.
One of my favourites is the stage race in Langkawi, Malaysia. It's exotic, the people are friendly and the tracks great. Another great race is the Cape Epic stage race in South Africa, which in the hardest race I've ever done. Also in South Africa is the Cape Pioneer Trek, I did this race with a deaf partner. It was unbelievably intense. We have also tons of fun races in Europe, but as this is where I come from it is far more exciting to get abroad to race
You're racing the Odyssey with your brother - is he a MTBer or have you done some persuading?
My brother never did a single MTB race in his life. He is a former soccer player and wants to get involved with mountain biking now. It's good to have him around, but it will be interesting and funny to see how he deals with 100km of racing.