If Switzerland's Kathrin Stirnemann (Central Haibike Pro Team) could make one request to the organizers of the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek on October 17-22, it would be that there should be no cows on the route. She had a bad bovine experience last year thanks to an unexpected encounter.
"A cow came running straight at me and then she kicked me off my bike. I had blue bruises all over my body and some scrapes as well," said Stirnemann.
"I guess I should not complain because it could have been worse. Luckily the cow did not fall on me or jump upon me. However, since that incident, I cannot help to be scared stiff of cows," said Stirnemann.
Despite this "mad cow" fear of hers, Stirnemann has no fear of coming out to race in South Africa, country of the Big Five. She did not hesitate when Carel Herholdt, organizer, phoned to invite her to return to the event.
"I heard from other riders about their amazing experiences during the six-day tour and I saw pictures of the beautiful South African landscape. So when I received an invitation from Carel, it was an easy decision to make."
Even though it will be the first time that she will compete in a multi-stage event, it is safe to say that Stirnemann will be a podium contender. She is a former junior Swiss cross country champion, as well as winner of a junior World Cup race; finished fourth in a junior cross country world championship; finished second in the under 23 race at the European Championship and was second during the under 23 race at this year's World Cup event at Dalby Forest.
According to Stirnemann, she has been riding her mountain bike for about 17 years. "I started to ride my mountain bike when I was five years old. My dad taught my brother and me to play with the bike like with other toys. "
She still remembers her first race. "It was a children's race in my hometown. I raced with the boys and managed to finish third overall. I was so proud of winning my first trophy in my first race.
"Since then I have raced all the children's categories in the Swiss Cup series. At first I did it just for fun, not really doing any serious training, so I had a normal childhood until I was 15.
"I only became serious about mountain biking when, as a 15-year-old, I was selected for the Swiss junior team."
When asked about the most memorable moment of her mountain biking career, Stirnemann had no hesitation in saying "Winning gold as a junior rider at the European Cross Country Championship.
"It was an indescribable moment when I put on the championship jersey and received the gold medal. Then they played the national anthem of Switzerland just for me. Wow, I still get goose pimples when I think back to this moment.
Stirnemann's ultimate goal is to win a medal at a World Championship. "I won't stop racing competitively until I win a medal at a World Championship. Another important goal of mine is to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games."
To help her stay fit. Stirnemann also does cross country skiing in wintertime and some cyclo-cross races. "I also like alpine skiing and playing squash."