Clad in the rainbow stripes of the cross country mountain bike world champion, Christoph Sauser heads into the Olympic race as one of the top favourites for gold. The 32 year-old Sauser is part of the all-powerful Swiss team and has been meticulously preparing for the big day in China. Cyclingnews' Sue George spoke with the former metallurgist about his path to Beijing.
Sauser had been the bridesmaid twice before at the cross country World Championships before this June in Val di Sole, Italy, where he won. He'd previously won the marathon World Championship in 2007, but 2008 was his first cross country title.
"As it came closer to the cross country World Championships, I almost forgot about the Olympics because it's so important to win the Worlds jersey," said Sauser of his focus earlier this summer, during a season when everyone has been thinking about the Olympics.
Sauser grew up in Sigriswil, Switzerland, where he still resides. He splits his training time between home and Stellenbosch, South Africa, his adopted home away from home which conveniently gives him a warm, sunny place to train when it's winter in Switzerland.
While in places like South Africa, he often competes in longer, marathon type events such as the Cape Epic stage race, but it's the Olympic-distance cross country races that he considers the most competitive and prestigious.
"It's a challenge – how to train and travel. You have to put your whole energy into it for two to three hours during the race. I like it – it's very sporting," said Sauser.
"It's so hard in cross country to win and win and win," he said. "I thought it would be easy to switch to marathon where the level is not that high and where the level suits my ability more, but I want to finish my career on top of both. I don't want to water down my career."
Sauser's natural talents help him excel in endurance events. "I don't have to train long distances at all. That's in my blood. I just grew up like that," he said. "It's a mental game and I don't bonk unless it's cold and wet. That takes my energy away – when my muscles get too cold."
It's about priorities
Sauser explained his priorities for the season in increasing order: World marathon championships, World cross country championships, and the Olympics.
Although the cross country championships went perfectly, the marathon championships two weeks later didn't go according to plan.
At the end of the race in Villabassa, Italy, Sauser and Roel Paulissen were the only two men left at the front. As they were sprinting for the finish line, the two tangled and crashed. Paulissen was the first man up after both hit the tarmac hard, but he was delayed by bike problems and had to carry his broken bike toward the finish. Sauser remounted and went on to cross the finish line first.
Read the full feature on the prospective gold medalist.