Swedish mountain biker Jenny Rissveds became the European eliminator champion at just 19 years of age last year, and she impressed many with her performances at the mountain bike World Cup.
Rissveds recently signed with the Scott-Odlo MTB Team, where she's now teammates with Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel. Below is an interview with the up and coming rider on how she got into cycling, last year's accomplishments and her goals for this season.
Q: What made you jump on your first bike?
A: First when my mum and dad tried to teach me how to ride my bike, I wasn't that interested. When I was four years old, I decided to learn how to ride by myself. I went out onto the gravel path in our garden and started to practice. I didn't give up until I made it and at the end of that autumn day, I knew how to ride a bike.
Q: When did you first compete in a mountain bike race? What was that like?
A: I was seven years old and competed on a kid's bike with three gears. The course was about three kilometeres - combining asphalt, gravel and trails. I felt comfortable on the part with asphalt and gravel. As soon as I had to ride in the forest, I jumped off my bike and ran through that section. I remember the last forest part so clearly, with about 300m to the finish line, I jumped off the bike and a girl on a real mountain bike passed me. I didn't know I was in the lead before she passed me. I realized that when I crossed the finish line as number two. This girl ended up becoming my worst competitor for a couple of years.
Q: When people think about Sweden, mountain biking doesn't necessarily come to mind. How would you describe mountain biking where you come from?
A: We have a long tradition of cross country skiing here in Sweden and probably that is what people associate most with this country. Mountain biking has become a big interest among the people in Sweden during the last couple of years. In Falun, where I live, there are a lot of hand built trails where you can go for a ride just for fun or for a hard training session. Every time on these trails, I meet a lot of nice people, it doesn't matter what the weather is like or what season it is. The terrain is very hilly and there are a lot of rocky sections where you can get great technical training.
Q: What does your perfect bike afternoon look like?
A: A nice summer day and I'm out on my bike to ride some of my favorite trails. Just ride for the fun of it and try to let the rear wheel drift in some of the corners. Or a cold dark autumn evening when I put on my headlamp and ride into the forest. The feeling when you only see what is right in front of you and everything else is dark is a feeling I like. It feels like everything happens so much faster and you must be ready to swing or jump over a possible obstacle.
Q: In 2013, you didn't only win the European eliminator championships, but also two World Cups. What is your main attraction to eliminator and what are the secrets to doing well in these kinds of races?
A: I did my first eliminator race at the World Cup in Houffalize in 2012 just because it was something new and exciting. I wanted to see how far I could go. I finished in third position and about one month later, I won the eliminator World Cup in La Bresse. After that season, I realized what it takes to win an eliminator race. You have to be a kind of all-rounder. You have to be fast, strong, explosive and you need technical skills. You need a workable tactic for each heat, while at the same time being prepared for anything that might happen.
Q: What was the biggest surprise for you racing in 2013?
A: Firstly, I'd like to mention the European championships. It was an unforgettable weekend in Bern for me. I did the team relay on day 1. On day 2, I did the eliminator and on day 3 I did the cross country. I won the eliminator race and ended up second at the cross country. It was three really tough days, and I didn't expect these results.
One more surprising thing was to win the national title in downhill. My season had ended and I wanted to do the Swedish championships in downhill just for fun. I went to a bike park one week before the race to get the feeling of riding a downhill bike. It felt pretty good, but I did not have any thoughts of winning. After the qualifying run I realized that I had a chance to win, and to my surprise I did.
Q: Even though you are a real all-rounder, cross country is probably the most important category: What is your goal for the cross country discipline next year?
A: In 2014, I want to be on the podium in a couple of World Cup races and win at least one. Another goal is to land on the podium at the world championships.
Q: Now everybody is already looking towards the Rio Olympics. Who are your main contenders in Sweden and how do your chances look for competing in 2016?
A: At the moment Alexandra Engen and I are the only riders in Sweden at a level to ride in the Olympics. If we both get good results in the future World Cups, there will be a good chance for the both of us, as every nation can send two riders. Of course, if a third Swedish girl starts riding on our level there can be an issue with competition over Olympic spots, but at the moment it is only an advantage to have another rider pushing me to get better.
Q: Are you afraid of being the only woman on the Scott-Odlo team?
A: So far, I'm not afraid of it, ha ha. After one season to get to know the guys on the team [Rissveds was supported by the team in the pits at World Cups last year - Ed.], I feel comfortable with the situation. It's a great opportunity for me to learn from Nino Schurter and improve myself in a team with riders at this level. As long as it's not a problem for the guys to have a girl on their team, I don't think it will be a problem for me either.