We popped over to Switzerland with Scott recently and managed to grab some time for a chat with XC mountain bike legend Nino Schurter.

We popped over to Switzerland with Scott recently and managed to grab some time for a chat with XC mountain bike legend Nino Schurter.

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Interview by Laura Bailey.

Nestled high in the mountains above Lugano Switzerland lies an impressive mountain hut. I got the chance to spend a few days checking out the trails in the area courtesy of Lugano Region and Scott Sports with the ultimate tour guide, eleven time world champion Nino Schurter.

What do you think the Olympics will look like next year?

The Olympics… it’s going to be hot! Hot and hard. I think it’s a cool track on one part, it’s a lot of nice sections to watch, but I don’t think it’s going to be a really interesting race because it’s going to be too challenging a course. The race will break apart quite quickly and it won’t be the most exciting battle for the win. But I hope I am there to battle for the victory.

Nino Schurter celebrates at the UCI XCO World Cup in Snowshoe, USA on September 8, 2019. Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

If you aren’t so keen on the Olympic track which one has been your favourite track to race on and why?

My favourite track is Nové Mesto in the Czech Republic, it’s a cool track. It’s one of the best tracks for XC races and it’s always a good atmosphere. Czech fans are always quite nice and they go wild. It’s one I always really enjoy.

Do you think the coverage of the XC circuit live on Red Bull has changed the tracks for the better or worse?

I think Red Bull changed the sport quite a bit. With the TV Production they do now they have helped to develop the sport a lot. Not because of the tracks but because they do an amazing job of broadcasting the races. I think it’s a good combination now with some tracks that are really challenging technically but then you see maybe tighter racing. Sometimes it’s also good, like the one world cup we had in Snowshoe, were it’s almost a boring track but the race was really exciting as it was much more tactical racing. So I think we now have a good combination of different tracks and Red Bull definitely did an amazing job for our sport and it was a big thing that has changed a lot.

Do you think that televising the races will continue to bring new people and new commercial deals into XC Racing?

Yeah I think so. I think a lot of the interest we’ve seen grow in the last three years is continuing and it’s so cool to see the number of views that Red Bull now has. In some countries, like Switzerland, almost all races were either live or they put highlights together. As more countries do what we have in Switzerland or the Czech Republic where you can also now watch most of the races live on TV, if that continues, that will change the sport. It’s cool to see this development. I hope the UK will follow one day and grow more and more. It helps to have a strong rider in each country. It’s the most important thing to help to get the sport to grow.

Do you think the success of the Swiss team has helped to grow XC racing in your home country?

For sure. Now we have Avancini the brazil rider being strong, he has helped a lot to bring the sport to South America and Brazil especially and I think they also have all the races live on one of the national TV challenges. And that’s the same in Switzerland. My success or the success of Jolanda helped to bring the sport to Swiss TV, and now next year they are planning to show all the races live on Swiss TV and we have just one channel so that’s a big thing.

What do you think makes the Swiss team so strong?

I think the landscape. It’s perfect to ride your bike. That’s a big thing. And the Swiss Cup. We have a really good Swiss Cup where you can start racing from seven years old. It helps to build up your technical skills and Switzerland is so small that if you live in central Switzerland you can reach all those races in two and a half hours. Good trails, a good cup and some strong pros that can be inspiration for kids.

It’s been a pleasure to follow the success of the Swiss team over social media, you feel like you’re never far away from the action.

The social media thing for sport that’s not in the media everyday, it’s helped a lot to make it grow and have a network all over the world. It’s been pretty cool to see.

Looking forward to the future of Swiss XC riding, you have a daughter, have you encouraged her to ride bikes?

She’s just started. She’s four years old. We go riding together sometimes and I pull her up with a rope and then she can ride herself down. She really enjoys that and there’s a lot of good pump tracks around where we live so sometimes when I have a day off we go to the pump track.

Would you encourage her to follow your footsteps into racing?

No not especially, if she likes to then great. She already plays racing now. Sometimes she’s Jolanda and sometimes she’s Kate. And I have to play Kate or Jolanda and I have to chase her!

Do you let her win though?

Yeah sometimes but not always. Then we go to the pump track together. I go on the skateboard and she goes on the bike.

That sounds like a great way to spend the off season. How else do you unwind during the off season and will you have less time off with the Olympics looming next year?

Off season gets busier and busier for me with a lot of other things like sponsors and photo shoots. Since the World Cup final in Snowshoe I was only home two days and then from one event to the next. It’s getting to almost the most busy time of year for me. So it’s almost a bit too much now. In the next one and a half weeks we go on family holiday and then it’s two weeks of just relaxing.

How many days do you think you spend away from home each year?

One year I counted them, I haven’t this year but it’s about 200 days on the road. It’s enough.

Do you take anything with you on the road to remind you of home?

I always have my pillow. If I’m on races I have all my important things for the races but a pillow I always have with me to make sure I sleep well. Then phone and iPad to be connected with my family and my daughter, we face time a lot together.

You’re not on your own on the road you have an amazing team around you, how important is it to have that support?

To be on the road that many days it’s important you have good people around you. It’s not just a team that works well together you also need to have a good time together so it’s important you have people around you that you like to spend time with. We have a really cool atmosphere in the team. We are all friends together and with Janek my mechanic we just go riding together or go on holiday together. It’s more than just working together. Our physio is really important, our manager is really important, to be a strong team is how to be successful.

Are you an easy rider to look after? Do you have particular requests for your team about the set up for you and your bike.

[Laughs] I hope so – probably not always. Every small thing in the end is part of the big picture that needs to be right. The World Championships in Mont St Anne this year was a super technical course, and I saw some pictures of me ten years ago riding down one of the technical sections, it’s still the same section as this year but I’m on a hardtail bike with 26 inch wheels, tyres like that wide, and I was like how was I able to ride down this section on that bike. Sometimes you think it’s just a small change but then all together they make up to huge changes over time.

Do you have a favourite bike you’ve ridden over your career? If you could only pick one bike to ride what would it be?

If I could just have one bike I wouldn’t chose a race bike. Now I would choose a ransom. You can ride everywhere up and it’s really fun to ride down. If I just have one that would be it. If I don’t have to compete.

Being out with you today on the bike you clearly love being out on a bike, has that helped keep you motivated to compete at the highest level for this long?

Yeah even if I do it all the time I still love to ride my bike, especially a fun bike like the Ransom. I think it’s the most important thing that you enjoy what you do. I don’t think you can be successful in this sport if you don’t enjoy it. If you can have a little bit of fun everyday it’s a key factor.

You’re off the bike training has been well documented, is that something you still do to help you progress?

I still do a lot of coordination and balance stuff and I think if you can challenge your body in a different way it’s something important. The forest training as well, a lot of riders they say that forest training you don’t need for riding. But forest training and coordination can challenge your body. If it’s on the bike or in the gym it’s something important. It should also be fun to do it.

How do you keep up your off bike training when your on the road mid season?

If I’m traveling I always try to make the best out of it. If I can’t find a good gym then I just try to different things with less quality perhaps. Sometimes I have to adapt but you can do so much with so little, there is lots you can do so much just with your bodyweight. You just have to be a bit creative.

Thanks for the time today Nino, we thought we’d round it off with an important question. If you had to describe yourself as one bike part what would you be and why?

That’s a hard question! The fork is a fun piece. It looks like it works the most. I would love to be a fork, working hard. It needs to work hard and work well to have fun. I would love to be a fork, a good working fork. Not a poorly set up fork that needs always servicing!