Mountain Biking

UCI Mountain Bike World Championship 2019 – Nino Schurter – Bicycling

Nino Schurter

Boris Beyer / Red Bull Content Pool

    On August 31, defending champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM MTB Racing) of Switzerland cruised to his eighth UCI Mountain Bike World Championships title in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, exiting with some new hardware to add to his drawer: The 33-year-old has also won Olympic gold, silver, and bronze in addition to dozens of World Cup victories.

    His 2019 victory at the iconic Sainte Anne course—which he achieved in a time of 1:27:05—was his first World Championship win on the course after two untimely flats cost him first place in 2010.

    In this year’s race, Schurter rode with a lead group of several racers, including eventual silver medalist Mathias Flückiger (Thömus RN Racing Team) of Switzerland, who suffered a flat on the course, and Gerhard Kerschbaumer (TX Active-Bianchi) of Italy, who ended up finishing fifth after his own flat caused him to lose two spots in the final moments of the race. Bianchi Countervail’s Stephane Tempier of France took third place.

    “Sometimes, it’s easier to sit behind someone and know you have a little left in the tank, but a day like today, it’s great to be in the front. On the last lap, when I felt like I was struggling a bit, it was hard to stay there,” he said. “Since Rio, though, I feel a bit less pressure. I hit my biggest target, Olympic gold, so I can relax now. I’ve won a lot. If it doesn’t go right, it’s okay.”

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    For Schurter, though, everything did go right in Sainte Anne: His race was clean—no mechanicals, no crashes—and he smoothly sailed to victory with plenty of time to salute the crowd as he rolled in for the win.

    “It was so cool to win my eighth World Championship on such a legendary track,” he said. “I worked hard this year towards that goal and it’s obviously important for next year heading into Tokyo. I know I can battle for the gold there.”

    What he believes he has to thank for it? Consistency: As Schurter reflected on his 2019 win, he realized that his training and mindset have stayed steady over the years—something which may very well be his secret to success.

    Schurter’s win at Saint Anne wasn’t thanks to a new training plan or change in coaches—it was Schurter’s confidence in staying with modalities that have worked for him for two decades.

    Take his training. Follow Schurter on Instagram, and you’ll likely notice his use of the hashtag #noshortcuts. His steady training regimen is part of that.

    “I had quite a modern training plan for mountain biking 15 years ago. A lot of people just trained like road riders,” he said after the podium ceremony. “But I was already doing a lot of coordination work. I still do almost the exact same training now.”

    His coordination drills—as seen in this video from last year—have become legendary, causing many other mountain bikers to start working on their agility skills in new ways. He likens that kind of training to “navigating a technical rock garden.”

    “I had the advantage to starting this agility training early—when you’re younger, you learn quicker, so that was my biggest benefit,” he said.

    He trains in the gym, but the outdoors is where he really hones his skills.

    “I live in the perfect place for mountain biking—the middle of the Alps,” he said. “So I have technical trails all around me. Every ride trains my technical skills, which is really cool having that built in. I enjoy going out with a longer-travel bike to ride even more technical stuff.”

    Schurter admits he hasn’t changed much since that first World Championship win 15 years ago.

    “I’ve had almost the same team since the beginning of my career in 2003,” he said. “I had [longtime pro] Thomas Frischknecht on my team, and he taught me so much as a young racer.”

    Schurter is taking what has worked for him in the past toward the future: Tokyo is already on his horizons, and he is looking to battle for gold there. Mathieu Van der Poel, who missed the championship at Sainte Anne to prepare for the Road World Championships later this month, will be one of his prime competitors.

    But Schurter isn’t worried—he knows he can only benefit from that push.

    “I think I’ve only gotten stronger with the battles I’ve had with him—I don’t think you get stronger without that level of competition,” he said.