Getting to Know – Camille Balanche
Camille Balanche burst onto the mountain bike scene this year with two back-to-back World Cup podiums in Val di Sole and Lenzerheide. She is a sporting polymath having twice been junior fencing champion in Switzerland and representing her nation in Ice Hockey at the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics.
Balanche took a while to discover mountain biking but it has become yet another feather in her cap as she has only been riding for four years but has already broken into the top ten overall in her first full season. We caught up with her to find out more about what makes her tick and what her plans are for the future.
I’m a 29-year-old Swiss girl. I’m passionate about sports in general. I finished my masters in sports science four years ago and since then I’ve been riding bikes.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I come from La Chaux-de-Fond, north-west Switzerland but I’ve been living in Biel for 8 years.
How did you get into mountain biking?
As a sports student, we had one week of mountain-biking during the summer. I really liked it so the year after I bought my first mountain bike.
Who do you ride for?
This year I was an ambassador for Devinci and rode for a shop in Switzerland – Fatal Bike. I was lucky to get the support from Fox, Praxis Works, StansNoTubes, Fabric, Schwalbe, Five Ten and Nukeproof.
What bikes are you riding right now?
I’m riding the Devinci Wilson 29” and the Troy 29”, but I also use Devinci’s e-bike. I just got a new downhill bike a few weeks back but I can’t tell you any more at the moment!
Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?
I work as a personal trainer in a gym and sometimes as a substitute sports teacher at high school level.
What are your strengths?
I like to learn new things all the time and I’m really dedicated once I start. I can learn quite fast just by watching people.
What are your weaknesses?
I’m not very patient.
Tell us about your ice hockey background
I started to play ice hockey at 10 years old. That was my absolute passion for more than 10 years. I played in the national team for two years and I stopped after the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010 to start my Bachelor studies. From time to time I still play for fun.
What made you decide to switch from racing the EWS to racing World Cups?
Mostly because I don’t like to pedal uphill! I’m a lazy girl and I don’t have any talent for endurance. So I had to train a lot to be fit enough and I got knee problems and lack of iron all the time.
What made you decide to race a full World Cup season this year?
Last year I tried to race two World Cups and I really enjoyed it so I just wanted to race more and see where I could stand in the overall after doing the full World Cup season. When I start something new, I usually go full gas or I stop.
Did you expect to do as well as you did this year?
It’s hard to expect something when you never raced a World Cup season before. My goal was to qualify at all the World Cups and stay healthy for the whole season. After the first few races, I knew I could end up on the podium with a good run but I didn’t expect to end up 3rd in Val di Sole and 5th the week after in Lenzerheide. I actually thought my best shot to do well would be on tracks like Les Gets or Leogang.
How did it feel getting your first podium in Val di Sole?
It was just unreal. It was a dream come true and a relief that I can do it. For me, it’s one of the hardest tracks of the year so I was really proud to do it there, it gave me a lot of confidence. It changed my whole mindset: before that, I kinda thought I wasn’t going to perform when it’s technical.
What are the struggles of being a privateer that people may not realise?
I don’t know if people realize how much work it is before the season and how much money it costs to do a full World Cup season. We speak a lot of what happens during the race weekend, like washing and taking care of the bike, but actually it’s way more work at the beginning of the season looking for bike support and all the logistic stuff.
Also, it’s hard to get recognition on the bike scene even if you do well because privateers don’t have well-known photographers or filming crews like a big team and nobody is posting pictures of you on social media.
Have you been approached by any teams for a ride next year?
YES! (in fact, I’ve approached all of them first)
What has been your worst crash over the years?
I don’t remember any huge crashes where I really hurt myself other than 4 years ago when I just started mountain biking. I rode down a jump track at home and I ended up straight in a tree and broke 3 vertebrae in my neck. It took me a while to come back and I still have some strength issues in my left arm.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Since I was 15 years old I wanted to enrol in the best sports school in Switzerland, the HEFSM. They just take the best 30 students each year so that was one of my biggest accomplishments to enter the program and complete my masters in sport science there.
What is your biggest regret?
That I didn’t discover mountain biking earlier.
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
Probably Queenstown in New Zealand
What’s your favourite non-bike website?
What’s your favourite motto or saying?
Make each day count
What makes you happy?
Being outside doing any kind of sports activities. Even more if it’s with my friends and some sun.
How do you want to be remembered?
Hopefully as someone who is good to hang out with and passionate by the sport. In a unicorn world as a steezy rider.
What does the future hold for Camille Balanche?
I want to establish myself as a pro mountain biker and give everything I have to become the best rider I can. You will see me next year for another full World Cup season!