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Bec McConnell interviews Mathias Fluckiger

Mathias Fluckiger is one of the most exciting riders to watch on the World Cup circuit. With so much talent and skill he is also a risk taker. Mathias has been one of the top riders over his whole career throughout the Junior and Under 23 ranks all the way to Elite. He won the World Championships as an Under 23 in 2010 and is the current Swiss National Champion. In 2018 Mathias collected his first World Cup Victory and proved he can do it again taking another win at the opening round of the World Cup in 2019. Mathias’s consistency has him as a regular on the World Cup podium, fourth in the World Cup overall 2019 and a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships.

You have won two World Cup’s in your career and been on the podium many times. Was there anything particularly special about those two days that really made the difference in you winning?

A big part is the confidence to know that I can win also the big races. 10 years ago many said that I will win World Cup races in the future. Just because I was winning in the under 23 in this time and also had as a u23 podiums at the Elite World Cup. In this time there was no under 23 category as a single race in the World Cup. Then they saw the talent in my person. In the meantime I had some very good races in the World Cup. But never a win. And I would say a big part was the confidence. I didn’t recognise it in this time, but now I can confirm it. And why I didn’t have the confidence to win races? Because I was also in Switzerland only the second best. There was a guy which stands always in the sun. he seems untouchable. And if you see this hierarchy over years this burns it in your head. But, I saw always that I actually could be - on a good day – strong as Nino. I had to work a lot in my mind. Also the race tactic I had to switch. Till actually 2018 I tried to go with the head through the wall. I tried to beat him just with power in a short time, but this was impossible. I learned a different tactic. And then I came closer. He was still beating me. But just because he had more experience to win a race. But I was already stronger in some races. So my confidence was growing and growing. And it is still growing, it has to be. But I had also to work on different part to be fast. Namely, I had to ride smarter. I was riding some times with a lot of risks. Either I was crashing or I had a mechanical. And this helped a lot. 2019 I had actually no crash or mechanical until the world in Canada. There I had a flat tire in the front wheel, but it was only bad luck, I caught a pin (spike).

What do you think makes the difference between a Top 10 rider and a World Cup winner?

A very difficult question. A big part is talent. Then confidence and normally they work pretty hard and this at the right thing. There are a lot of hard workers but sometimes they do probably the wrong. And everybody have to find out what is the best for him or what is necessary. It is very individual.

With so many top results what is it about racing that keeps you working so hard and coming back each year?

I’m still not the best, but I see there a lot of potential which I still not used. And I just love cycling and racing. I miss it so much now! I mean the races.

You are a very exciting rider to watch and you’ve taken some big risks in the races. Sometimes they pay off and other times they’ve cost you a big result like in Albstadt 2017, do you just love to race on the limit and go all in or do you feel like you need to rein it in?

Like I say before, I changed it in the race. It was necessary. I guess I’m more mature now. I did some stupid things. But I learned, if also not fast actually, because I loved the risk. I still love it. But not anymore in the race. More in training.

You are one of the very best riders in the World, do you ever find it difficult or frustrating to be in the shadow of Nino Schurter?

Finally I have to say he made me better. I was in the shadow of him, in the popularity still, but in racing I would say, I come to his level now. And can beat him. But yeah, it was sometimes frustrating. But to be international on this level he pushed me. It so good to have him in our sport.

Your team manager Ralph Naf was also one of Switzerland’s best riders before he retired. He is a joker but you see him ‘switch on’ for race day, what is it like to have someone with all that experience supporting you and someone who truly understands racing at that level?

I can definitely use from his experience. Our relationship is very good, and we work so close together. I say he is also one of the reason where I am now. We analysed every race. What we did as a team good and where we fucked up. And we fucked up so many times. Ahhah… but we grew. It is a learning process which we are going from every race to race. But I would say we are now fucking good! That’s also the reason I work now with him and our team for such a long time. We all know each other so good. If we have a problem we can always remember on a similar situation and we can react then very relax. Because we have a solution we know it worked already.

The corona virus is affecting everyone around the World, in Switzerland you are still fortunate enough to be able to continue to train outside, how has your training changed and what are you doing to stay motivated while the whole race schedule is completely unknown?

Tough time for everyone, but yeah we are lucky we still can do our usual training. And its hard for the mind you don’t know when we are racing. We don’t have actually a goal we are working on. This makes it hard. I try to do almost a normal season preparation. Bit less intensive. But for my body I know I have to run it. Otherwise I got slack.

Looking back to 2012 World Championships in Austria, that must have been a pretty incredible day for the Fluckiger’s with an all Swiss podium but your brother Lukas and yourself with Silver and Bronze?

Absolutely, it is one of this days I remember as first when I have to talk about my career. To stay on the podium with your brother on the Worlds…still unbelievable. This was a very special day. I remember the hours after the race, it was so, so nice. We both were recognised that this is so special and probably never will happen again. Because to win a medal needs so much, everything have on this day suit together and then is there a second person which have to have the same opportunities. It was and is crazy.

There must have been some challenges racing against your brother as well as being teammates over the years? I imagine it also creates a pretty special bond?

Actually we were never racing against each other. I mean it never feels like it in this time, even now, when we are not anymore in the same team. Luk (Lukas) was never a competitor for me. We had sometimes different challenges beside the race. Maybe like brothers have sometimes. But when it counts we where always there for each other. And in the race it counted.

There is definitely some attitude in the Men’s field with some stand out characters, do you find it’s a cut-throat competitive environment at the World Cup’s or are you all friends off the bike?

It is very competitive. This shows also our level we have. And the time gaps we have. There are only seconds between each riders on the finish line. But generally I would say it is nice how we deal with each other beside the races. Of course not every body is best friends with all. And some riders you like more and some less.

In the race there is always stress. I mean hectic. And thus it can come to an act which you maybe wouldn’t do beside the race. How you pass another rider, a kind of move, or words you are using. But like I said, the race time is stressful, and in this time your mind isn’t always clear. It is human to make mistakes there. I did so many in my career…hahaha

Anyone who follows you on social media knows that you spend a lot of time tinkering on your bikes (and coffee machine). You obviously have a very mechanical mind. Is this one of your hobbies that keeps you busy when you are not training?

Yes indeed. I like it. It is a big part in my life. Develop thing if it is for the bike or not, it is a passion. I had the chance to develop two bikes in my carrier. One for the Olympics in Rio it’s called “Riocat”. This bike was produced only twenty times. It was very unique. And for Tokyo I could do the same.

You know I cant train the whole day, and only thinking about cycling, sometimes you have to do different things to clear your mind. This is my way.

What does a usual day in the life of Mathias Fluckiger look like?

I never have a usual day.

I try to plan that cycling (training) have priority one. Beside this I want to do some of my hobbies. Relaxing is not my strength.

You have been in the sport a long time and seen some big changes over the years - the races continue to get shorter, the inclusion of the Short Track, Eliminator came and went, do you feel our sport is still growing or is it in a good place now? What changes would you make?

Actually the kind of sport we have no w with this two disciplines I really like it. The sport became very attractive. With the kind of tracks we have, and also now additionally with the short track. I guess this is now a very good base for the sport to grow from this platform. But when the sport wants to go bigger we can’t do always changes. Now we have to keep it like it is now. It’s a good format. If we change always, we start again always some steps backwards. Just for the World Cups it would be necessary we would have more traditional races. Like Monte Saint Anne. Albstadt and Nove Mesto are becoming this. And then we need more World Cup races. At least eight. Better would be ten.

Do you every get bored going back to many of the same venues each year for World Cup racing?

No. when they do changes on the track, then not. But when it is always the same, yes, then I get bored.

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