Nino Schurter needs no introduction. Arguably the best of all time, Nino is an Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist, World Champion, World Cup Champion, National Champion and Cape Epic winner. He won his first Elite World Championship just 3km from my home on the trails of Mount Stromlo in 2009. Nino is a husband, a father and an outdoor and sports enthusiast.
Nino, you are the best mountain biker in the World. I’m baffled for an opening question for such a rider!
Thanks for the compliment.
With the full collection of Olympic medals, 8 Elite World Champion jerseys and 7 World Cup overall titles, a perfect World Cup season and your many World Cup wins, UCI Wins, stage race wins and I could go on. Is there anything left that you seek to achieve?
It’s always my goal to give my best in every race plus next year I’m really looking forward to participate for the fourth time at the Olympic games. And I’d like to break the record in World Cup wins and Olympic medals and despite I still feel great fun racing all those goals are keeping me more then just motivated.
Every single race you turn up to, there is a level of pressure and expectation for you to win. How do you deal what that?
Well honestly, I don’t feel that pressure a lot but if I feel it once for example at the “Home" World Championships 2018 I try to totally focus on my race and forget everything around. But I also need pressure to be at my very best. The pressure I try to turn around into positive energy and pure joy.
With all of this success, what keeps you driven to continue pushing every day and fighting to be the best athlete you can be? How do you stop yourself becoming complacent?
The love for this sport which includes the nature, adventure and freedom feeling. My motto #noshortcuts pushes me every day.
Do you have time off the bike during the off season? We never see you turn up to a race at a level other that what appears to be your best. What is your secret to being so consistent not just during a long season but year after year?
Yes, for sure! I think that’s really important to be successful over many years. You need to have a proper offseason with no training to give your body and mind once a year a break. Normally I do around 3 weeks of no training in October/November. And then I always try to do a smart season planning with also some rest and time to train properly between the races. If it’s possible I never race more than 3 weekends in a row and I don’t do races just for training, if I compete I wanna be on my best.
Secret for being so consistent? To find the right balance of training, rest, racing and joy.
You’ve been racing on board a Scott bike and a part of the same team since 2003. Do you feel that staying with one team, on board the same equipment for all these years has played a part in your long term success and helped you to maintain focus on your own work without having to worry about changing teams, contracts and equipment?
Definitely, I’m totally convinced that a strong and consistent team is the key factor for my long and successful career so far.
Over your long career you’ve seen the rise and fall of many riders and had some incredible battles. Is there a particular race that really stands out to you? And who do you feel has been your biggest rival over your career?
One of the most emotional victory was the gold medal at the ‘home’ World Championships 2018 at Lenzerheide followed by the Olympic gold medal win at Rio de Janeiro 2016. And all the hard battles with Julien Absalon are staying me in good memories. One that stands out there is my first World Champion title in Canberra, where I won in a close sprint finish against him.
Over the years cross country racing has developed and progressed a lot, the racing has become shorter, more intense and now there is also the short track. Do you feel the sport is going the right way and if you could make changes to the sport what would they be?
Totally! I think specially in the past 5 years we saw a great chance in our sport and I think we are now on the right way. If I see photos from a World Cup in Lenzerheide or Nove Mesto it makes me also proud to be a small part of it.
How have you had to adapt your training over the years to keep it relevant to the evolution of the sport? Have you been with the same coach throughout your career?
I’m with the same coach, Nicolas Siegenthaler, since 20 years. I had the luck to find a great coach from the very beginning that already saw early the special needs of the mountain bike sport. Today I can take out the benefits of a long term relationship, similar like with the team.
You are the face of cross country mountain biking. Do you ever feel like you have to be the athlete and person that people expect you to be and that you should be perfect? And do you feel you get judged harsher than your competitors?
I never feel different than any other rider and probably I judge myself the hardest. I have high expectations and try to reach them without listening too much what others say. You never can make everybody happy.
You have the power, the skills and the experience with seemingly no weaknesses. What does it take to beat you?
That’s a secret which you have to ask my rivals.
Despite so much success you’ve still had to deal with disappointment and shattered goals. What has been the biggest disappointment and how do you overcome or move on from it?
At first the silver medal at the Olympic games in London 2012. I worked so hard and was aiming for gold but with hindsight this disappointment was probably needed because afterwards I was working even harder to win the gold medal 4 years later in Rio de Janeiro.
Do you have any regrets or are there things you would do differently in hindsight?
No, I would do everything exactly the same. I’m more than happy with my sport career and life.
You have a wife and daughter who we have seen join you for some rides. Do they travel to races with you? Is it special to share your passion with your family and do you think cycling will be a part of your lifestyle forever?
Sometimes they join me for races in Switzerland. It makes me really happy to see that my daughter is enjoying cycling as well and I hope we will still do rides together when I’m already a grandpa.
You mentioned you’re in the process of getting your helicopter license. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do and the COVID-19 situation has made time for?
It’s something I was thinking since a long time but never found the time. Now I took the opportunity with having no races and to realise this dream. What I really don’t like is to stand still.
Finally, what does Nino Schurter get up to in his spare time? Do you need downtime away from the bike and training?
First, I really like spending my spare time with my family. With regards to sports I also like running and during winter time I prefer cross-country skiing and ski-tours.
Photo: Matt Rousu