PYSO, ep. 56: Jolanda Neff on competition, overcoming injuries, and YouTubing

Road bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, and motorbikes — Neff loves riding them all. On this episode, the multi-time world champ talks about the special Swiss cycling programs that helped propel her to the top.

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On this week’s episode, Bobby and Gus speak with the multi-time world champion Jolanda Neff of Switzerland about her early days of competition (she won the first race she entered at age six), overcoming injuries, and her new series JolandaLand on YouTube.

After getting stuck in the U.S. for 2.5 months because of travel restrictions, Neff is back in Switzerland now for a national training camp, where eight of the nine riders have world junior titles to their names. How does Switzerland create such successful riders? Part of it, Neff believes, is the unique race formats for young kids that prioritize handling skills and not just pedaling.

Like many Olympic-bound athletes, the coronavirus pandemic has changed Neff’s life and timing, but after the Swiss star suffered a terrible crash in December, the extra preparation time is probably a blessing.

Neff, a veteran of the Rio Olympics where she placed eighth in the road race and sixth in the cross-country mountain bike race, talks with Bobby, an Olympic medalist himself, about lessons she wants to take into the Tokyo Olympics. Forefront among them, is advocating to have trusted female staff with her.

“I need to have the people around me in those days before the Olympics and during the Olympics that I’ve been working with for years,” she says. “In Rio, we did not have one single female person on staff. I get along great with men, that’s no problem. But at the competition, you need a certain balance and especially for me, my physio that I’ve been working with for years, she is a girl. She was not selected to go to the Olympics. So I’ve been working on that very much.”

At the coming Olympics, Neff will be unable to race both road and mountain because the two competitions are on the same day.

Outside of the Olympics, Neff recently launched a YouTube channel.

“I want to show people cycling is social. It’s fun. It’s great. It keeps you fit. I don’t want to show like, ‘ah, it’s so hard to train and everyone who’s at that level has to put in work and has to train hard,'” she says. “For me, what got me into mountain biking and what I want to inspire other people to get into mountain biking is the fun, the social aspect.”