By Thomas Frischknecht, Swiss Power racing team
Editor’s Note: Thomas Frischknecht of the Swiss Power racingteam took a bronze medal in Sunday’s world championship cross-country mountain-bikerace. The following is his take on this and the 12 prior world championships.He has competed at world’s since the beginning and holds the distinctionof winning a gold medal at the 1996 world’s, though he and the rest ofcycling world didn’t realize that until four years later when the apparentwinner, Jerome Chiotti, confessed to having used performance-enhancingsubstances in preparation for that win. Chiotti later apologized and gavehis medal and jersey to Frischknecht. The UCI now recognizes Frischknechtas the 1996 world mountain-bike champion.
The 2002 World Championship in Kaprun, Austria, included the toughest cross-country course I’ve ever seen and I’ve been to all 13 of them(the first one was in 1990 in Durango, Colorado). Never was a course sodemanding, both up- and downhill.This description stands for the way the track presented itself duringthe week, when it was dry. Sunday morning changed the situation to dramaticallyworse.The noise of heavy rain woke me up Sunday morning 7:30. Usually hatingthis sound, I had a big smile on my face when I opened up the curtains.Until this morning I did not get nervous at all, like I usually get beforeworld championships. After seeing the weather conditions that changed fast.Now I had a good reason to become nervous. Mud and bad weather are theconditions I’m best at. I really started to believe that this was goingto be my day, my chance, to finally get that damn jersey. And that’s alsothe way I was racing for the first half of the race, to win the jersey.Most of the time I was in the lead. The tough conditions with lots of runningsections suited me perfectly. But I could not get rid of defending championRoland Green and Olympic silver medallist Philip Meierhage. Choosing goodlines and getting faster on and off the bike gave me always a few secondsadvantage, but both my competitors were stronger on the climbs and closedthe gaps each time.With four-and-a-half laps the race was going to be a lot longer thanusual. The third time up the steep climb I had to let go. With a 20 secondgap I went into a difficult off-camber grass section were thanx to my 10-year-old1.9 Ritchey Z-Max SC tires I was able to hold a line that no one else wasable to ride. All of a sudden I was back in the lead again. UnfortunatelyI could feel my power was slowly going away.After I had a small crash on the switchbacks, I was not able to closethe gap to the leading duo anymore and had to switch to cruse control tomake it to the finish.I lost 1:45 on a superb riding Roland Green, which is really not thatmuch in a race that lasted two hours and 19 minutes. I had a comfortable4:25 gap on fourth place rider Lado Fumic.Green became world champion last year in Vail in totally different conditions.That shows he is the best rider present and therefore it’s not a shameto loose against him, even though I was hoping to get more than “just”this bronze medal.On the other hand I’m very proud to still be good for a medal after13 years of racing at world championship level. Including the medal I wonon Wednesday in the team relay I now have seven medals at the mountain-bikeworld championships (One gold: 1996; four silvers: ‘90, ‘91, ’92 and ‘01and two bronze: ‘02) and five world championship medals from cyclo-cross(two gold: ’88 and 91; one silver: 97 and two bronze: ’90 and ‘92). Thatmakes for a full dozen, but until I get that damn rainbow jersey, I won’tgive up and I’ll keep trying.Maybe next year at the world championship in Switzerland, onthe course I designed myself.And oh yeah, check out my new website: www.frischknecht.ch