Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Q&A: Can Nino Schurter claim elusive Olympic gold?

Nino Schurter has more than lived up to the hype, with four world championships and four World Cup titles. He heads to Rio seeking gold.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

A decade ago, Swiss cycling legend Thomas Frischknecht proclaimed that his protégé, then under-23 world cross-country champion Nino Schurter, would one day be the world’s best mountain biker. Schurter has more than lived up to Frischi’s hype, with four world championships and four World Cup overall titles to his name. Schurter heads to the Rio Olympics to try to improve on his silver-medal performance from London, where he lost in a sprint to Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy. His primary rival will be the sport’s current elder statesman, Julien Absalon, who battled with Frischkneckt during his day. Absalon won consecutive gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Games in Athens and Beijing.

One of the most compelling stories in the World Cup cross-country scene has been the battle between you and Julien Absalon. How do you two match up?

We are very even overall. In the past I had an advantage on technical, demanding courses or sections, but Julien has improved a lot lately. I’m faster out of the start gate, which sometimes leaves it up to me to control the first part of the race. Julien, on the other hand, is extremely strong on longer climbs and can ride at a very high pace for a long time.

[related title=”More Olympics news” align=”right” tag=”Rio-Olympics”]

Julien has been at the top of the sport since before you started racing. What was your impression of him when you were a junior rider?

When I was a junior, I was more concerned with my competitors in my category. When I raced my first elite world championship at the age of 23 in Canberra 2009, I had a historical battle with him for the world champion title, which I won. It is, indeed, impressive how strong he was early in his career, and how fast he still is at his age. This gives me great hope I can do something similar.

In the U.S., there is a belief among some riders that adding cross-country mountain biking to the Olympic program was bad for the sport because it made the courses less exciting and less technical. Do you agree?

I completely disagree. The Olympics brought mountain biking to a much greater audience worldwide! The sport these days is respected as one of the best endurance sports to watch. Fans who watch cross-country races these days know they are super exciting to watch, and the courses are way more technical than prior to the Olympic Games. What’s kind of sad is that in the U.S., something went wrong over the years. The U.S. was once the leading nation in cross-country. Now it’s far from it, in both events and athletes.

Does your training program this year differ from non-Olympic years?

My Olympic preparation is a four-year plan. In the year the Olympics is held, I don’t experiment with my training program, but try to continue with what worked for me in the past. With the equipment it’s different. I like to play around with new options to give me a mental kick riding the latest innovation in bikes.

You missed gold at the London Olympics by a very small margin. What did you learn from that race?

All I know is I did my very best and, obviously, it was not good enough for gold. At first the disappointment was huge because I was so close to the win. In the days after, I realized there was a faster guy in the race and that I have to respect that. In 2012, I won every race leading up to the Olympics. I’m a favorite for Rio again. What I learned in London is that you can only win the Olympics on that particular day, not before.

Peter Sagan will be racing cross-country in Rio. What impact do you hope this has on mountain biking?

It’s great he is coming back to mountain biking. He will generate a lot of attention for the Olympic cross-country race. But I’m not too worried about him. With the little time he’s spent in mountain biking the last few years, he will not be a contender for the medals.

How long do you envision yourself racing at the World Cup level?

Looking at Julien — how well he does and knowing how much I’m still enjoying racing — I believe I can race for at least another four years at this level. Last winter I renewed my contract with Team Scott – Odlo until 2020, and hope to still be a contender at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.