I’m happy you found your way to my first-ever blog for Cyclingnews. I’ll try to give you an insight into my life as a cyclist throughout the year, and share my thoughts on different subjects like power training, altitude training, team tactics, racing schedules, team politics, youth development, race structures, cycling culture and more. If you have a special wish, please let me know so that I can cover the topics you’re most interested in reading.
My name might not be familiar to you, which is perfectly fine, because even I don’t consider myself as a road cyclist. I love road racing, and I especially love my new aero road bike, the Madone, but if you’ve ever heard my name before, it was probably connected to mountain biking or cyclo-cross. Even in cyclo-cross, I’m still relatively new, only having just finished my second season of racing a reduced programme through the winter months. Again, I do enjoy the intensity, action and technical finesse that cyclo-cross demands, and I was super excited to race the new SRAM AXS e-tap system for the first time, but my heart belongs to mountain biking. It’s just how I grew up.
Switzerland did have world-class athletes on the road: Ferdi Kübler, Hugo Koblet and Fabian Cancellara, for example, and the likes of Albert Zweifel and Peter Frischknecht in cyclo-cross, but the one cycling discipline where Swiss athletes excel on a broad basis is mountain biking.
I raced my first mountain bike race at the age of six. In Switzerland, we have mountains pretty much all over the country. We have a vast trail network and even more hiking paths to ride on. We have a tremendous national mountain bike racing series where kids until age 10 compete on skills parkours instead of a lap race. We have a strong club culture where kids ride in groups regularly, learn from each other in nature, and train playfully and socially.
Today, Switzerland is leading the nations rankings in both the men’s and women’s category, and, for the past eight years, seven Swiss girls have won medals – eight gold medals, two silvers and one bronze – at the Youth World Championships. So, the future looks bright and, of course, you’ve all heard of the current superstar Nino Schurter, who won the Olympic gold medal in mountain biking.
It’s no surprise that I got into mountain biking. But this isn’t necessarily the reason that I fell in love with the sport.
Have you ever ridden up a tiny path in the quiet morning hours in a seemingly untouched forest with the first sun rays blinking through the trees? Have you followed the winding trail up to the peak of the mountain range, taken a deep breath of cold and fresh air while being awestruck by the breathtaking view? And then rushed down the flowing, and soon rocky, downhill trail, jumping over roots and clearing table tops, smoothing along the surface and becoming one with your bike? Have you felt the flow and felt so light and happy and alive? Well, if you have, you won’t need any further explanations. If you haven’t, you should urgently get a mountain bike!
Sometimes I don’t even know what I love more: training or racing. When I’m training, I’m, like, ‘Oh, this is what I’m living for, this is the most beautiful thing ever, this makes me feel so good,’ and whenever I’m racing I think, ‘Oh wow, I simply love this, I love the adrenaline, I love to go for it, I love winning.’
Whatever I’m doing, as long as it involves riding my bike fast, I love it. And that’s where road racing comes into play. It’s another way to ride my bike fast. The races are exciting, high-speed affairs, and you’ll never get the same feeling in training as in racing. I also love the aspect of the tactics and team play, which has no comparable role in mountain biking. The intensity during a race-deciding attack is on a whole other level than what you need racing off-road. It’s these moments that make road cycling stand out from any other cycling discipline and stand out from any other situation in life. These are the moments I live for, and this is what I want to tell you more about in my upcoming blogs.
For the moment, I’m recovering from my collarbone surgery, which saw me get rid of the plate and the last reminder of my cyclo-cross crash last year.
I just finished my cyclo-cross campaign at the World Championships in Denmark with a sixth place. Once I’ve recovered, it will be springtime and the road season will already be in full swing. I can’t wait to join my Trek-Segafredo teammates for a couple of Italian races. My first one will be the iconic Strade Bianche.
My focus will shift to mountain biking aboard the Trek Factory Racing Team once the MTB World Cup gets under way, where I’m looking to defend my World Cup champion’s title, and to try to regain my beautiful world champion’s jersey at the MTB Worlds in Canada in late August.
I’m excited about the season ahead, and I’d love for you all to join me on my journey on and off the road.
Jolanda Neff is a multi-discipline professional cyclist who specialises in mountain biking but also competes at world-class level in road racing and cyclo-cross for Trek Factory Racing’s off-road teams, and Trek-Segafredo’s newly launched UCI Women’s Team. Neff won the elite women’s cross country world title in 2017, and the overall World Cup titles in 2014, 2015 and 2018, as well as being a three-time under-23 world champion.
She has proven successful on the road by winning the Swiss National Championships title in the road race twice, along with the overall victory at Tour of Poland and third at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio that is part of the Women’s WorldTour. She was also eighth in the road race at the Olympic Games in 2016 and has placed inside the top 10 in the road race at the World Championships.
Cyclingnews is proud to introduce the first episode of our Cyclingnews Podcast Women’s Edition, brought to you by Sportful, Pinarello and Floyd’s of Leadville.