Visitors to the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, this week could not have failed to notice the athletes training on the velodrome in the distinctive red and white Swiss national jersey.
Not surprising, many would say, as we are in the middle of the track season. Except that these were members of the Swiss national mountain bike squad.
Twice a day for five days, the athletes swapped mountain bikes for track bikes, the varied outdoor terrain for smooth Siberian pine, the unpredictable winter weather for the carefully monitored, constant temperature of the velodrome.
It was a new experience for these mountain bike specialists: although all of them have at some stage graced the podiums of major international mtb cross-country competitions, for most it was the first time on the track. And it was a surprisingly tough training camp.
Not so easy on the track
âIt was very hard,â commented Fabian Giger, 2009 European U23 Champion and 9th in the Elite UCI World Cup this year. âIt was much harder than we expected. I thought we were going to have a few easy days here but I am really tired now.â
Martin Fanger, part of the Swiss relay team that won the 2006 World Championships, added: âAt least when we got tired we could ride behind the motorbike! In mountain biking you only get to see the motorbike when youâre winning!â
Only Patrick Gallati, U23 bronze medallist in the 2010 World Championships and also third in the European Championships the same year, already had some experience on the track. He will continue his winter cross-training with some ski touring over the holiday period.
The fourth member of the squad at the WCC this week was Mathias FlÃ¼ckiger, 2010 U23 World Champion and bronze medallist in the Elite Worlds las September when Switzerland totally dominated proceedings by taking all the Elite Men podium spots. After the intense week at the WCC he is convinced that it would be worth returning.
âI definitely think we will come back here. It has been excellent quality training. Cycling on the track meant we had to step up our pedalling rhythm which is very important.â
The four athletes were joined for three days by two team mates Ralf NÃ¤f, reigning cross-country eliminator World Champion and Martin Gujan, silver medallist in the 2012 European Championships team relay.
Building a team spirit
Is it this sort of training camp that has helped Switzerlandâs Elite reach the level it currently enjoys?
Yes, according to national coach Bruno Diethelm: âA week such as this, when they train together and are all wearing the national jersey creates an excellent team spirit.â
He added that another of Switzerlandâs strong factors is that the U23 and Junior riders are integrated into the team rather than concentrating being solely concentrated on the Elite riders. In addition, the extremely high level of Switzerlandâs BMC Racing Cup series means that the Swiss riders have easy access to top international competition.
So what are the goals for 2013?
âThe same World Championships podium as in Austria in 2012 UCI,â says the coach, without the slightest hesitation and with a glint in his eye...
Photo: (left to right) Patrick Gallati, Fabian Giger, Martin Fanger and Mathias FlÃ¼ckiger
UCI Communication Services