People

XC World Champion Gerhard Kerschbaumer has the bug for winning

From small town life in alpine Italy to World Champion, DMT rider Gerhard Kerschbaumer has reached the pinnacle of cross-country (XC) riding in his 16 years on the bike.

Gerhard edged out Nino Schurter to secure his World Cup win in Andorra in 2018. Now, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he’s pushing himself to new limits.

How did you discover XC mountain biking?

GK: When I was a little boy, I was up in the mountains with my Grandpa. I helped him with his cows so I could earn a little bit of money and buy my first bike.

When I look back now, this is the moment in my life that triggered a passion for XC mountain biking. Fast-forward 16 years and I’m competing all over the world, I never dreamed that I’d end up a professional athlete from my childhood passion.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

GK: My world-cup win in Andorra last year. It was extra special as not only did I beat the champion Nino Schurter, it was the first Elite World Cup victory of my career.

Competing in Andorra is unique. You’re riding at an altitude of 2000 metres and the steep climbs plays havoc with your body, so pacing yourself throughout the race is vital. I had trained at altitude for 2 months prior to the race. Although Nino was stronger in the downhills, it meant I was able to attack in the longer steep climbs.

What are your aims for Tokyo 2020?

GK: I’ll never forget competing in London 2012, what a mind-blowing experience! I gave everything I had to London and now I’m planning to do it again in Tokyo 2020. My aim is to hopefully beat my place of 13th and bring it home for Italy. You never know with the Olympics, anything can happen.

Would you say 2018 was your best year yet?

GK: Without a doubt, it was my best year yet. I’ve got to say that my personal highlight were the fans cheering me on. It’s surreal, when you can hear all those people shouting your name and your sole focus is on the finish line. Of course, you don’t want to let yourself down but you have to think about the fans as well, their support is such a driving force for me.

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Do you think you have improved since last season?

GK: I’m always working on my training schedule, constantly refining it where I feel that I need too. Ultimately I want to work as hard as possible. I’m working hard every day and this will be reflected when I race.  

I can definitely see improvement in myself since last season, I’d be in trouble if I didn’t think so! I know that my strengths lie in the long uphill climbs. You need calves of steel and bags of stamina to push through the burn. Short sprint races are my weakness, to improve this I battle with resistance on the bike, starting off slow in high gear and then powering that gear up to rapid speed.

The 2019 Championships are always on my mind. I want to do better this year and I’m sure my tight training schedule and general approach will pay off when August comes around.

Are you happy with how your season is going so far?

GK: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. I felt positive for the second World Cup race in Nové Město in May 2019 and managed to reach 7th place so I’m happy with that result.

How can others get into XC riding?

GK: Anybody wanting to get into XC riding needs to prepare for the endurance and technical skill that comes with the sport. Race trails are often found in parkland, woodland and forestry sites, and you need to be able to adapt yourself to these various tracks.

Terrain choice, any race that incorporates climbs, descents and tricky features, getting used to riding over all ground will help you cope with whatever is thrown up in the course of the race. My top advice for anyone who wants to up their game is, train hard, enjoy it, and be yourself.

What’s a common mistake you see people making?

GK: They’re not themselves. They’re trying to show off, and it’s so obvious. You need to know your bike inside and out, and even before that you need to understand yourself and your own style of riding.

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Gerhard Kerschbaumer rides in DMT’s DM1 cycling shoes. Developed in partnership with Michelin the soles feature double compound technology, unidirectional carbon fibres, and are fixed with rubber studs bonded directly to the carbon fibre for maximum grip and tuned energy transfer.

Photos courtesy of http://mtbcrosscountry.com