Who’s been the sport top performer of 2017, across all types of bike? For us at RouteandRoots, the pick has to be the Swiss rider with a name that sounds a little like Federer. At 31 years old, Nino Schurter has become the cross country world champion for the sixth time, an absolute record. Nino has revolutionized his discipline, and has also something of the Peter Sagan style about him – part cycling champion, part rock star. Here’s why he is our No. 1 choice:
1 He’s simply the best
In 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, he finally won the Olympic gold medal. And in 2017, the successes just kept on coming, as he won the world championship and the World Cup, becoming the first rider to complete XC’s Grand Slam. The winner of all six World Cup races, his duels with French rider Julien Absalon will nevertheless live long in the memory. Absalon has only beaten Schurter twice since 2009 when a trophy has been at stake, with the Swiss rider winning five World Cup titles – and 26 races – since 2010. Born in 1996, just as the first XC races were being organized, he has pride of place in the discipline’s short history so far.
2 He’s revolutionized XC
The best in XC before Nino arrived on the scene, Absalon was the last of the previous generation of riders, who were all geared for long distances and were especially good climbers. The courses have changed since those days, becoming shorter and more technical, to make the races more exciting. Of modest height, at 1.73m, the hugely talented Schurter excels in all aspects of the discipline and is widely recognized as the rider who most lives by his instincts when racing. He has also adapted more quickly than his rivals to the changing technology since 2010 – with 29-inch wheels, disc brakes and electronic suspension control.
3 He is backed by U.S partners
Mountain biking was invented in the Unites States in the late 1970s and the U.S. has maintained its advance ever since. Schurter has always ridden Swiss bikes (Scott) but is 100% loyal to American suppliers for equipment and accessories, think Sram, Ritchey and Oakley. The industrial advance enjoyed by the U.S. is also matched by its leadership in the use of social media to promote its ambassadors. And on the web, Nino is the No. 1 too.
4 He put the fun into cross-country
With his fun-loving, playful approach to XC, Nino must be one of the more colorful characters back home in his native village of Tersnaus, in the Grisons region of Switzerland, despite his determination to collect trophies at the highest level. His victory celebrations are always great moments, on the course and on the podium.
When he competes in South Africa, he is always the first rider to really turn on the style, completing whips and other manoeuvers, bang in the middle of a speeding peloton.
For his glasses sponsor, Oakley, he has appeared in a series of fun videos, including this one, which was shot in the beautiful Utah countryside.
Before Schurter, XC was a demanding, somewhat austere discipline. He’s made it a lot more of a spectacle since then.
5 He’s a pro in everything he does
As is often the case with true champions, the swashbuckling flair is backed up by a willingness to do the hard grind. As a teenager, Nino’s determination to succeed became clear when he won the world junior title at Gets, France in 2004. Not only was he already competing at high-level sport as an 18-year-old, he also looked to further develop his talent by modeling himself on Thomas Frischknecht, better known as Frischi, the tough, old-style Swiss champion of the 1990s and who became one of Nino’s advisors.
Highly disciplined, Nino puts a great deal of effort into high-altitude training (both skiing and cycling) and working out in the gym. He also keeps the kind of close eye on nutrition that is normally found among male models. The excerpts from a documentary about Nino, The Hunt for Glory, are particularly telling.
In short, you don’t become a mountain bike world champion by chance.