Jane Nuessli has been racing mountain bikes since the turn of the century, making her way to the upper echelons of the sport in Europe. Her palmares is full of top-level results including wins in the Grand Raid Cristalp, the National Park bike marathon and a fine 7th place in last year’s muddy XCM World Champs in Ornans. She has recently announced that she will end her racing career at the end of 2013, and going all-in has also opted to change career path too, moving from a busy finance job at UBS to work for BMC bikes. MMTB spoke to Jane to find out what has made her decide on her changes of direction, and how she has fitted it all in up to now.
MMTB: You’ve been on my racing radar since 2009 when you first took up a British license, so apologies for my ignorance, but when and how did you first come into cycling?
JN: I got my first proper mountain bike (a Trek steel frame with equipped with Shimano XT parts, V-brakes and no suspension) in 1994. I used to go cycle with a group of guys on weekends. In our hometown biking was popular as Barbara Blatter lived there. (She won the silver medal in XC at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000). My first ever race was the Ultra Bike Marathon in Kirchzarten Germany around 2000. (There is word that this marathon will actually no longer take place …another big one gone). I can remember I finished around 600th place – I nearly died as my heart rate skyrocketed. Then I stopped cycling for a few years and just enjoyed life and work. When I was going through a rough patch with my partner I rented a road bike and cycled around lake Zurich almost every morning before work. That’s like almost a 100ks. I then decided to take up cycling again on a regular basis. A friend urged me to bike with him so I intensified my biking as well. I then started entering the marathon races in Switzerland and was often on the podium. That’s when I decided to get a license and try to make it to Worlds. At the time I opted to cycle for Great Britain as being able to qualify for XCM Worlds for Switzerland was tough with lots of XC-girls wanting to race. At the time I wasn’t sure if I would ever be good enough to race for Switzerland. Looking back I have to smile but I can say that I never regretted my decision. My Mum is very proud and me racing for Great Britain but also being Swiss always confused people which I find amusing. I qualified for Worlds in Graz in 2009. A huge honor and I was very nervous!
MMTB: What first drew you to marathon racing in particular? You’ve been racing XC this year, has that been a pleasant change?
JN: I don’t think I even realized what the difference was at first. My endurance was always very good so I would always go on long rides. XC for me was far away until I joined the team I am in now. I am their only marathon rider. It takes a lot of courage for a marathon rider to take part in XC races as it is so different! The girls are much more pushy and you need to be aggressive to a certain extent. Marathons can be very technical – remember the Fleckalm trail at Worlds – but in XC races you train these sections so many times that you either develop a fear for some parts or you become very secure. I consider my technical skills to be very good thanks to my teammates who have taught me well. Every XC race I enter gives me more confidence and it is the best training in the world! To have some additional fun I have decided to race the British XC Champs in Glasgow in two weeks. It gives me the chance to see my aunt and uncle and cousin again. I have to make the most of my time left!
MMTB: How do you combine a busy, stressful job in finance with training for marathons? What sacrifices do you have to make to fit it all in? What do you miss?
JN: My employer, UBS, has been very supportive. I have enjoyed a maximum amount of freedom and can train Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Monday is mostly my rest day after races. Wednesday I go out for one to two hours after work and Friday I prepare my stuff for racing at weekends. But yes, I get up every day at 5 or 6 am and sometimes I have to train although I feel very tired.
I don’t go out for after-work drinks and sometimes I don’t see my friends for a few weeks. I can’t say that I miss any of that, however. My friends know what I do so there are no hard feelings if I miss out on girls nights.
MMTB: What results/races are you most proud of? What makes them so special?
JN: 2012 was a nice year. I was able to win the 55ks Eiger Bike, a week later the Grand Raid and another week later the National Park Bike Marathon. Three of the toughest races XCM has to offer.
2013 kicked off very well with Esther Süss and me winning the Prologue at ABSA Cape Epic. Sadly we had to step out of the race due to illness but that day we owned the course… Boom!
MMTB: What have you noticed change in the sport since you started racing? Bike technology? Training science? Professionalism?
JN: When I joined Fischer-BMC a lot of things changed for me. All of a sudden I had the best mechanic in the world and a team who would take care of whatever I needed to compete on a professional level. In 2009 was looking for a coach who could give me advice on how to train more effectively. Beni Ruf, our team manager offered to help me out. A year later we decided that it would make sense to join the team. He and his wife taught me a lot with regards to training, nutrition and race preparation. I am no mathematician and primarily I am an athlete and execute (train). Power meters and other gadgets are very good but I have also learnt to listen to my body.
XCM racers are still adventurers – meaning that we don’t have a tech zone every few kilometers. But for races everyone has their supporters and mechanics with spare parts and wheels. That has certainly changed.
MMTB: What made you decide to call an end to such a successful career? Did it take a long time, or was it a sudden realisation?
JN: At the end of 2011 I thought about retiring for the first time after the XCM Worlds in Kirchberg 2013. Juggling work and the sport is very difficult and without reducing my work even more I would not be able to advance. I compete against full-on professional girls so it is difficult to get good results that satisfy me. Last year I had trouble finding the fun factor in racing. At the beginning of this year when riding Cape Epic and Joberg2C I knew this was going to be my last season. I want to stop with good memories and now every race I race is the last one. I am genuinely enjoying myself and I could not wish for a better ending than to race Cape Pioneer with Esther Süss in the Karoo at the end of October – grand finale!
MMTB: What will you do next?
JN: For the past 2 years my job was the perfect balance but going back full time was hard to imagine. My mind has been focused solely on cycling and I knew I was in the wrong industry. But also I had no clue what I really wanted. I am passionate about cycling and love interacting with people… When it became clear that my employer wanted to know what my plans were I reached out to BMC. Maybe it was fate but within a week I had found a new home. I will work for BMC as their Sports Marketing Coordinator MTB. A huge opportunity for me and I know it will be a challenging task. I am also very grateful that my partner supports my decision as I will be away from home a lot during the summer months.
MMTB: Now that bikes are going to have a place in your professional life, do you think they will always be important to you?
JN: I am totally crazy about bikes – cycling is the best sport in the world!
MMTB: Thanks Jane, and all the best for the coming years.