The newly formed Superior XC Team will be competing in full formation for the 24th edition of the Afxentia stage race as part of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup.
Linda Indergand (Switzerland) is a truly world-class athlete and is the only remaining rider from the previous incarnation of the team (Focus XC Team).
In this interview she talks about why she stayed with the team, why Afxentia is a challenge for her, and gives an interesting insight into her relationship with overall World Cup winner, Jolanda Neff.
Linda Indergand, Focus XC became Superior XC. Everything stays the same for you and yet everything is different in 2019.
Yes, that's the way to describe it [laughs]! It's something new, the bike and the whole team has changed. I'm looking forward to it. Matthias [Beck, team boss], Fabian [Haug] and the physios I know already. I can go back to the tried and tested, but also a lot has changed.
You are the only female rider left from the previous team. What made you decide to stay?
A big part of it is Matthias and Fabian. I work well with them. Fabi works passionately on the bikes and I think Matthias is good with his ideas and his philosophy. So it was clear that I would stay when they had found a good solution.
Following the withdrawal of Focus it has been somewhat restless in the team for more than a year. Did that affect you?
It was not the reason why my 2018 season was not as usual. Sure, I've heard a lot - if not everything - but I can not pin my results on it.
And now? Does everything run again in calmer waters?
The mood suits, the five new riders are all very nice and I'm looking forward to it.
In 2018 you were only in the top ten twice in the cross-country World Cup, five times in the short track World Cup and also in fifth overall. Is that the standard for 2019?
It's clear that I want to be a little bit further ahead and I'm the one in the team that has to deliver top results too. However, I also think that Karla (Stepanova) can ride fast and I do not put huge pressure on myself. Certainly we want to bring something for the sponsors and I know that I can ride fast.
Why exactly did it not work in 2018?
It’s hard to say, I do not know exactly. Maybe there was more energy lost on the Focus situation than I wanted to admit. There was not always the racing luck on my side. There was not much missing, with more luck, more would have come out.
The objective parameters, the tests, were they alright?
Same as the year before in autumn 2017, slightly worse in spring. Things went well in the preparation races, at the World Cup in Stellenbosch (9th) and in Albstadt it went well with third place in the Short Track and sixth place in the Cross Country. A week later in Nove Mesto no more. Maybe I did too much, but it was not that bad [21st].
Have you looked at cause and consequence and changed something for 2019? Or want to change something?
I've already changed a lot in training. I also practiced polysurfacing last year, but this winter I'm doing more running and setting some other training stimuli. Basically, it is like this: you can not just double, you have to make small changes.
Do you already have a feeling for whether it’s working?
It’s very good so far, yes. I feel fitter than last year around this time and look forward to the first races. But it's always hard to compare ...
... until, of course, you have a start number on the bike at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup in Cyprus! What role does the Afxentia stage race play in this regard?
It's funny, or not really… So far, I've always done badly, at least compared to the rest of the year. It's just something different because two stages are rather marathons and go uphill for an hour at a time which is not good for me. Afxentia is important to really get into the racing mode. We are there with the whole Superior XC Team so we can also tune in with the mechanics. But I do not care if it does not go so well, there is still enough time to correct until the first World Cup in May in Albstadt.
Will you do some final fine tuning on the bike as well?
This is already set well, but shock pressures you can only adjust correctly under racing conditions.
How do you like Cyprus in general?
I like it. It is usually nice and warm. The trails we ride are also fun and in the climb you learn to fight. The left-hand traffic confuses me sometimes!
In Switzerland, Jolanda Neff is number one, you are number two or three. How is your relationship?
We have a great time together. For ten years we have raced together and been with each other. Jolanda is a very good friend of mine. We also have other contact, not only at the races. We are not competitors, but friends.
There was the situation in September at the Swiss Bike Cup in Lugano when you stopped after you saw that Jolanda Neff was lying on the edge of the track, giving up your own ambitions.
I was a bit further back in fifth or sixth position. I came out of some trail and saw her lying there, in an unnatural position. She was crying. I stopped and asked how she was doing. In retrospect, it looked more dramatic than it was. But in the moment it was clear, I have to stop there. She said I should go on, but that did not matter then anyway. It was the last race of the season and it was about nothing.
Is it not difficult to be friends with your competitors?
No, not exactly. We’ve been traveling and racing together for so long. In the past, we fought more directly against each other; sometimes Jolanda was in front, sometimes me. Now she is more successful. We are often in a room when traveling with the national team. There is no rivalry, that is not a lie.
Is it fair to say that you are two fundamentally different characters?
You can say that, yes. But honestly, I'm glad that I'm not so well known. Sure, in my region - in the canton of Uri - I'm already known, but I can walk through Zurich or Lucerne without having to sign autographs. At the events I can move freely. It's good that Jolanda is Swiss, that helps me - because she is so famous, I can be left alone. It does not bother me that she gets more attention. Sure, when it comes to sponsors, I would also like to be more famous. But then I have to cycle faster [laughs]!
The year 2019 has begun. What can we expect from you?
I hope to be able to ride as good as 2017 again. Above all, having fun at the races and fighting to the point of no-longer.
Good luck and thank you for the interview!
Linda Indergand (25) is from Silenen in Switzerland. In 2011 she was Junior World Champion, she has twice been Eliminator World Champion and was third at the 2014 U23 World Championship.
She has ridden since 2015 for the team of Matthias Beck, until 2018 under the title Focus XC Team, and this year under the flag of the Czech bike brand Superior.
Her five new team-mates are Fabian Giger (SUI), Martin Gluth (GER), Felicitas Geiger (GER), Karla Stepanova (CZE) and Jan Vastl (CZE).
The full team will be at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup in February.