Letters from Abroad: Valentin Scherz

Photo by Anthony Skorochod, Cyclingcaptured.com

For the past two seasons, Valentin Scherz, a 20-year-old elite cyclocross racer from Switzerland, has come to the US to compete in races as part of the Philadelphia Cyclocross School program. This season he was captain of their 2010 Cyfac-Champion Systems p/b Revolution Wheelworks Team.  In 2010, Scherz successfully defended his Mid Atlantic Cyclocross Series titles (Elite & U23), while also competing in other events including Cross Vegas, Gloucester, Providence, and a few rounds of the USGP, winning five races and standing on the elite podium 11 times.

Scherz has since returned to Switzerland and is now competing in World Cup and other major European events as preparation for the World Championships, where he hopes to improve upon his 23rd-place from last year.  Valentin’s graciously agreed to check-in with us periodically throughout the rest of the season, sharing his experiences and insights with us all from the perspective of someone who has competed at the top level both domestically and abroad.  You can read the first installment here.

Back Issues Resolved?

After my poor performance in the World Cup in Koksijde on November 27th, I decided to use all means to resolve the problem I had with my back.  I had terrible pain since the race, and nothing was curing them. 24 hour a day pain for more than one week!  I had an appointment with my doctor who gave me some anti-inflammatory medicine to see if it would help; I also went to my Osteopath again to see what he could do.  Unfortunately, these measures did not help; they were not able to find the cause of my pain.   The last weapon in my arsenal was to visit the bike position specialist, whom I visit before every season.  Her name is Marlyse Tercier, she is an expert in ergomotion.   She is a former top level mountain-bike rider, and as part of her practice performs bike fitting and makes orthotic insoles.

She immediately saw that something was wrong!  My pelvis, which was perfectly balanced only four months ago, was completely twisted; one side was higher than the other, and it affected me from my feet to my shoulders.  Marlyse is able to identify these small details, and as a well known bicycle specialist, how it affects me on the bike.  I’m particularly sensitive to such things, and I know it.

First, in order to compensate for this imbalance, she had to adapt the orthotics I use in my sport shoes, my cycling shoes, and my everyday shoes. But there was something we couldn’t understand; what changed?  Why is my pelvis unbalanced now, and not before?

My osteopath did his job, and tried to relieve the tension in my back, but unfortunately, it kept returning.  Then Marlyse had the greatest, but simplest idea; she said, “Let’s measure you- there is nothing else that could explain what would cause this but a change in height”.  Jokingly, I allowed her to.  I was 178.5 cm (5’ 10.25”) tall.  She asked, “How tall were you the last time you checked”?  Wow!  I was last measured in June, while I was fulfilling my military service in the Swiss Army; I was 177 cm tall.  I grew 1.5 cm (over ½ inch) in the last few months!  There is a saying in Switzerland, “boys grow until their army service”; it looks like this is true!

She adapted my insoles and increased my saddle height by 1cm.  For the first few hours after I left her office, I felt some pain as my body adapted.  The next day, the pain which had been bothering me for almost 2 weeks was gone!

Evidently what happened is that one part of my body, probably my legs, had grown unevenly.  It created an imbalance in my pelvis, and the small of my back. Coupled with riding my bike, and more than anything else, standing up for hours rebuilding my bike the week before the world cup, my back reacted poorly, and I paid the price when these small things emerge- during the race!

It might sound ridiculous to many of you, to have such drastic issues for less than an half of inch of saddle height, and for a few millimeters added under one of my foot, but I have what we call “hyper laxity in the joints”, and my body goes out because of such little details.  It is how I am, and I need to deal with it.  Because I am so sensitive, I probably am able to immediately detect when something is wrong, when some other riders wouldn’t feel anything until they get tendonitis.  So be mindful about your position on your bike; if you have more than one, take care to make them equal.  More than anything else, find what works for you, and stick to it.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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One Response to Letters from Abroad: Valentin Scherz

  1. fatmarc says:

    I thought that the Swiss Cheese came first, and the Philadelphia Cross School was a product of him coming back for a second season?

    good to hear his back pain cleared up. Hope Valentin kills it at worlds this year…


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