Letters from Abroad – Valentin Tackles Swiss Nationals

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.

The European National Championships are complete, the 2010-2011 cyclocross season is almost over, but the most important races are still to come: two World Cup races and of course, the World Championships.

Maybe you saw the results of the Swiss Championships.  Finally my luck turned around, and I had my first really good race at home since returning from the US.  I took the Silver Medal behind my friend Arnaud Grand who was racing on another level that day, but in front of some other very good riders. Honestly, I was not feeling great, and was certainly paying for my misadventures of the previous month.  I think this explains the big time difference between Arnaud and me during the race.

I followed him for two laps before I realized that he was too fast for me and that I had to ride at my own pace to secure second place.  Thus, by acknowledging the circumstances, I took the place that I deserved, though I am a little frustrated I wasn’t able to really challenge Arnaud.  I like to attack and race aggressively—but I didn’t—and I didn’t meet my own expectations of how I prefer to race.  However, in order to have a chance to be close to him I needed the perfect preparation and to have a really good day; it was not the case in both parameters.  But I am happy with the result; he was the best, and deserved to win; I was the second best and took my due place on the podium.

Photo: E. Schaufelberger http://www.cyclocross.ch

I’m relieved because my run of bad luck finally left me.  My pit crew worked perfectly, and my bike survived well in the terrible conditions for the entire race.  Everything just worked well: from the travel, to the preparation, through to the end of the race.  My back was just fine and my asthma was in check too. I believe my main obstacles are behind me, and everything is in hand to do well in the next weeks.

What will I do until Worlds?   It is sometimes difficult to find the correct balance between resting and training in order to be at one’s best level for the big day.  My preparation has been/will be the following:

I kept training hard the week after the Swiss championships: >15 hours with a lot of high intensity; I needed to catch up a little bit due to my lack of hard training in December in order to feel confident. Hard training brings fitness and confidence; the latter might be of primary importance at this that time of the season.  The goal for me is to regain the level I had one or two months ago, which was very high with “only a little dust to be blown off”.

I will continue to train enough to maintain a strong pace, but not too much, so I can stay rested. This means around 8 hours with intensity each week before Hoohergeide (not counting the race itself, the warm up etc…) and around the same amount of hours the week before Worlds, but with shorter intensity (only some sprints, during training).  This might not look like much training, but it is enough; I have raced a lot, and my base fitness was established a long time ago.  The priority is to hone form and to be well rested.  The Swiss team will have a few long car trips, which siphons a lot of energy, so we need to take this into account.

I don’t yet know when we will drive to St. Wendel but I guess we will be there a few days in advance to check-out the course, rest from the trip, select the appropriate tires, etc.  We will try to have enough time within our own bubble, meaning that only our own races count, so that is what we’ll focus on.  This is important because we will more be able to give everything from the gun to the finish line.

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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