After her injury last season, Emilie Siegenthaler is back on the circuit and is consistently performing at her best. We caught up the world class athlete on her her recovery, her season ahead, who she looks up to, and how she continues to crush year after year on the World Cup Circuit.
Where are you from? Where are you right now? And, where do you go next?
I'm from Biel, Switzerland. I was born here and still live here, I'm at home at the moment. Next will be Fort William, Scotland.
You were injured near the end of the 2016 season. What happened?
I had a big crash in Whistler, on the last day for Crankworx. Body and mind were tired, and I overshot a tiny jump and landed on the next takeoff. I ruptured my ACL and tore the meniscus on my left knee.
Were there any unlikely/good things that you experienced during the recovery period?
I had a very different winter than I used to have, in a positive way; way more in the details and quality rather than quantity. I was motivated to work on my nutrition way more than I’m used to in order to recover faster and help my whole body.
What do you do to entertain yourself when you can't crush the track?
I'm actually doing a post-graduate specialization in sports psychology so that has kept me busy during the winter period. For pure entertainment I actually enjoying playing the bass guitar or play video games, it relaxes me!
You seem to be back and better than ever! You recently took 2nd in DH finals at the first round of 2017 Crankworx, and you stayed in the top 10 at the most recent World Cup DH 1 in Lourdes despite a crash. What do you make of your season so far?
I think it was very good, because I feel like even though my body is not 100% yet my mind is there and ready to race. I'm not scared of jumps or crashing, and I feel comfortable on the bike. I was very pleased with Crankworx NZ, results and the next World Cup rounds will be telling for sure. I'll keep progressing through the season and my leg strength will be to 100% by Worlds hopefully. I just need to be aware of my recovery needs on my knee esp. regarding knee mobility. Stability is very good, which is the principal thing.
Which of your peers/competitors do you admire a lot and why?
Since I started riding, I always looked up to Rachel Atherton. Besides being so talented on a bike, she has that capacity of bringing that magic run at the best moment. She shines when everyone thinks she will finally make a mistake. She is the best racer ever for me. I also admire Casey Brown’s jump skills; I love jumping, too.
My best friend on the circuit has to be Tracey Hannah, and I have huge respect for her, in terms of what she's been through injury-wise and how she’s made it back. She's such a fierce competitor, but can be such a good friend, too, and I love that.
How'd you get into DH? Do you remember your first downhill run? What was that like? Was it something you always loved or did it grow on you?
I raced XC for several years in my junior time and was a successful rider (world cup wins and European title). I had a lot of health issues (Mononucleosis, overtraining, immune system weakness) in my twenties and I decided to switch to something a bit less hard on your system, more technical and way more fun, too! It was the best decision I ever made, and sometimes I wish I had started as a kid. My first ever DH race was the national championships in 2007. Everyone had skin-suits back then so I raced in my XC bodysuit. I loved it straight away, I got 2nd and I was stoked! From that day on I never looked back, and went straight into World Cups the next year!
What goes through your head during a race run? Do you know if you're winning?
Most of the time I'm very focused on my breathing and concentrate few sections of the track that I know I need execute flawlessly. Most of the other stuff should be automatized...I should just be in the flow. Sometimes I hear familiar voices cheering– the crowed helps and lifts me up when I feel tired. I try to think a lot about how to approach my run beforehand so I know exactly what to do at what section. I guess I know if my speed is good or not, but I had some races where the track didn't really suit me, coming to the finish thinking my run was good but the result wasn't what I hoped for. Most of the time though, if I feel like I've a good run it's the case!
What's your favorite track on the World Cup circuit, why?
My favorite track is probably Andorra. The technical difficulty, the steepness of the track... it's so thrilling!
I loved Hafjell maybe even more for the jumps at the top but it's a shame it's not in anymore!
How do you go about getting your suspension tuned/dialed in?
I'm working with the engineers at Fox. I know my basic settings and we try to adjust as much as we can to every track. I'm a very light rider, so it's important for the bike to be soft but still dynamic. I love working on my bikes, not as much as riding, but not far off! Building up a new bike is just so much fun!
What's your diet like? Anything special? Why/why not?
I don't have a specific diet really, I just don't eat a lot of meat when at home. Travelling at races makes it harder to keep a vegetarian diet but I'm not to eat too much. I did 2 months of no added sugar and no alcohol last winter and it had a very positive effect on my body so I'm just trying to buy quality ingredients and cook for myself as much as possible.
What's a misconception people have about your sport? What do you wish people knew?
I think in Switzerland most people think downhill riders are either crazy brainless people or just lazy. It's frustrating because I try to explain to everyone how downhill MTB is very similar to alpine skiing, which I really think nobody would ever describe as a sport for lazy folks. I mean, you have to love adrenaline and risks to be a downhiller but you need your brain and a lot of fitness/strength to be able to do what we do. People underestimate the discipline because it's short and not uphill. That’s a bit annoying I guess!
Random, but, how many languages do you speak?
I speak French (1st language), Swiss-German, proper German and English.
[we figured it’d be up there]
What'd we miss? Anything else you want to put out there?
I just wanted to give a big shout-out to Pivot Cycles and the whole Factory DH Team. Their support through my injured time was very precious to me. Not all the companies/sponsors are like that with their athletes... It makes me want to give back as much as I can on and off the bike for them! Cheers, guys!
“Emilie Siegenthaler isn’t afraid to go big, take risks or run wild. A consistent top five World Cup athlete, she’s one of the women pushing boundaries and bringing the TV cameras to UCI Women’s World Cup downhill racing. Emilie is an 7-time Swiss National Downhill Champion with Crankworx Whip Off and Dual Slalom podiums on her list of palmares.” – Pivot Cycles
WATCH: "Fast is Fun, and Fun is Fast." Catch Emilie's sick skills and undeniable style.