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Ariane Lüthi, on her way to new adventures

After a difficult season, saved by a new Swiss title, Ariane Lüthi found herself without a team at the end of the season. And instead of putting an end to her career, an idea that had crossed her mind more than once, she found the necessary resources to set up her own team and set herself new goals while waiting for the European championships at Evolène in 2021! She tells us all about it in detail !

First thing first. You had the chance to compete in the team of the Olympic medalist Maja Włoszczowska last year. What did this experience bring you?

I was extremely happy to get the opportunity to join Kross Racing Team and ride with Maja at the time, because it was very hard to find a team and a strong partner for the Cape Epic end of 2018. Maja is an absolute world class rider and pushed me both technically and physically in the race. We have a very similar take on training. We both work with a coach and like to follow the plan as close as possible, but also understand that some days, we need to rather listen to our bodies and perhaps skip a session. It was nice for me to see that a champion like her, trains very similar. Something that I will take with and was interesting to observe, was how she interacts with the spectators. She never missed the opportunity to high five someone or to animate the public at the start or the finish. She understands her role as an entertainer and really likes to do more for the sport than just push the pedals hard. She also takes great responsibility in the team, makes sure, everyone is fine, gets the support they need and she doesn’t forget to put the team’s sponsors in the best light at all times. I certainly learned a lot by spending time with such an experienced and accomplished professional who is a highly intelligent person on all different levels. The fact that she is a mathematician makes her even more inspiring to me, because she certainly knows a thing or two more than just racing a bike. 

You had a fairly complicated season last year, with some ups, such as this new swiss champion title, but also some downs. How would you sum up this past season?

It wasn’t my best season last year. I never felt that I was riding at the level of 2018. It was a real shame, because I was extremely motivated for the Marathon World Championship in Grächen and was aiming for a lot more than my 15th place. Looking back at how I prepared, I realised, that I made a major mistake with not fuelling well during my training rides too often. I was thinking I could loose more weight that way, which in the beginning worked, but then it hit back on me and I could never get very lean because my body was holding onto the energy stores all the more. Of course it is not only one factor that didn’t let me perform on the level, I know I can, but the lack of carbohydrate intake during my trainings was definitely a big mistake. To defend the Swiss Champion title for the first time ever, was very special and a highlight in the otherwise rather failed season. Fortunately we have the European Championship in Evolène next year, which gives me another chance to shine on home soil. I already look forward to it.

At the end of the season you learned that your contract wouldn’t be renewed. How did you react to this bad news?

Already when I signed with Kross, I knew that this was most likely only going to be for one year and that they signed me mainly because Maja wanted to race the Cape Epic and needed a partner. Kross Racing Team is a team that focuses on the Olympic distance and not marathon, so it was no surprise for me that the contract didn’t get renewed for 2020. Tokio is their focus this year.

For quite some time in 2019, when I was struggling with burn out symptoms, I was actually thinking that this would be my last year. Due to not fuelling right in my trainings and not being able to recover anymore, I felt tired all the time and lost all motivation. Fortunately, I got better towards the end of the season and realised that I didn’t want to end my career just yet. That’s when I started looking for new partners who would support me in 2020.

You decided to go then for a single-woman-team. A completely new challenge for you… How did it go?

Yes, I realised that it works better for me if I have a more direct relationship with my sponsors. I don’t like to give back to them solely with results, but with my whole personality rather. If only the results count, but not who I am off the bike, it puts a lot of pressure on me which ultimately kills my motivation. Also, I actually enjoy to have a kognitive challenge next to cycling. It gives me a better balance in life and instead of thinking about my numbers all the time, I actually have some more interesting things to think about on my long rides. 

However, to find sponsors is incredibly difficult. It’s definitely not enough to just be Swiss Marathon Champion. One has to be very creative in offering a marketing strategy for the different business. It is a lot of work that goes into landing a sponsor and then maintaining that relationship, but so far I love the challenge. 

Canyon, the brand that Ariane will be able to count on throughout the season!

Can you tell us a bit more about your new partners?

I am extremely pleased to have the support of real estate company Andermatt Swiss Alps in 2020. As a Swiss with strong ties to South Africa I am often not Swiss or South African enough to be supported by a company with local interest. Andermatt Swiss Alps on the other hand is interested in me having an influence in South Africa as a Swiss, which makes for a perfect partnership and a win-win situation. In terms of equipment, it was a great success for me to get leading bike brand Canyon on board. Their bikes are truly world class and I absolutely love the geometry of the Canyon Lux. 

Another new partner is Veritce Diagnostics, who is a healthcare technology provider. I am promoting one of their products, the so called Holter, which is a small device that one can tape to the sternum allowing patients to follow all their daily routines during the 5 day monitoring period. It is a revolutionary technology for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. I was very pleased to be able to monitor my own heart rhythm with the device while I was struggling with a virus during a race. To know that my heart was healthy gave me great peace of mind.

A sponsor that has already supported me over the past four years and keeps supporting me, is Spur Steak Ranches. I will continue to be a Spur Schools MTB League ambassador for them. The restaurant group’s cycling event property is the biggest school cycling program in the world. 2019 saw over 18,000 entries from more than 500 schools across Southern Africa. As an ambassador I visit several events to support the young riders with tips around training, nutrition and skills etc. which hopefully contributes to develop the sport.

Ariane Lüthi is still hoping to tame the South African singles!

Finally, what will be your main goals for this season?

The Cape Epic will once again be my first highlight of the year. In fact this will already be my 10th start at the biggest South African stage race. The next peak is planned in June for the European and Swiss Championship, where in between I will be coming to Evolène again to sharpen my climbing skills. The last big race of the year will be the Marathon World Championship, which has been moved to end of October recently and will be held in Turkey. 

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The Estonian champion to discover the Valais

After winning a new Estonian champion title, Greete Steinburg made a detour to Austria and the Alpen-Tour before arriving in Valais, to do her first race in Switzerland during the Raid Evolénard. During her stay, she also discovered the course of the World Championships in Grächen. The Raid Evolénard collected his first impressions:

After your Estonian champion title, you took part directly in the four-stage race of the Alpen-Tour in Austria and now you are already in Switzerland… How did you decide on this planning?

I ran in Alpentour 2 years ago and I had a bad fall on the first stage after about 40 km. I couldn’t run there anymore, but I finished the lap as a training. Last summer, I had national championships xcm at the same time as the Alpentour and I couldn’t go back. This year was the right time for me, and I decided that I wanted to go back and create good memories. It was also part of my preparation for the European Championships. Coming to participate in the Raid Evolénard and discover the route of the world championships was a great opportunity to refine this preparation

Anakolodge, the ideal place to recharge your batteries and recover between races!

Riding on the Raid Evolénard course was your first mountain bike experience in Switzerland… How did it go?

I love nature, mountains and people in Switzerland. Switzerland really seems to be a mountain biking paradise, so I really enjoyed being able to discover this region.

Can you tell us a little more about mountain biking in Estonia compared to Switzerland?

Unfortunately, we do not have mountains in Estonia. The highest point is 318 m above sea level. So we don’t have a „real“ ATV. Our marathons are quite fast, many gravel roads, but we also have beautiful tracks with many roots. It’s a little more „hilly“ to the south, so I prefer to drive there. But it must be said that all the races are very well organized and we have many races!

First wheel turns in Switzerland on the course of the Raid Evolénard. Not much to do with Estonia

During your stay in Valais, you also took the opportunity to discover the course of the World Championships in Grächen. Can you describe a little bit what awaits the runners in September?

The World Championships course is nice! Many climbs, really impressive descents and fast and fun singletrails. Most of the major climbs are on asphalt and are not very steep. It’s much harder here in Evolène and so it’s a good training. I loved the technical trails and small villages we crossed.

Do you think it’s a path that will suit you well? What will be your goal for this championship?

I think it might be fine for me. Not too technical and a lot of climbing. It’s certain that the strongest will win! I will work hard for the World Championships and will do my best to get my best result so far. Last year, I finished 21st, of course, I want to do better this year.

Un parcours des Championnats du Monde qui semble bien lui convenir

What will be your next destinations after your departure from Evolène on Monday?

We’re going home with my father. After my return to Estonia, I would do a good week of training, then at the end of June I would plan a marathon race in Finland, then I would go to Norway for the European XCM Championships. I’m really looking forward to running there!

Schlusslauf der Bike Marathon Classics am Iron Bike Race, das zugleich als Mountainbike-Marathon-Schweizermeisterschaft zählte, am Sonntag, 30. September 2018 in Einsiedeln. 
Foto Martin Platter

Ariane Lüthi joins the Kross Racing Team with big goals

With the withdrawal of Team Spur, the Swiss marathon mountain bike champion found herself without a team, but finally bounced back perfectly by taking the place left vacant by Jolanda Neff within Team Kross. Ariane comes back with us on her best moments spent within Team Spur, the difficulties to find a new team and her objectives alongside Maja Włoszczowska !

You spent three exciting years with the Team Spur. What will remain as your best memories of this period?

Winning the Cape Epic together with Annika Langvad in 2016 and watching my team mate James Reid racing at the Rio Olympic Games and then Alan Hatherly becoming the U23 World Champion in Lenzerheide were probably the most significant successes of our small team, which I am very proud of.
However, two of my most emotional memories were the two Swiss Marathon Champ titles I won in the Spur colours. The one at the Raid Evolènard in 2016 was very special because my manager Nic Lamond came all the way from his holiday in France to support me and I really didn’t expect to win the title. It felt so great to reward all his effort he has done for us with that victory.

One of Ariane’s highlights at Team Spur
The Team Spur made the public announcement of closing the team pretty late. How did you learn about it and how was your hunt for a new team in a context where the sponsors are more and more reluctant to support bike teams?

The marketing manager of Spur, Sacha du Plessis, called me personally in June already to tell me that they will have to reduce their investment for 2019. Spur didn’t pull out completely though, they keep supporting me this year and I remain as an ambassador for the Spur Schools MTB League in South Africa, which is something I am very passionate about.
Finding a new title sponsor proofed to be incredibly hard indeed. My manager Nic Lamond and I approached a lot of businesses with our proposal without any success. It was a tough time, not knowing if I were still able to continue my career as a professional rider for much longer.

The Swiss champion came very close to leaving the circuit
And finally you managed to sign in the Kross Racing Team, where you will replace Jolanda Neff. How such a great outcome became possible?

When I heard that Jolanda Neff was leaving the team I took a leap of faith and asked Maja if she was interested in racing the Cape Epic with me. To my fortune she and the team showed great interest and that’s when the negotiations about me joining Kross Racing Team started.

A champion who likes to share her passion! Foto Martin Platter
With Maja Włoszczowska, you will get a very strong team mate for the Cape Epic. Do you already have some clear plans on this side?

Yes, as mentioned above the Cape Epic was the reason why it all came together. I’m truly honoured to be able to race with a two time Olympic silver medalist and have the world class support of Kross Racing Team for this demanding race.

After the European medal last year, what will be your priority for the next season and how the team switch will affect your race program?

My main goals for 2019 are the Cape Epic in March, European Marathon Champs in Norway beginning July and of course the Marathon Wold Championships in Grächen, Switzerland, in September. As you can see my focus remains on the long distance and my calendar doesn’t change much to last year. However, since Kross is a Polish bike brand, I will be racing a few races there. I already look forward to visit Poland and discovering a new country on my bike.

En route sous de nouvelles couleurs pour de nouvelles médailles!