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.
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.
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.