Images courtesy of Scott and Oakley
Pro rider Jenny Rissveds answers the mountain biking questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Bush wee? There’s gear for that…
Swedish rider Jenny Rissveds and her partner Thomas Frischknecht have been dominating the Virgin Active Mixed Jersey (woman and man) category of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. (Update: the team won their category after leading from start to finish!) Not surprising, since Jenny is no stranger to winning — last year the 22-year-old took gold at the Rio Olympics, plus the under-23 World Championship title. That’s a lot of time in the saddle, which makes her the ideal person to to give you all the nitty-gritty mountain biking advice you’ve been wanting to hear.
Find your focus.
Jenny is very focused and nervous leading up to a race. “It’s a good sign — if you’re nervous, your focus is better, she says.” She listens to music to help her relax. “It lets my thoughts drift away so I don’t focus on the nerves.”
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Take your mind off the pain.
Jenny sometimes counts to focus on breathing. When the course is really tough and she has to get through it, she starts to count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8… “This can last up to three minutes of a climb,” she says. “I count in my head and suddenly I’m at the top. It makes me forget about the pain.”
Look after your lady bits.
Jenny’s had a lot of problems with pain from time in the saddle. At times the pressure would be so bad, she’d struggle to pedal. “However, there are hundreds of different saddles and you have to try them and see what suits you the best — as this has a great influence,” she says. “Find the best solution for your body.” But what you wear also plays a roll. “The other important element is the padding in the pants — if you buy a bib and ride the whole season in it until it is worn, you will have issues,” cautions Jenny.
Get the right gear.
Odlo is Jenny’s apparel of choice and their bibs have special women’s padding. To protect her eyes she wears cycling-specific Oakley EvZero sunglasses while riding, as opposed to the Oakley Reverie glasses she wears off duty.
Train your mind.
“ I think it’s amazing, how you can train your mind,” says Jenny, who strongly believes in positive thoughts and attracting the best. Case in point: She thinks harsh conditions are amazing. “This is why I’m doing this and sometimes when there’s a head wind I think the wind is my best friend,” she says. “Focus your mind and steer the way your thoughts can go.”
Stay on your bike.
Crashing out is a major concern in mountain biking, but Jenny doesn’t entertain the fear. “It’s about thinking right — if you feel unsafe on the bike and have no confidence then you will crash. You have to look where you’re going and if there’s a big rock that you have to get over, you have to focus through it, not on the rock and that’s how you’ll get through it,” she says. “When it’s super muddy, focus on one point where you know you’re going and you’ll end up there. It’s so important to think the right things and focus your mind.”
Dress for a quick wee on the go.
“Odlo have designed great women’s bibs that focus on not taking off all your gear to wee, but to zip down and run behind a bush while there are no cars or people around,” says Jenny.
Don’t stress – it’s meant to be fun.
As a junior if Jenny didn’t win or perform to the max, or a race didn’t didn’t go as expected, her world collapsed. What she’s come to realise? No one cares what she did as a junior, they care about what she has built up to. “You need to go through the steps, but your world isn’t going under due to bad performance. I wish I had listened to that advice,” she says. “This is the real thing now and it’s more fun ’cause I’ve learnt how to deal with that pressure. I always try to keep it fun and always try to remember why I started to ride — cause I loved it. Don’t be so serious — it’s important to keep your feet firmly on the ground.”