An Interview With The Swiss Dude: Valentin Scherz

Valentin Scherz

Valentin Scherz, winner of the Capital ‘Cross Classic and the MAC Elite Championship series, is an 18 year old fast man from Switzerland that spent the past couple months going toe-to-toe with many of the top U.S. riders. Scherz (Pro Cycles-Scott-Newwork) took some time for a short interview on how his Capital ‘Cross Classic race went down, racing in Europe compared to the U.S. and his plans for future visits to the U.S.

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How did the Capital ‘Cross Classic course conditions and race compare to a typical European race?

Scherz: The conditions here are more or less the same as in Europe. In my country, Switzerland, the courses are known to be very technical, hilly and difficult, as yesterday or in Southampton. In the rest of the Europe—Belgium, Holland, Italy, France—the fashion is now fast courses, more like the most of the races here. So the riders are more riding together and there is more suspense. Until two weeks ago, the weather conditions were warmer here than in Europe in October. But now, the weather is the same.

Scherz was on his own from the gun, Sunday

The level of the riders is my big deal now! I think I progressed a lot this year. But I don’t exactly know where my level will be in Europe. I think that in the UCI C2 or C1, the level here is the same as in Switzerland. And in the regional races, like yesterday, it’s the same as in the regional races in my region too. So the competition level is good enough here for me.

That was an impressive ride. How did you feel about your performance? Did the day play out the way you expected?

Scherz: Thanks. I was feeling pretty good yesterday during the race. My technique and my ability to ride in the slippery turns were good, which is really important for me. I tried yesterday to ride every lap better than the previous one. In fact, the day played out better than what I was expecting. I was expecting a hard race. I spent the two previous days visiting Washington, walked a lot, stood up for long stretches, etc. I did one week of rest without training two weeks ago and I did only slow rides last week.

On Sunday, it was difficult for me to get ready before the race, to go out of the car to warm up, check the course etc. The conditions were the worst it could be: not cold enough to have frozen ground, but enough to get your feet freezing in the really cold mud. So I was not feeling 100% on the start line. But everything always changes just after the start-shot: you become a warrior and give all that you have. And then you see how fit you really are! My feelings on the bike were great, and the legs were good. Continue reading “An Interview With The Swiss Dude: Valentin Scherz”

HoCo2xCx Podium & Pie Interviews

The CXHairs Team Bike At Schooley Mill

The Howard County Double Cross weekend took place November 21 and 22. Schooley Mill Cross, a new race, featured long power sections and some muddy climbs. Rockburn Cross featured the same exciting single-track sections, punchy climbs and technical turns as it has the past three years.

For these interviews, I tracked down podium finishers that have yet to grace the cyber-pages of In The Crosshairs for their racing prowess. This way we get a couple more voices in the mix, with different takes on some of the same old questions. I also included sixth place finishers at Rockburn because those folks won pie. And if you win pie, you deserve to be recognized.

I think the highlight of these interviews is the great discussion on race starts and the hole shot. Pay attention to what these folks are saying and see if their successful strategy matches up with what you are doing.

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What is your pre-race routine?

Rusty Williford (Fulcrum Coaching/WWVC Racing, Rockburn Cat 3/4, 4th place): Same thing every week: Get to the course by 8:30, recon the course until 9, kit-up and hit the trainer by 10, off-the trainer by 10:35 and head to the course for either 1 hot lap or a few starts.

Andreas Gutzeit (HPC List, Schooley Mill Masters 3/4, 4th place): I do about two laps of the course, mainly looking for good lines. Then I do 30 minute warm-up. Jeff Anderson describes cross racing as a reverse crit. Very helpful for a novice roadie. So now I have taken to practice the start on the course a couple of times and it really served me well at Schooley Mill. I was fourth into the dirt and ended up fourth 40 minutes later.

Brach hits the climbs at Rockburn (Nystrom not pictured)

Chris Nystrom (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, Elite Masters, Schooley Mill 8th, Rockburn 6th): Arrive early enough to preview the course before the start of the race two slots before my race. Really getting to know and understand the track is key. Pin up the number and get dressed during the race (two prior) and ride the course with a bit more speed before the next race. Ride the trainer and b.s. with teammates during the race just before mine. Red Bull 45 minutes before my start. Get to the line, relax and visualize the start. Remember to have fun.

John Cutler (CycleLife DC, 1st place Schooley Mill Men’s 3/4, 19th place Rockburn Elite Masters): Coffee and a Starbucks egg sandwich (kind of disgusting, yes, but fast). Drive. Listen to NPR or that weird show about parenting. A moment of sheer terror trying to find a gas station with a restroom. Arrive in the middle of one of the races. 20 minutes to get number and get ready to pre-ride. Ride a couple laps. Pretend that I’m actually remembering the corners and lines. Hop on the trainer for 40 minutes. I used to never bring a trainer, but I’ve come around. You can listen to music and zone out. Then Race.

When a race throws a kink in my plans—like a really long walk to registration, one port-potty, a line at registration, a line for the hose, etc.—it really throws me for a loop. I said this last year, but I’ll say it again. NEXT YEAR I’m going all out with the tent, the easy chairs, that little mat for taking of your shoes, the cooler, etc. For two days of racing your post race routine is really important as well. Instead of jumping back into the car while slamming recovery shakes, it can pay to relax, socialize, put your feet up, and commune with fellow racers.

Jeff Trinh (Georgetown University, 1st place at Schooley Mill Men’s Cat 4, 6th place at Rockburn Men’s Cat 4): Coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. When I get to the race site I get dressed and pre-ride the course, making sure to drink plenty of water in between laps. One of the advantages of doing the 9am race is that you have plenty of time to pre-ride, so I like take my time and make mental notes about which lines I’ll pick.

Elizabeth Harlow (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, Women’s 1,2,3 Schooley Mill 4th and Rockburn 6th): Ride the course a couple of times before the Master Men’s Elite race. Paying attention to anything that may give me trouble. Ride around easy while the men race and then ride the course again close to race pace after the men finish.

Jon Hicks (Winchester Wheelemen, Rockburn Cat 4 5th place): The first lap to get a feel for the flow and the second much slower, looking for objects to avoid. A gel and FRS 30 minutes before the start.

Andrew Welch (Squadra Coppi, Mens 3/4, 3rd at Schooley Mill, 1st at Rockburn): I don’t like to have a lot of down time before my race, so I usually show up just in time to get a couple laps in before the previous race goes out … nothing too fast, just some course recon and easy warm-up. Then I get my number, change kit, and finish warming up … on the road. I have a trainer in my car, but it hasn’t come out all season.  Continue reading “HoCo2xCx Podium & Pie Interviews”

Tacchino ‘Cross: Podium Interviews

Tacchino 3/4
Men's 3/4 leaders. Photo: Joe Metro.

Here is the final Tacchino ‘Cross installment. These podium interviews are just what you need to get ready for this weekend’s races. Pre-ride strategy, race tactics, barrier technique, pre-race food. It’s all here. 

Thanks for reading. 


Under ideal conditions (you arrive on time, it’s not pouring down rain), how much time do you spend on the course before racing? Do you walk the course? Do any hot laps? What are you looking for during this time? 

Steevo Cummings (Indiana Regional Medical Center, 2nd Place Men’s Elite): 20-25 minutes is ideal. I ride around the outside of the course and watch the racers when I arrive. I got to pre-ride the course after the Elite Masters with Gerry Pflug. He showed me the lines he was taking, where bottlenecks were forming, where to recover, etc. That was like doing 3 or 4 laps on my own. Some of the stuff I would have not found on my own. 

Jared Nieters (Haymarket Bicycles/HomeVisit, 3rd Place Men’s Elite): I try to arrive early, during the ‘B’ race, and do the pit work for Tyler Karnes (he does a great job taking care of the task for me during the elite race). After the ‘B’ race, I ride one lap slowly, in my street clothes, and get a good solid look at all of the corners and lines. During the next race I get my number and throw my kit on. Before the women’s race, I typically try to take a lap at a comfortable pace and then another where I hit a few of the trickier corners at speed. Some of the lines I take aren’t the ones that get beaten in during the day (I take early-apex lines more than most people in order to keep exit speeds high), and that becomes more obvious when I’m warming up at speed. I hop on the trainer during the women’s race, and make sure everything is taken care of, before catching the end of the women’s race. 

Jennifer Maxwell (ATAC Sportswear p/b Bike Rack DC, 2nd Place Women’s Elite): Usually get to the race 2 hours before a UCI race and 1 1/2 for a local. I park, get the LeMond back-up bike ready, and ride to registration. If I can get on the course, I will do a few laps to get a feel for tire pressure and lines to take. I like to sometimes ride behind an Elite women/male to get a feel for which lines to take. HOT laps are for when I am running late and know that I will not get a full hour of warm up on the trainer. So I then register, drop off the LeMond in the pit, and head to the car to warm up on the trainer. I prefer warming up on rollers but with grass and uneven parking venues I need to use the trainer for cross. 

Tyler Karnes (Pioneer Racing, 1st Place Men’s 3/4): I usually try to arrive at the venue a little over 2 hours before my race, that way I can get out of the car and get straight on course to pre ride a lap before the early race starts. I usually try to get another lap before the last race ahead of mine. This weekend, some unfortunate events in a rider breaking his ankle allowed a lot more course time than usual. I think I got 6-7 laps in before my race, and I re-rode some of the more difficult sections numerous times. I usually walk some of the course on the way to registration, noticing how riders are taking lines and if they are avoiding anything on course. I will get a couple hot laps before my race just as a final warm-up prep. 

Patrick Blair (Adventures For the Cure, 2nd Place Men’s 3/4): After racing about 13 races this season I think I finally have my pre-race prep figured out! Before the CAT4 race I try to get in at least 2 slow laps, analyzing every aspect of the course. After the CAT4 race I try to get in at least 2 more laps at a faster pace but still taking lots of mental notes on the course layout. During the races before my race I spend time stretching, checking tire pressure, eating, cheering for teammates, etc. 

Tim Brown (The Bike Rack, 3rd Place Men’s 3/4): I normally like to get in at least 3 laps before racing… an easy lap, a hard lap, and one to work on tricky sections. I usually never arrive early enough to have time to walk the course. 

Meg Schiffman (Squadra Coppi, 2nd Place Women’s 4): I feel most comfortable if I get 4-5 laps in on the course…which usually means getting there about 3-4 hours before my race. I don’t walk the course, but get a few slower laps in and then one or two just below race effort. My objective is really just to gain confidence and familiarity with the course while getting the bod warmed up. The more laps I get under my belt prior to the race, the better I feel on the start line! I do try to test out lines, look for the dryer ones, etc. during the warm-up laps as well. Continue reading “Tacchino ‘Cross: Podium Interviews”