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Riding High

UCI Road Worldchampionships 2018

Text: Eva Schwienbacher, Picture: Johannes Mair / Alpsolut

It’s may be just a few weeks since Laura Stigger successfully defended her world juniors title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Switzerland, but the talented local rider from Tirol is already hard at work preparing for the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol. As she hopes to repeat her success on the road, we sat down with Laura to chat about her achievements and aims in cycling and why this year’s Road World Championships in Austria is also an event for mountain bikers.

When Laura Stigger climbs onto her mountain bike, her otherwise shy smile breaks into a broad grin. The 17 year-old from Tirol feels at home on two wheels – and you can see it. Her main discipline is cross-country, where she recently fulfilled her dream of successfully defending her world juniors title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Laura is well on her way to repeating the incredible season she had in 2017, when she not only won the junior women race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships title for the first time but also claimed top spot in the overall classification of the UCI Junior Series and also defended her European title. This year she secured her fifth European championships title in five years with a start-finish victory in front of a home crowd in Graz/Stattegg, Austria. She’s riding high. And she wants more.

One month – two world championships

The forest trails near her home in the village of Ötztal Bahnhof are where Laura can often be found training. After countless kilometres on the bike she knows every root and every corner inside out. Today, on a warm summer’s day, she is here on her mountain bike. During the year she trains for an average of 10 hours a week. Laura attends a special sports school in Innsbruck, which gives her extra flexibility when it comes to combining learning and cycling. In winter she incorporates ski touring and cross-country skiing into her training plan, but as soon as the weather turns warmer and the snow begins to melt she heads out on her bike.

Motivated by her successes and the fact that the UCI Road World Championships are taking place in her home region of Tirol this year, the talented young sportswoman has decided to take on a special challenge in autumn. Just a few days after riding to victory at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Switzerland, Stigger will be swapping wide tires for narrow ones and take the start at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol. There she will battle it out for the coveted Rainbow Jersey in the Women Juniors Road Race on 27 September starting in Rattenberg and finishing in Innsbruck. She is delighted to have been awarded a place on the Austrian team and is looking forward to the race.

Laura Stigger, mountain biker:

 “In both sports you have to pedal.”

“It’s not very often that you have World Championships taking place in your home region, so of course it’s really special to be taking part,” says Laura. Since her enormously successful 2017 her name has often been mentioned in connection with the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol. In the end the Austrian Cycling Federation decided to award Laura a place on the team for the Women Juniors Road Race.

From forest trails to tarmac roads

Does a mountain biker used to riding over roots, rocks and earth have to prepare specifically for a race on the road? “No,” says Laura. “Training for mountain bike racing is also useful preparation for road racing.” She explains that she spends many hours each week developing her fitness and bike-handling skills, which will also be useful in a road racing environment. She also adds that the profile of the course set to feature in the Women Juniors Road Race suits her: “There are lots of steep climbs, which is good for mountain bikers like me. Most road races don’t have many climbs like that, but in mountain biking we have them all the time.”

Racing on the road is, in fact, nothing new for the 17 year-old. “During training camps in winter we mountain bikers ride a lot of kilometres on the road. It’s a good way for me to see where my limits are and push myself even more,” she explains. Despite the different terrains, Laura sees plenty of similarities between the two disciplines. “In both sports you have to pedal. Mountain biking is more technical, while road bike riding is more tactical. In road bike racing, experience is really important.” She has already had the opportunity to gather experience on the road this season by competing in the Nations’ Cup in Italy, where she was the only Austrian to finish the race.

Though it may sound unusual for a mountain biker to compete in the road race world championships, it has in fact happened on plenty of occasions in the past. Indeed, some of the most famous names in the road racing scene started out as mountain bikers – including reigning road world champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia.

A mountain biker at heart

At the moment Laura Stigger isn’t planning on making a permanent switch from mountain biking to road racing. “She is and remains a mountain biker at heart,” explains Laura’s media manager Peter Leitner. “I love being out in nature and riding over obstacles like roots and rocks,” she explains. Another thing she enjoys is suffering – something which is possible in equal measures on a mountain bike and a road bike.

Looking ahead to the future, the most important thing at the moment for Laura Stigger is to remain healthy and avoid injuries. She is hoping to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and, once she has finished school, would like to study and join the military as a sport soldier in order to be able to focus on her riding. Her motto: “Have fun doing what you are doing and be ambitious in order to reach the goals you set yourself.” At the tender age of 17 years she has already realised many of her goals – and it remains to be seen what she can pull out of the hat in front of a home crowd at this year’s UCI Road World Championships. One thing is for sure: she will give it 100%.

Local mountain biker Laura Stigger from Tirol will be giving 100% at this year’s World Championships.

Expa/Innsbruck-Tirol Rad WM 2018 GmbH (3)

Laura Stigger was born on 25 September 2000 in Innsbruck. She grew up in the village of Haiming and at the age of seven was introduced to cycling by children in the neighbourhood who rode for the local cycling club. Inspired by how much fun these other children had on the bike, she wanted to try it out for herself. Soon after taking up cycling she competed in her first race. Since then she has become a cross-country specialist and finished on the podium at numerous races. Her victories in 2017 included the junior title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and the European championships as well as the overall classification of the Juniors World Cup. She has continued that success into 2018 by successfully defending her world championships and European championships title. She has also qualified to ride the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck Tirol, where she will compete in the Women Juniors Road Race on 27 September.

© 2017 Tirol Werbung