Swiss mountain bike and cyclocross professional Thomas Frischknecht enjoys Tuscan red wine, spending time with his wife and three children, and listening to U2. Sounds like a few guys I know! The difference between Frischi and my pals is the impressive list of palmares (see below) and the staying power: Frischknecht, 37, has been racing professionally since 1989, and like Ned Overend, shows no sign of slowing.
We caught up with Frischi recently to talk about this Swisspower team, his career, and a few random thoughts between his busy training and travel schedule.
BikeRadar: Thomas, tell us about your 2007 schedule.
TF: After some early preparation races like the Cape Epic and Sea Otter I do all the European World Cups and most of the Swisspower Cups. My main focus us on the two world championships, marathon and cross country.
BR: Tell us about the day you suffered most on the bike.
This happens more often now than 10 years ago. It’s not the races you go for a top placing that are tough. The days you have to fight for a 20th place make you suffer the most.
BR: Your performance at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics was inspiring. You took silver at the men’s MTB cross-country race one day, then raced the men’s road race the next. Tell us about that experience.
I’m a mountain biker. But at the time I was dreaming about competing in the Tour de France. Being able to drop in by accident into such a high ranked pro race with all the stars was like a dream coming trough. (Frishi filled in for Swiss road legend Tony Rominger , riding a Ritchey Swiss Cross! ed.).
BR: The Swisspower Team is getting impressive results. Are you pleased with its progress, and what does the future look like?
In fact we have with Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter, two ranked Top 10 in the world. Both started as juniors on our team and made it all the way to become excellent riders. This makes me very proud, and since I’m not really finishing on the podium anymore in World Cup races it’s great to have them up there now. Their success makes me as happy as it would be my own.
BR: You’ve been an advocate for drug-free racing your entire career. What are your thoughts on the current flood of confessions in the pro peloton?
It’s a sad story but it’s just the truth that gets public now. Sooner or later honesty always pays off. In that way I feel a bit of justice seeing the cheaters in trouble now. On the other hand the whole sport is suffering a bad image, which also affects me. Clean riders get hit twice. First they get beat up by the cheaters, than they sit in the same boat when the image of the sport goes down.
BR: If you hadn’t chosen bike racing as a career, what path would you have taken?
No idea! I have a degree in architecture, but I’m sure that was not where my best skills where. I’m glad I found what I am good at. That’s not every person’s case.
BR: Tell us about your off-season training program.
I do cyclocross in the winter. That’s why I don’t have an off season. Except a few weeks I do nothing at all or go skiing and snowboarding.
BR: Do you have any pre-race rituals?
No, just the usual stuff: Sleep, eat, warm up, race.
BR: Technology has changed dramatically since you started racing. What do you value the most about your current equipment?
Bikes and their equipment got a lot lighter over the years. But basically for all the riders. You can only value something if you’re a step ahead of the others. In my case this are my tubular wheels. They are much more comfortable to ride, give more traction, have less rolling resistance and are a lot lighter, too. It’s just that the industry’s is not ready to make this become a standard. This gives me an advantage for another year or so.
BR: What do you hope to do once you actually retire from bike racing?
I hope I can do the same things that I’m doing now, except not be racing anymore. I want to do more product development with Ritchey Design, manage the Swisspower team, my Frischi Bike School and the Frischi Bike Challenge. And I also would like to finally have more time for my family.
World Champion marathon 2005/ 2003
World Champion cross country 1996
Olympic silver medallist Atlanta 1996
Olympic 6th place Sydney 2000; 7th place Athens 2004
15 World Championship medals
Vice World Champion 1990/91/92/2001
World Cup Champion 1992/93/95
18 World Cup victories
European Champion 1993
11 Swiss Champion titles
2 times Cyclo-Cross World Champion
Member – Olympic Swiss road team 1996 (last-minute sub for Tony Rominger)