Martin Söderström (23) is already one of the best freeride mountain bikers around; Anton Thelander (19) is well under way. Both come from the Swedish city of Uppsala and they both competed in the X Games in Munich. Martin entered the premier running of mountain bike Slopestyle, Anton competed in the final of the Red Bull Phenom Rookie contest.
Before getting down to training, they enjoyed a proper breakfast and a good discussion about the wind, weather and Bavarian veal sausage. There definitely isn’t any rivalry between them, after all, they plan to open up a kebab shop in Sweden together...
Veal sausage in the morning, that’s a good start to the day, isn’t it?
Anton (casts an eye towards the mini veal sausages on the hotel’s buffet): Let’s just say: I wouldn‘t want to eat them everyday.
Martin: They are…different (laughs). Yes. Hmm. Not for breakfast anyway. We’re quite boring in Sweden, when it comes to breakfast. A sandwich, coffee, done. The Germans are kind of crazy.
You both come from Uppsala and hang out a lot. Does rivalry still raise its head at times?
Martin: No, not at all. That is the beauty of mountain biking, there isn't really any bitter competition. When you stand there at the top, you don't think, "I want the others to crash". You only think, “I want to give my best”. Or do you want me to go flying, Anton?
Anton (laughs): Of course! No, of course not. We’re all buddies, really.
Martin, you are right at the top of your game, Anton is just about to have his big break. Do you have any good advice for him?
Martin: All the time! If you spend some time in the professional sport, you pick up a few things. But Anton offers me some good advice too! He’s a totally relaxed type of guy and I’m always really stressed out at contests, I’m far too nervous. But then Anton comes along an goes, “Hey, relax and just have some fun on your bike.” He reminds me why I’m mountain biking in the first place.
What advice have you offered him in return?
Martin: That you shouldn’t totally pump it up on every run. When you are new to this, you want to show your hardest tricks all the time and at every opportunity. But sometimes it helps not to use up all your energy in the qualifier and to save yourself for the finals instead. Sometimes you need to cool the youngsters off a bit.
Anton, you're here thanks to Red Bull Phenom, a rookie contest that is open to mountain bikers skaters and BMX riders, who apply by submitting a video. What did you focus on in your clip?
Anton (sipping his hot chocolate): Just my riding, actually. I think it’s good that the film itself, I mean the quality of the video, the cut and the music are not being evaluated. After all, it is about riding skills and not everybody has the opportunity to produce a brilliant professional video. That allows you to focus exclusively on your riding skills.
This was the first time mountain biking was included in the X Games here in Munich. Now, the weather - both for Phenom and for the MTB Slopestyle final wasn’t exactly on your side.
Martin: That is the crux of our sport. We are always at the highest point of some mountain. It’s almost always windy there, it rains and you have to wait. Then all of the sudden, there's an announcement to tell you to start right now, even though you might not really feel like it at that point. That’s all part of it.
What else do you need to make it in mountain biking?
Anton: Mountain biking is very diverse, therefore you should have mastered a variety of terrains. BMX track, downhill… Some guys just do kickers and they really nail the tricks, but they can’t do anything else.
Martin: Exactly, but with Slopestyle, there isn’t just a kicker – there’s a hell of a lot before and after that. And you have to be prepared for anything. On the BMX tracks, all the obstacles have been pretty much the same for a while now, but it seems that we mountain bikers haven’t made up our mind about what we want to see on our courses (laughs). You arrive at a contest, there’s an obstacle you’ve never seen before, and you don’t have a clue how to ride it. You have to be versatile, so that a surprise doesn’t turn into a nasty surprise.
German food seems to have been a nasty surprise for you so far. Is there anything that you are really keen on?
Martin: It’s not exactly typical German food, but I love the doner kebabs here! (Anton nods in agreement.) They don’t taste the same in Sweden, and they’re not as popular either. We’ve already been thinking about opening a kebab shop back home in Sweden. But don’t go stealing our idea!
Never! Until then: enjoy your meal and I hope you continue to do well!