Laura Stigger has already packed a lot into her fledgling career as a professional mountain bike athlete and there's the promise that there's much more to come for the 20-year-old. Such is her talent that the twice junior cross-country World Champion has completely bypassed the U23 category for the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and is racing as an Elite athlete.
The Austrian's motto or the attitude that she tries to act on in everything she does as a bike athlete is Olm Volle - Immer Vollgas (which translates in English to Full Speed - Always Full Speed). Stigger took on that attitude into her debut season at Elite level at the World Cup in 2020, where she achieved podium spots with two fifth places in the two main races at Nové Město.
A new mini-documentary entitled All In; takes up Stigger's story following her end of season successes at Nové Město last year and builds into the 2021 season. Watch it below:
Laura Stigger – All In
So far this 2021 World Cup season, Stigger has showed that she continues to belong among the seniors with an eighth-placed finish in Albstadt. She'll be looking for further success on home soil at Leogang this week. Ahead of Leogang, we caught up with Stigger for a wide-ranging chat about training, her love of riding mountain bikes and where she sees her career going.
Let's go back to January 2020: You were still finishing your schooling. How was that?
It was an exciting time, though it required a lot of planning. Morning at school, sometimes until 4pm. Then eat something quickly, train on the bike and then have free time or study. For me, cycling was always switching off from school. I recharged my batteries so that I could sit down to study again in the evening. Because I was in a specialist sports school we had fewer hours. That was very helpful.
Racing in Japan was the season plan in 2020, but that didn't happen. How did you feel about the postponement?
At the beginning I was disappointed because I was fully focussed on it. Now I don't think negatively about it at all, because I'm a year more experienced. I've developed really well over this past year and of course I'm happy that the event takes place this year.
Was racing with the Elite ladies at the World Cup beneficial looking ahead to the big event in Japan later in the year?
Racing with the elite in the World Cup was great. Now I already know roughly what makes some of the girls tick and how races develop at this level. It's been a learning experience for sure and I'll take that with me going forward.
How difficult has it been in the last few months with hardly any spectators at races? Do you miss them?
Yes, of course. The spectators get that extra percent out of you. Especially when everything really begins to hurt in the last few laps. I've had to imagine the crowd myself when racing to spur myself on.
How did you come up with your motto, Olm Volle – Immer Vollgas?
It actually happened spontaneously. My trainer and I trained on the road several times and these words came up a lot to motivate me. Now it's part of every training session. It's marked on my helmet. It's branded on my bikes.
What is the fascination of riding a mountain bike for you?
First of all, I don't need a lot to do what I do. I can open the front door, take out the bike and then I have my playground in front of me. I just love being in nature. Mountain biking triggers positive emotions in me.
When the sun doesn't always shine and it's not always warm do you sometimes have to motivate yourself to go out on training rides?
It happens very rarely because I just love to ride. I actually like to be in the rain too. When it rains everything is more difficult, that's why I like it.
Can you tell how you started mountain biking? What age was that?
I started when I was seven. I actually started through my parents' neighbours. They were part of a club. They would always ride past our house and looked like they were having a lot of fun on the bike. So I thought: 'I want to try this!'
Were your parents mountain bikers or passionate about cycling?
No. My dad actually played soccer. They didn't have much to do with cycling. But they have supported my brother [who's also a bike athlete] and I from the beginning in every possible way. I'm very grateful for that.
For people new to mountain biking, what would you like them to understand and enjoy about the sport?
Simply that mountain biking is really an easy sport to take up and anyone can do it. There's so much you can do. Even those who aren't fit enough can get up a mountain with an e-bike. The more people bike the more cycling grows.
How would you describe your riding style?
Risky, on the limit, but still controlled. I like to go on the limit. The more difficult or technical the course the better
What sort of technical mountain bike training do you do?
On a small scale, it's all about how you handle your bike. Now it's about learning how to tackle course features and adapting to certain positions on the bike when riding. There's a lot to work that goes on there.
How much time do you spend on technique training compared to just riding your bike for training purposes?
That's difficult to say. Most of the time you ride and you see what could be done better when you climb or descend. This flows naturally into training on the bike.
You were a world champion on the road as a junior. Is road racing something that you'll pursue?
The main focus has always been on mountain biking. If there's an opportunity to race on the road in the next few years I'll definitely take it up, but for now I want to focus on the mountain bike.
What are your hopes for your career in the coming years?
Develop. Get stronger and faster. That's the main goal. Also stay healthy and injury-free. These are the prerequisites that always have to be right. So these are the top priorities. At some point, I don't know when, there'll be a time when I'll take a different path. As long as everything is perfect and I'm allowed to race, I'll do it with all my heart and with full commitment.