The Mercedes-Benz UCI MTB XCO World Cup is known for its fierce racing and technical courses. Competition is tight in both the Elite and U23 races and getting a good result is not an easy feat. Especially if you have to start from the back row. That, however, hasn’t stopped young Swedish rider Oscar Lind, who’s been making a statement during the first three world cups of 2021. Starting from the back, he has managed to overtake pretty much the whole field to finish in 31st, 20th and 55th.
At 19 years old, and as a first-year U23 rider, those are some exciting results from the young Swede who is racing on board the all-Swedish UCI team Serneke Allebike. Together with teammate Emil Lindgren, one of Sweden’s most decorated XC riders, he is taking on the full world cup circuit in 2021.
We caught up with him just before the 4th round of the UCI MTB World Cup in Les Gets to get all the ins and outs of what it’s like to race at the highest level.
Hi Oscar! Tell us a little about your background in MTB?
I started competing in XC when I was around 7 years old in Västgötacupen. After that, I progressed into racing the Swedish Cup and the Swedish Championships. When I was around 15-16 years old I competed in the Youth European Championship and also started doing some more international races like the Junior World Series.
Apart from the last three U23 World Cups, I had some of my best results last year finishing the Junior XCO European Championship in 8th, winning the UCI C1 race in Zadov and becoming Swedish Junior Champion in XCO and CX.
Deep down, it’s always been about XCO for me. I’ve done some marathon style races but mostly because it’s fun and it’s good training. My focus has been, and still very much is, XCO.
How did you end up on the Serneke Allebike team?
I’ve been riding an Allebike since a young age, like 13 or 14 years old. Over the years I’ve gotten to know the team behind the bike brand and started hanging out with them more and more. I started racing for them as a first year Junior back in 2019 and things have gone from there.
Have you always wanted to race world cups and what does it feel like to finally be amongst it?
From a pretty young age I’ve felt that riding bikes is the best thing I know and what I want to do. My goal, or dream, has been to race int he world cup and this year it became a reality. It’s so much fun to get to be apart of this big push from the team.
To be honest, it feels pretty surreal to be racing on such a high level. There are so many big names right infront of me on the start line that it makes me think: “do they actually exist for real” kind of thing. I really enjoy racing the world cups and I take away so much experience from each round.
In what way does the world cup races differ from previous races you’ve done?
If you compare to Swedish races, a world cup is about 10 times as big and instead of five really good racers to compete against, you’ve got around 50. And that is probably the biggest difference, that when when you have a bad day in Sweden you can still be up there and fight for a Top 5 result, at a world cup you’re lucky if you make the Top 50. There are just so many good riders.
What about the tracks?
The world cup tracks are extremely technical and challenging. In Sweden we do have some XCO courses that are tough too, like Lugnets XCO, but the courses are even tougher than that. More hilly, steeper climbs and harder descents. But I really like it - I feel like the tougher the track, the better it suits me!
It’s your first year as an U23 rider and your first time at the world cups, has anything surprised you about it all?
My own performance, haha. I’ve been pretty shocked at how well it’s gone and how good I’ve felt, especially considering that I’ve been starting pretty far back in the field. Coming into the season I had no idea how I would measure against the field, being a first-year U23 and racing against people who are three years older than me.
It’s felt great though. The big challenge has been starting from the back row and trying and get ahead as quickly as possible without running out of gas straight away. It’s been pretty hard and you need to have some luck and a good day to make it happen.
In Albstadt, for example, I started on the second to last row and straight away got stuck behind someone who crashed. I think I came out of the start third to last. But I felt very mentally stable that day and didn’t give up - I just kept passing one rider after the next. And when I finally crossed the finish line my first thought was “did I really overtake that many?".
I was surprised, and stoked, that I managed to get so far ahead both in Albstadt and Nové Město.
What kind of XCO course suits you?
Nové Město suits me well. I’ve raced there twice before as a junior so I know it from before. It’s really good fun. Pretty technical, with lots of roots and rocks and short but steep climbs. In many ways, it’s a very “Swedish-looking” course.
Emil Lindgren is one of Sweden’s best XC racers and also your teammate. Can you utilise his knowledge and experience?
Of course. During the world cups we ride everything together and he is very open with everything. I feel like I can ask him practically anything and he is happy to answer. His experience both on and off the course is really valuable. When we ride the track together I get lots of good insight to what lines are good, how and where to tactically attack on certain sections and how to allocate my power throughout the race. It’s very informative and I learn a lot from him.
What’s your goal at the world cup in Les Gets?
So far I’ve been starting from far back. In Leogang I started in 75th but I had a tough day with a puncture etc. Now that I’ve been back home for a couple of weeks, i’ve had time to recharge my batteries and I really look froward to Les Gets. My goal is to top Nove Mesto’s Top 20 results. I believe it’s doable if I have a good day.
What’s your goal for the rest of the season?
My goal for the season was more based on my performance, rather than results. I want to constantly develop and not feel like I’m standing still. Now that I’ve done three races, I might also have some result-based goals for the rest of season, but basically I just want to perform the best I can and see how far that goes. I’ve deifniltey got a taste for world cups and want to keep racing.