INTERVIEW: CLAUDIO CALUORI - GSTAAD-SCOTT TEAM MANAGER
Claudio Caluori is a man of many talents. Born in Switzerland in the heart of the Alps, Claudio discovered his passion for mountain biking at a young age and went on to ride competitively from the late 1990s, with an extensive race history, he is now regularly back at the start hut doing his infamous Red Bull Bike/ GoPro course previews.
While being a team manager for Gstaad-Scott, Claudio is setting the groundwork for future generations of cyclists by building pumptracks, pumpparks and downhill trails all over the world under his Velosolutions company. Before the season kicks off at Lourdes this weekend, where Claudio will not just be doing his usual course preview but also joining Rob Warner in the commentary box, in this exclusive interview, we talk to Claudio about biking and his various spinning plates.
People tend to know you for your Red Bull course previews and your role as team manager for Gstaad-Scott, but where did mountain biking begin for you?
It began when I was playing hockey as a kid. My parents asked me if I’d be ok riding my bike to the hockey stadium so they wouldn’t have to drive me there five times a week. That’s when they bought me my first mountain bike. I used it for training in summer, but soon it became a bigger passion than hockey. I was racing XC (and even CX, road and track) but then found a BMX track during a XC ride, which pretty much turned my life around.
How do you juggle doing so many things? Do you have a team of helpers?
I’m building up a team, as everything is growing, and there is no chance anymore to do everything by myself. I’m learning to give things to others and let them do their job without constantly looking over their shoulders. The good thing is that there are actually people who love to do things that I hate, so I can leave it up to them. With Cyril Lagneau, I found a passionate person as a sports director for Gstaad-Scott, and Ben Vergnaud is taking more and more tasks as head mechanic. Two of my best friends quit their well paid jobs to join me at Velosolutions. I guess I can’t delegate my POV runs at the World Cup and at Red Bull Crashed Ice, they are too much fun, and also, I still want to be able to sit in the digger for Velosolutions.
You’re a man of many talents - from team manager, trail designer and builder, to ice-skater - if you had to do only one, which one would it be and why?
It would have to be the Velosolutions pumptracks. I love all of my jobs, but there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the children’s smiles during their first laps on a pumptrack we just built.
What’s been your favourite track of the World Cup series? Either current or in the past?
Mont Saint Anne. Don’t know why, this place just rules. The funny thing is that the year I thought the track sucked was when I placed on the podium!
Do you prefer tracks with varied featured or straight-up steep and fast downhill tracks?
I like them all, I just don’t like them too tight, where you have to be careful not to clip your handlebars on trees or rocks.
Do you think racing downhill has changed now compared to when you started? If so, how?
Sure, the level has gone up incredibly, but on the other hand, the spirit remains the same, which is good! There will always be the guys who take it over-serious, and there will always be the guys who do it for the fun to smoke them.
What’s been your most scariest moment on a bike?
You know, those POV runs get more and more scary, having to pin it on a World Cup track without practice, with new tracks every year, and with no time to ride my DH bike at home... Oh, it’s going to be fun!
What are you most looking forward to this season?
As always, Mont-Sainte-Anne. It’s not only an awesome track. It’s awesome people, an awesome place all around!
What’s your favourite Scott bike?
If I had more time to ride it, then it would certainly be the Gambler, but since I have to squeeze in some rides on a pumptrack with my Voltage. Yesterday, I just did a ride at my new home with a Spark 900 that Ben built up for me, ohhh it was good!
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
There’s no place like home. I'm lucky to live in Switzerland with places like Gstaad, Lenzerheide all close by. I just moved to my grandparents farm, where I can do the most fun rides right from my doorstep. I'm loving it but at the moment I'm never home enough to enjoy it as much as I would like to.
How do you get the most out of your riders?
By letting them do their thing and providing what they need. There’s not much more I can do.
What is it that you look out for when choosing a team?
I want to have riders that are able to show how much fun they have with their job. They need to pass on their passion to the fans.
The Gstaad-Scott Team is a lot leaner this year, can you explain why you moved to just two riders?
We tried for years to develop top riders and juniors at the same time. But without having top results on the team, it is hard to pull the juniors to the top level. This is why we decided to focus on two top riders for now. We will add juniors and female riders again when we have the level that we want to have. In addition to that, it’s also a question of budget. But with top results, the budget should be increasing.
With a lot of other teams having an increasing amount of very young riders featured, how do you see the Gstaad-Scott Team developing in the coming years? Have you thought about creating a feeder-team?
We did have a feeder team in 2013. But we really want to start fresh this year by providing top support to Brendan and Neko, and then take it step by step to where we can grow our own top riders.
What was your toughest moment during last year’s season as a manager?
Having to let go Emilie, Noel and Patrick, who were not only good riders, but also friends, was definitely the toughest bit. But I was really happy when I saw that they all found good places on other teams.
How did Velosolutions develop, and what is your ambition for it?
Our ambition is to provide a pumptrack to every kid. World wide.
What’s been your favourite pumptrack build to date and why?
This is clearly the one we built in Thailand last December. What an experience! There was no hecticness, just smiles, good food and a 30 day ongoing party. The result of it is our flagship pumptrack and it’s pretty much being used 24/7.
With the Swiss authorities opening up the mountains to biking, how do you see Switzerland developing as a destination, either for leisure or the venue for more World Cup races?
Yes, we have a couple of very diligent people in Switzerland, who push the rules in the right direction, so that the sport of mountain biking can develop in all of its facets. We’re lucky to have enough mountains to satisfy riders who seek world cup action as well as remote back country riding. Gstaad and Graubünden are on track to take mountain biking to the next level, and others are going to follow.
If you could build a pumptrack anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
New York City would be a dream. Oh, wait: I just drew that one! We’re so excited that we can almost not sleep any more because of it. But you know what, it doesn't matter where: Every town needs at least one pump track. World Wide!