Getting to Know: Camille Balanche - From Ice Hockey Olympian to World Cup Podiums

Nov 18, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
The game face of Camille Balanche as she crossed the line with a time that would land her in 3rd

Getting to Know - Camille Balanche
Camille Balanche burst onto the mountain bike scene this year with two back-to-back World Cup podiums in Val di Sole and Lenzerheide. She is a sporting polymath having twice been junior fencing champion in Switzerland and representing her nation in Ice Hockey at the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics.

Balanche took a while to discover mountain biking but it has become yet another feather in her cap as she has only been riding for four years but has already broken into the top ten overall in her first full season. We caught up with her to find out more about what makes her tick and what her plans are for the future.



Describe yourself


I'm a 29-year-old Swiss girl. I'm passionate about sports in general. I finished my masters in sports science four years ago and since then I've been riding bikes.

Where are you from and where do you live?


I come from La Chaux-de-Fond, north-west Switzerland but I've been living in Biel for 8 years.

How did you get into mountain biking?


As a sports student, we had one week of mountain-biking during the summer. I really liked it so the year after I bought my first mountain bike.

Camille Balanche took the last spot on the podium in front of the home crowd.

Who do you ride for?


This year I was an ambassador for Devinci and rode for a shop in Switzerland - Fatal Bike. I was lucky to get the support from Fox, Praxis Works, StansNoTubes, Fabric, Schwalbe, Five Ten and Nukeproof.

What bikes are you riding right now?


I'm riding the Devinci Wilson 29'' and the Troy 29'', but I also use Devinci's e-bike. I just got a new downhill bike a few weeks back but I can't tell you any more at the moment!

Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?


I work as a personal trainer in a gym and sometimes as a substitute sports teacher at high school level.


What are your strengths?


I like to learn new things all the time and I'm really dedicated once I start. I can learn quite fast just by watching people.

What are your weaknesses?


I'm not very patient.

Tell us about your ice hockey background


I started to play ice hockey at 10 years old. That was my absolute passion for more than 10 years. I played in the national team for two years and I stopped after the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010 to start my Bachelor studies. From time to time I still play for fun.

What made you decide to switch from racing the EWS to racing World Cups?


Mostly because I don't like to pedal uphill! I'm a lazy girl and I don't have any talent for endurance. So I had to train a lot to be fit enough and I got knee problems and lack of iron all the time.


What made you decide to race a full World Cup season this year?


Last year I tried to race two World Cups and I really enjoyed it so I just wanted to race more and see where I could stand in the overall after doing the full World Cup season. When I start something new, I usually go full gas or I stop.

Did you expect to do as well as you did this year?


It's hard to expect something when you never raced a World Cup season before. My goal was to qualify at all the World Cups and stay healthy for the whole season. After the first few races, I knew I could end up on the podium with a good run but I didn't expect to end up 3rd in Val di Sole and 5th the week after in Lenzerheide. I actually thought my best shot to do well would be on tracks like Les Gets or Leogang.

How did it feel getting your first podium in Val di Sole?


It was just unreal. It was a dream come true and a relief that I can do it. For me, it's one of the hardest tracks of the year so I was really proud to do it there, it gave me a lot of confidence. It changed my whole mindset: before that, I kinda thought I wasn't going to perform when it's technical.

What are the struggles of being a privateer that people may not realise?


Camille Balanche is another privateer killing it this year. She got her first podium last weekend and will want a repeat on home soil this weekend.

I don't know if people realize how much work it is before the season and how much money it costs to do a full World Cup season. We speak a lot of what happens during the race weekend, like washing and taking care of the bike, but actually it's way more work at the beginning of the season looking for bike support and all the logistic stuff.

Also, it's hard to get recognition on the bike scene even if you do well because privateers don't have well-known photographers or filming crews like a big team and nobody is posting pictures of you on social media.

Have you been approached by any teams for a ride next year?


YES! (in fact, I've approached all of them first)

What has been your worst crash over the years?


I don't remember any huge crashes where I really hurt myself other than 4 years ago when I just started mountain biking. I rode down a jump track at home and I ended up straight in a tree and broke 3 vertebrae in my neck. It took me a while to come back and I still have some strength issues in my left arm.

What is your biggest accomplishment?


Since I was 15 years old I wanted to enrol in the best sports school in Switzerland, the HEFSM. They just take the best 30 students each year so that was one of my biggest accomplishments to enter the program and complete my masters in sport science there.

What is your biggest regret?


That I didn't discover mountain biking earlier.

Camille Balanche takes her first podium with an emphatic 3rd place.

Where’s your favourite place to ride?


Probably Queenstown in New Zealand

What’s your favourite non-bike website?


Netflix

The reaction on the hot seat as soon as the W was official.

What’s your favourite motto or saying?


Make each day count

What makes you happy?


Being outside doing any kind of sports activities. Even more if it's with my friends and some sun.

How do you want to be remembered?


Hopefully as someone who is good to hang out with and passionate by the sport. In a unicorn world as a steezy rider.

What does the future hold for Camille Balanche?


I want to establish myself as a pro mountain biker and give everything I have to become the best rider I can. You will see me next year for another full World Cup season!


32 Comments

  • 25 0
 Pretty sure that Camille will have a kickass sesaon in 2020! Amazing athlete – I didn't even know that she was doing ice hockey for the national team, before.

Also... did she just say she moved to DH from Enduro because it's easier?! Nice. :-D
  • 12 0
 She's just tellin it like it is.
  • 7 17
flag ArturoBandini (Nov 18, 2019 at 11:27) (Below Threshold)
 Like a wise belgian guy once said: „Downhill is for pussies.“
  • 10 25
flag endlessblockades (Nov 18, 2019 at 12:24) (Below Threshold)
 @ArturoBandini:

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  • 6 3
 @ArturoBandini: there are no hills in your country
  • 8 0
 Thank you!

haha nooo don't get me wrong, downhill require just less endurance skills, which is better for me! But It's harder for sure haha Wink
  • 3 0
 @cambal: All in good fun :-P All the best for your pre-season prep!
  • 2 0
 @cambal: I'm a good climbing, because I lack downhill skills. Downhill is where the real bike handling talent is. XC is final incorporating it into the races.
  • 21 0
 Going to olympics as a hockey player and then ending up being consistently top 10 in DH WC.. Wow, some people are naturally good at anything they try but this is next level, my admiration for her just got even higher. Hope Camille get some well deserved support for next seasons!
  • 10 1
 I kinda have to respectfully disagree with "some people are naturally good at anything they try"; it takes away from the huge amount of dedication and effort they put into what they do. "Talent is overrated":
smile.amazon.com/dp/1591842948/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_ROX0DbMHFKWG7
  • 6 0
 @number44: Kind of goes along with the saying "The harder I work the luckier I get" .
  • 2 1
 @number44: I don't think it has to be one or the other. Top athletes tend to have a natural ability for their sport. Hockey is a great example where the top players will light up juniors in their first year. By the same token to get to the highest level requires an incredible amount of work. People are quick to complain about how much money some pro athletes make, but the reality is most people even if they did have the skill wouldn't be willing to put in the work to get there
  • 6 0
 Congrats on a wicked season, Camille! It was awesome watching you rise through the series and bring more competition to the women's elite races!
  • 4 0
 My favorite part is asking about her worst crash - response of never much except that one time riding down a jump track at home and ending up straight in a tree and broke 3 vertebrae and still have some strength issues in the left arm. If that's her idea of not much I don't wanna know what a big situation is.. ..
  • 6 0
 She just started mountain biking 4 years ago and got 2 podiums in the World Cup.
  • 4 1
 Speaks to the depth of the women's field... 3 of the top 5 being out too... Hopefully she continues her success in 2020. The women need more kickass riders in their field.
  • 4 0
 You can keep your place in my fantasy DH team.....for now. Keep riding, can't wait to see you race next year.
  • 1 0
 her price will go up tho... =( she was my fav pick haha
  • 4 0
 The perfect role model for the outdoor industry!
  • 4 1
 Is the photo standing casually next to the Pivot van a hint regarding her new bike???
  • 1 1
 And the canyon tent in the background.... Will be a frankenbike of note a DavPivYon
  • 4 0
 nah bro it's just my car that we share! Smile haha
  • 3 0
 @HairyLegs: haha maybe Wink
  • 2 0
 @martin737 : Just to say Dude that your comment has been downvoted and hidden... because you said ``beautiful``...

Seriously, in which world do we live?
  • 1 0
 @cambal : aren`t you overgifted, High Potential, zèbre? You see what I mean? I`m sure you are; we can recognize at each other ;-)
  • 2 0
 She excels at my two favourite sports. Living the dream.
  • 2 0
 This is awesome!!
  • 2 0
 what a sport legend
  • 1 0
 MARK MY WORDS shes riding for specialized next year
  • 3 5
 Beautiful! Wink
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