Interview: Nina Hoffmann on Sticking to Her Guns and Not Taking a Team Offer for 2020

Feb 14, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  
Photo: Mick Kirkman

After her stellar debut World Cup season, Nina Hoffmann resisted the temptation of joining a factory team and instead stuck to running a semi-privateer set up with Santa Cruz and Stif Bikes. We fired her a few questions to understand her motives and her plans for the season ahead.

Were you hoping for a team offer in the offseason or were you always looking to start your own team?

I was open to everything. Basically I just wanted to ride my bike and have fun and try to do this on a more professional level and that’s how it is now. Of course, I was looking for teams already during last season. Since I knew I couldn’t get on the Syndicate, I was looking for alternatives but at the same time the idea of staying as a privateer for another year evolved. I got a good offer from Santa Cruz/Stif, so this was always an option and turned out to be the best one for me.

How many offers did you get from teams? Can you tell us which teams?

A few, not too many. It was not like everybody was fighting for me, what some people might think but there were some interests and also offers. I don’t want to name specific teams.

Photo: Mick Kirkman

What made you decide to start your own team?

There wasn’t a special day or moment or event that made me decide it this way. It evolved during the off-season after World Champs, sitting injured (with my shoulder) at home and having my mind already planning next season. I put down all the pros and cons of switching on a new team or staying with Santa Cruz without a team. And the second idea outweighed…

Probably the most important factor was sticking with my familiar environment. It’s very important to feel comfortable on a race weekend and I do feel so if the right people are around me! I’m also a person who needs consistency, I hate to change things. And I wanted to continue working with Santa Cruz and many more personal and longterm partners and realise individual projects together with them. In the end, I love dealing with challenges and this own team is definitely one! But it’s also a way of self-fulfilment for me and the more I think about it, the happier I am and the more I’m looking forward to the first race to kick-off.

What bike will you be riding this year?

The best one on the market! A V10.

Photo: Mick Kirkman

What other sponsors does the team have?

Beside Stif as my main sponsor (including Santa Cruz, Juliana and Reserve Wheels) I will get good support from my sponsors of last year: Schwalbe tires, O’Neal clothing, LevelNine cockpit, Trickstuff brakes and Fox suspension. I’m going to use RaceFace cranks now and I also got a new helmet sponsor - Bluegrass - who will make my first ever custom helmet. Other new partners are Tunap Sports (bike cleaning products), PRAEP (sport-specific training gear). Oakley, Crankbrothers and E13 provide goggles, pedals and chain guides. Also important to mention – my local partners: Horn2Horn, GOT-Jena, TOQ and JenBike which support me all in their own important way!

Who is Erik Fickelscheer?

He’s my teammate and mechanic. We will drive together to all the World Cups and he takes care of my bike and helps me with driving the car, building the pit and everything else. Some smaller races he’ll attend too.

What races will you be attending this year?

Main focus is set on the World Cup races and World Champs. I will try to get my national sleeve back, which I lost last year due to my injury, and one or two European Cups are planned.

Photo: Mick Kirkman

What are your goals for the season?

Race fast and be smart, haha! It’s such an exciting season ahead, so many fast girls around. I’m not sure if I can build on my success of last season, but I’ll try! And somewhere deep in my head there is this dream of a first World Cup win. But let’s wait for the first race to come, I’m so curious.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the Pinkbike readers about your team or your 2020 plans?

Maybe I just want to say to everybody who’s skeptical about my decision: It was the best decision for me personally. Me and my partners stand 100% behind this project and I’m ready to rock the season!

Author Info:
jamessmurthwaite avatar

Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 83 1
 Seems like she just really wants to get a full Syndicate offer from Santa Cruz and is waiting for that.
  • 99 6
 Now the question is: what is the Syndicate waiting for?
  • 10 3
 @EnduroManiac: my guess is that they are waiting for a spot to open up... When Greg decides to retire, Nina might be the top candidate for the team..
  • 56 5
 @EnduroManiac: results.
  • 10 3
 @EnduroManiac: Or to see how she fares with a full field - not taking away from her results last year.
  • 25 0
 Seems like she just likes SC, but also the freedom of being a privateer. I am sure there is a lot of value in not having to be “obligated” to a lot of things that are required for a factory ride. Yes, it’s a bit unorthodox, but if freedom, joy of riding, and being able to set her own schedule are things she values more than factory perks (in their varied forms) then this is a great call.

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing first time factory contracts are very restrictive. And this is a very good resume builder to be the next SC Syndicate /Manager/ when she’s done racing.
  • 2 1
 @EnduroManiac: Money, they might not have the extra budget to pay and support another rider fully. Can't be cheap to cover salary, mechanic salary, travel expenses etc.
  • 24 4
 I love the Syndicate, but I think it's a bad move not giving Nina an offer. It's obviously a big business decision to increase the size of the team by 25% and all the added cost with that, but having a woman on the team that has already showed her ability to podium regularly is a big deal and I think a smart long term move. People can say she hasn't gotten the results yet all they want, but any privateer that makes multiple podiums in a short season due to injury is about the best you're going to do without snagging them out of juniors.
  • 5 0
 @daugherd: add in that they have to get all the team sponsors to agree to kick in more to support a 4th rider..

I think Santa Cruz helped to put this all together to keep her in the fold for another season or 2 until the spot opens..

@tgent at the end of the day, racing at this level is a business and while it may be a good thing to add Nina, it's not cheap... We are talking about a 6 figure investment when things are said and done...
  • 6 13
flag Boosting (Feb 14, 2020 at 9:33) (Below Threshold)
 @tgent: I think they are smarter than you and know fully that what she did is not that special. Constant podiumer, really? Lets wait another year to see where she really stands against the real top guns.
  • 6 2
 Why does Santa Cruz have to wait for a spot to open up? There is nothing stopping them from growing the team as many others have over the years, so it seems odd they wouldn't want to add some diversity and give themselves more opportunities to be on live stream and podium. Is it purely a cost thing? Would love to see some type of response from SC on this.
  • 5 1
 @Boosting: You know, I'm absolutely sure they are smarter than me, since you know they do this business themselves and I don't. Doesn't make my opinion that it would be a good move for Santa Cruz and the Syndicate to sign her invalid.

That being completely irrelevant, she is still an excellent signing for any team. Name one other privateer over the past 10 years that has had a better single season than Nina did last year. I said "multiple podiums" you said "constant podiumer" which you are correct she did constantly podium, I'm also correct in that she made multiple podiums.

Keep trying to discount her success and that she's deserving of a great team and support though, good luck.
  • 3 28
flag Boosting (Feb 14, 2020 at 10:29) (Below Threshold)
 @tgent: well if that were true she would have had better offers, unfortunately for you most of the teams don't think she's a good investment.

Sorry chap.
  • 6 0
 @Boosting: Its time that you BTFU! and get off Nina's back !! No need to comment again; every time you post you belittle Her !!!
  • 1 1
 @yvidal: what kind of results did Vergier of Shaw had before they got signed? WC wins? I don’t think so. Consistent podiumers? I honestly can’t remember but I doubt it. Yes the men’s field is more competitive but my feeling is that she could certainly get there by becoming a little more professional. A bit like what happened with Vergier and Shaw in a way (though they were certainly quite pro already, having been in factory or similar teams).
I am not blaming the Syndicate though, they may have very good reasons including budget but I think it would have been nice they have a female rider.
  • 5 0

As far as I can remember, the Syndicate has mostly been a "3 rider" group (since 08?). If one of the biggest bike companies never expanded their team before this, pursuing other big name signings, why would they do so now? Leads me to think that SC has a firm budget cap on the Syndicate team (that may be for one reason or another)

I'm always for more competition in the women's field, but team spots shouldn't be awarded to you based on gender. Nina had a good year. If shes turning down offers from other teams though, that tells me that either shes going for broke on Syndicate, or she likes the idea of racing for herself. Either way, I hope her and a few other women (Salazar, Cabirou, Widmann, Holl) can shake up the Top 4 this season.
  • 4 3
 Maybe I am completely clueless ...but why can’t there be a women’s syndicate team or at least have one or two women on the team...why is it all dudes on syndicate?? Waiting to be educated...
  • 6 1

According to an interview with Kathy Sessler, SCS team manager, she doesn't want to carry the extra managing load that a fourth rider would bring.

Having worked for employers who kept adding and adding to my job responsibilities (because others were dropping the ball) I can tell you it is extremely important as a human to know your limits and stick to them. Burnout is real and it is ugly.
  • 4 0
 @retrogressionage: I wouldn't call you clueless with that question... But, the bottom line is most likely money. Running a World Cup team isn't cheap.. But, it seems a 3 rider team is the comfort level financially for Santa Cruz. I still believe that Nina will get a spot should Greg retire or they decide to expand the team..
  • 2 2
 @jorddaniel: you know all the ebike investment... Not selling enough bikes... And not having enough financial support...(Pony...)
Does someone hates women riders in SC? They even created another brand to pull them out...
  • 1 2
 @lumpy873: there’s an interview where the syndicate team manager was pretty specific about not wanting any women in the team. I guess she wants to be the only girl
  • 1 0
 @lalientoxc: link please
  • 2 1
 @lalientoxc! Nah mate. Not even close to what she said. Have another listen.
  • 1 0
 @dirtyburger: Do you know what interview he is referring to?
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: vital MTB podcast
  • 1 0
 @dirtyburger: you’re read the wrong interview. That was never on vitalmtb. Imma leave the link here so you check it out.
  • 2 0
 @lalientoxc: nowhere in her response does she say she doesn't want women on the team. And she specifically calls out people like you who make grand accusations based on an out of context view.
  • 2 0
 @lalientoxc: so she said pretty much the same as the podcast as well. Where exactly does she say she there can be no women on the team? Because the words do not say that.
  • 45 2
 Cool, a lot us didn't take team offers either...a lot us didn't get them though.
  • 17 0
 I'm also waiting for "the right offer"...
  • 5 0
 @IllestT: Still waiting too huh? Starting to get nervous though.
  • 2 1
 @IllestT: waiting for the right officer?
  • 5 0
 @daugherd: nibbling at my fingernails bud. Been waiting nearly 20 years so far...
It'll come, I'm sure
  • 2 0
 Waiting for the perfect offer? Dumb and Dumber got you covered:
  • 33 2
 "Since I knew I couldn't get on Syndicate." Can we follow up on this? It's the most interesting line of this interview. I want to know why "she knew." She is god damn fast.
  • 60 1
 They have a requirement you wear shoes during the race.
  • 7 0
 exactly: why didn't the interviewer ask "why not"?
  • 1 1
 I agree, bummed the Syndicate wasn't open to putting her on the team. Beyond getting top riders out of the junior ranks, she's about the best you're going to do on signing top talent.
  • 5 0
 I’ve got to assume SC told her early last season and that’s why she “knew”. I’d guess they are thrilled w her performance and really want her on the team, but told her early on they just can’t afford to grow the team right now. Maybe e-bike sales will generate enough revenue to bring her on board...
  • 3 0
 If you recall the Sessler interview she made numerous references to how cautious The management team is when selecting members in any role, not just riders. Fit is very important, they try to hold team members long term and pay close attention to overall chemistry. So likely safe to assume they fee the fit isn’t close enough to change the team and risk what they have... which arguably one of the most powerful team brands ever, certainly in recent years.
  • 4 1
 @vhdh666: because this was conducted by James Schmurtwaite... What did you expect? He had his questions pre written and didn't bother to differ from the script even though he clearly had to.
  • 2 0
 I get that they weren't able to ask a follow up question, as they were written questions sent to her for written responses, but for reals, we all want to know. I want a response from Santa Cruz to why they could not offer her a spot on the team?
  • 3 3
 After reading through the requirements for world cup teams on the UCI website there are potential issues with employment. An Elite team must employ the riders on the team. Since Santa Cruz is a US team as listed on the UCI site that would seem to mean that she would need authorization to work in the USA to be on the Syndicate. This may not be an easy task in our cluster of a political environment and may have something to do with who they could sign.
  • 7 0
 @northbendmtb: It doesn’t seem to be an issue for the South African or the Frenchman..!
  • 20 0
 "Since I knew I couldn’t get on the Syndicate..."

If only there could have been a logical follow up question to this...
  • 20 0
 Sounds like she's realistic and smart in her goals. Good luck.
  • 16 1
 I think it was the right move if she is comfortable with that. I also like the idea that privateers can still be somewhere at the top of this sport like Nina and the Denim Destroyer last season. Another aspect of her decision could be pressure. Bigger sponsorship and teams , higher expectations, more Pressure.
  • 9 0
 Women's category will be pretty stacked with talent this year. Hopefully they all stay healthy unlike last year where they were dropping like flies with injuries.
  • 11 1
 "Since I knew I couldn’t get on the Syndicate"

But why?!
  • 4 1
 Syndicate is a "3 rider" team, no its not, it min 8 people team on the road, (3 riders, 3 mech, Manager and physio)
So to take Nina is not just one extra, it be 2 (extra mechanic) and then maybe extra help. so be 10 people which could then make it harder to find accommodation without splitting the team up etc. (then throw extra female and sharing with males etc)

Then there is budget, if they have a cap, and not able to pay for her and mechanic, think of the uproar if they offered her support etc and then it came out she not getting a salary, and I bet cake and coffee that not all of her offers from "other teams" she had a "salary" but prob still come as stated above, more sponsor pressure to do certain events etc.

And I am sure Stiff and Santa cruz talked and are still talking and SC is helping Stiff out some how even if it is free bike(s) And last thing, Nina seemed to of looked at each offer looked at them , weighed them up (pro/con) and gone with what is best one for herself. Good for her and all the best for a good season.
  • 3 0
 All the wrong questions on here.

Where are those trails she is riding in the photos?!
They look amazing!

I do love a privateer sticking to the bike they love rather than a contract though. Good luck with this years racing!
  • 3 0
 Glad she's still in the game. Such a fun rider to watch, so I'm glad she's having as much fun riding! Shaping up to be a super competitive 2020!
  • 1 0
 Field opened up a bit and let several new girls sang podiums last season. Nina and Vale seem to hold the most promise even with all the top women healthly. one way or another, love Nina's powerful aggressive style. cant wait to see her race in 2020
  • 1 0
 I think that she needs to finish some races at a high pace in order to get a spot on the Syndicate. Nina is definitely fast enough to earn her spot but she also rides right on the edge. During the last season she took it too far every so often. If she gains a decent consistency in 2020 she might get into the Syndicate in 2021.
  • 2 0
 Go Nina! Glad things have worked out to satisfaction. I thought she would be on the syndicate, for sure. Oh well. Perhaps next year?
  • 7 8
 Santa Cruz likability went down 2 days in a row for the core mountain-bikers:
- saying they would not make ebike 2 years ago to deliver an average one (but hey they support trail advocacy)
- failing to support female athletes.
I don't think I share many values with this brand anymore.
  • 5 0
 They helped her out last year and they are playing a much larger role in supporting her this year as Santa Cruz owns Stif Mountain Bikes.

Now, for the question people love to repeat, “Where is the support for female riders?”, look squarely at Nina, she is stepping up, taking responsibility and supporting herself rather than relying on established teams to do everything for her. Good the f*ck on her for establishing herself. Could say the same about Rachel Atherton, along with her brothers, for starting a bike company and using that as a platform to support riders the way they see fit. And again, same for the women stepping up to build the Liv cycling team, good on them.

The question isn’t “why is there no support for female riders?” The question is “Why can’t female riders support themselves?” For every aspiring female rider out there with no backing i’d love to know how many male riders are out there in the same position.
  • 2 1
 @riderseventy7: from my 10+ years of experience, I think the question about hiring women as PRO riders (which means actually pay them a salary) is still relevant maybe more than ever. Of course you might get "offers". But are you actually a pro rider or are you an amateur rider working part time (or full in off season) but evolving in a pro environment at races?
Because this sport is the coolest thing on earth and being able to do just that (even if only in summer) is a privilege, it's hard to dare say smth about this subject. But i think you guys have no idea what's really going on.
  • 1 1
 @emi008: the field of women racing being not very competitive outside of top 5 (20+ seconds off the winner) makes it hard to justify throwing money at every female racer out there. When you think of it, companies sponsor people to sell more bikes. I'd be very surprised if Pivot sold one single bike because of you? Just appreciate the support you have instead of always complaining on here. Most of have to work full time and can only dream of being in your situation.
  • 6 7
 I am confused at how she is riding for Santa Cruz but not riding on the Syndicate.... "Since I knew I couldn’t get on the Syndicate" ... What? Why not? What is the difference? Why is the Syndicate so opposed to adding a girl on their team? As a female rider who has only ridden Nomads all my life (excuse me I should say who has only SHREDDED on nomads all my life) it is so disheartening to see the Syndicate be all male year after year. As the comment above- can we get more info on this?
  • 1 0
 I wonder if they employ one woman the have to be 50% of the employee force or it's discrimination.
  • 3 0
 @pressurecooker: "Why is the Syndicate so opposed to having a girl on the team?" Are they?
  • 2 0
 I don't think they are against having a girl on the Syndicate. For now they have concentrated on the men, who (rightly or wrongly) do get more exposure.

They may be waiting for someone (re: Minaar) to retire and free up budget. Perhaps they just feel 3 is the correct team size.

As others have said, despite her results, perhaps they do not feel she is the right fit for the team. That could be for many reasons, not all easily explained other than "feels".

Perhaps they want will not want to do a mixed Syndicate, but run a dedicated woman's Syndicate. That would be the most awesome way to do it, but probably way too expensive for Downhill which is relatively niche.

There plenty of reasons for them not to take on Nina before we start calling them chauvinistic pigs.
  • 1 0
 @chriscowleyunix: I never called anyone chauvinistic pig. That came from your comment. I also appreciate your opinion. It is an interesting view on what might be happening. I'd really like to know the true story though. Both our opinions are just speculation.

I think its difficult for men to comprehend what it is like to love a sport so much but rarely see yourself in your heroes. What I mean by that is as a female I've been ridding now for 10+ years. A majority of that time there have been so few females given opportunities. Things are changing, thank god, but I will still be asking these types of questions. I bet you would to if things were reversed.
  • 2 0
 @pressurecooker: You say "I bet you would too if things were reversed." So let's reverse your situation, where instead of the rider, you are the company owner. You look at who is buying your bikes, who you think you can sell your bikes to, and then you do what you can to maximise sales. So... Do you sponsor a male or a female? I am a professional data analyst. I once looked at the ratio of males to females of the most recent DH and enduro races on Roots And Rain (I bored and recovering from wrist surgery). Every event was about 9:1 male:female. Sponsoring a female racer is not the way to sell bikes. Instead, the types of participation events that Liv run is what I'd recommend if I was your accountant. I've never seen a barrier for women to participate in DH when I used to race and host events for my club. Yet the proportion of female racers doesn't increase. I look at my wife's sport, which is ultra running, and wonder how an event with 2000 m of vert over 50 km has 72% women. That is a tough event and women love it and they sell out at $200 a race.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: "and wonder how an event with 2000 m of vert over 50 km has 72% women. That is a tough event and women love it and they sell out at $200 a race." - because it isn't as risky or dangerous as DH/MTB. It's not about tough it is for many women, but how risky and reliant on technical aspects it is in order to minimise risk.
  • 2 0
 @pressurecooker: … don't rely on your heroes to be women. I see myself in all sorts of people, men and women, and many of my heroes are men. It'll surprise you how much mental aspects are common to both sexes and how much the same struggles are experienced.
  • 1 0
 @lej: I dont rely on it, but it has been proven that people need to see people like them doing extraordinary things to help them envision the extraordinary things they could do themselves. Check these articles out for an explanation:

I dont mean to burst your bubble or deny your opinion. You are totally right that women do not ONLY need to have other women as hero's, but psychologically it is more of an impact on them when it is a woman.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: You are not putting into context what I am saying. Im talking about the long term psychological effect of women not seeing themselves in the mountain biking media. It is a cycle where both sides effect each other, and we could have chicken and an egg argument about it. Essentially when women do not see other women in mountain bike media (hitting gnarly features, racing in a certain discipline, going extremely fast) they are less likely to try those things. Similarly when the do see women in the mtb media, but mostly only in XC or other tamer disciplines they then become less likely to reach outside their comfort zone to try those gnarlier disciplines.

I respect your opinion and your analytics, and I dont think you are fully incorrect. You just need to look at the bigger picture. Its hard to understand what its like because you have seen males in the mtb media for a very long time doing all sorts of stuff so you have so many options of hero to look up to and emulate.
  • 1 0
 @pressurecooker: if someone needs a hero to follow into an activity where broken bones are not optional, then perhaps it's the wrong activity for them.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: I've ridden all-mountain, downhill, and I've hit extreme features. I hit large line dirt jumps and throw tricks on them. Knock on wood I have never broken a bone. Whats better is that those "extreme" activities are so freaking fun and I feel like I have really lived life by doing them for 10+ years. Besides my pup, its what I love most in life. I got into the sport by watching my heros do it.
Anyways, why are you on Pinkbike if you don't like those types of activities?
  • 1 0
 @pressurecooker: " I dont rely on it, but it has been proven that people need to see people like them doing extraordinary things to help them envision the extraordinary things they could do themselves."

- perhaps. I get that that would be the case if women see other women as "like them". I don't tend to classify myself as a "female rider". I classify myself based on level of experience, or "rider with long limbs" or "rider with contact lenses" or "rider with no previous experience in sports". And I understand not all women think this way and a large percentage of them really are attracted to seeing other female riders. But that's such an arbitrary category, and not really useful because you're suddenly placing external influences on your likelihood to get into sport.
  • 1 0
 @pressurecooker: I never had to follow a hero into MTB, snowboarding, skiing, climbing. I just knew of their existence and then bought the gear and did them.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: intrinsic motivation. The most genuine and long-term.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: That's awesome for you. Your way into activities are not the same as everyone else in the world Smile
  • 1 0
 @lej: Did you browse the articles I linked? I am discussing psychological influences that a person does not consciously choose to follow or be influenced by. There are many types of influences out there, some that people consciously choose to follow (which you are noting) and others that are subtly influencing them (which I am noting).

I understand where you are coming from and agree with you that no one should only rely on looking up to hero's on their own gender. Yet you do not even acknowledge my contribution to the discussion that there are other influences out there.

Are you just a believer in full human will then? Do you think everyone makes every choice freely on their own volition without any external influences?
  • 2 0
 Good to see the old guisecliff nambs DH track back in the press!
  • 2 1
 Watching Nina Hoffmann Racing this season is going to be the most meta thing ever now.
  • 2 0
 Go Nina Go! Excited to watch you race this season!
  • 2 0
 I love this! Do it your own way.... always!
  • 2 0
 Top lady right there .... good on her
  • 1 0
 Good luck Nina! In Vallnord last year I didn't realise my fat ass was blocking her behind me leaving the paddock area.
  • 4 3
 Should have picked Lucas Cruz as teammate...
  • 2 0
 Nina is rad.
  • 2 2
 who cares about the syndicate hoffmann affair.lets just wish her luck and hope she smashes it
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