Jolanda Neff: "The Team Invested in Skills & Technical Training and it Paid Off"

Jul 27, 2021 at 3:46
by James Smurthwaite  

Jolanda Neff has said that a focus on technical skills allowed the Swiss team to claim a sweep of the medals in the women's XCO race at the Tokyo Olympics.

Neff took the lead in the middle of the first lap after a crash by Pauline Ferrand Prevot and rode away from the field to finish the race more than a minute in the lead. She was followed home by her compatriots Sina Frei and Linda Indergand who rode together for most of the race.

After the race, Neff told Reuters, "I knew it was going to be super tough race. This morning we had a complete change in conditions. We had a lot of rain. But the Swiss team has invested so much time in skills and technical training and it really paid off."

The Paul Davies' designed track on the Izu peninsula was the most technical in Olympic history and rivalled even the most technical World Cup tracks with its man-made rocky features and punchy climbs. The track was made even harder by a storm from the approaching Typhoon Nepartek before the race that left riders struggling for grip on the slick rock sections and slimy, muddy climbs.

In a demonstration of her technical skills, Neff was forced offline to avoid Pauline Ferrand Prevot off the Sakura Drop. She then overtook Pauline who slipped out on the rock climb.

It was a tough run-up to the Games for Neff who ruptured her spleen in 2019 then broke her hand at the World Cup in Leogang in June. However, she was able to fully recover and prove herself to be the class of the field in Japan. She said, "I was in the flow, I had fun out there, it was my goal for today to have fun and to enjoy it and yeah it was a perfect race... It feels like a dream and I hope I don't wake up anytime soon."

Linda Indergand also believes the Swiss were best prepared for the technical nature of the course. She told AP Olympics, "We had a really big advantage because of the technical course. We had the best lines and we knew we could ride our bike so comfortably, so when the rain came in the morning we were all excited to race.”

Sina Frei said, "I still can’t believe what happened today. I think you can always dream, and of course it was a big dream of mine, and yeah, to stand on the podium with two other Swiss girls is just amazing."


  • 212 3
 Jolanda giving MVP some lessons on how it's done
  • 74 2
 Jolanda is the MVP!!
  • 32 7
 Luca will be proud!!!
  • 86 2
 She forgot they put back the
  • 20 1
 *dropper post*
  • 41 2
 @pyromaniac: *MvdP left the chat*
  • 2 4
 @yeti85: Perhaps, she forgot where the ramp was. I would really like to hear her side of the story on that drop. Full bottom out nose wheelie pogo stick.
  • 24 0
 @tacklingdummy: It you watch her ride that section on later laps she didn’t even brake. I think it’s fair to say she had to take avoiding action. Lucky she didn’t snap her CSU in half! I guess that’s why she passed Prevot immediately, probably thought WTF is she doing?
  • 12 1
 @dougfs: so both Multi discipline world champs try "tactical" racing against their biggest rivals directly behind them on the drop and it didn't work out for either of them.
Keep it clean out there kids!
  • 1 0
 @dougfs: I'm sure PFP won't react kindly to this.
  • 1 1
 The dreaded 3 foot drop won't be an issue this time.
  • 30 0
 @rrolly: Pfft Jolanda doesn't care what her competitor thinks at this point. PFP slowed down, Neff pulled a wild send, was strong enough to hang on, and therefore had the momentum to pass her. As in the MVP article yesterday, always send. This may be the burliest XC collision avoid to pass setup in the history of ever. Thats GOAT status points right there.
  • 5 0
 @dougfs: Thanks for sharing. This kind of stuff happens at local XC races where the jumps are smaller and placings don't matter, but I'd hope wouldn't be a problem at the top level. Glad they both stayed upright and kudos to Jolanda for absolutely ripping it off the front after what must have been a terrifying incident.
  • 18 0
 @dougfs: oof shots fired Smile I'm with Neff on this one though, sounds like PFP is trying to make excuses for poor technique.
  • 40 0
 @rrolly: Probably, but Jolanda is 100% correct.... You can't suddenly hit the binders entering the face of a triple with riders behind you and not get either an ear full or a fist full when it's over. Also, PFP saying that she thought they would come together heading up the rocks shows her lack of technical bike handling. Jolanda left her plenty of room and PFP just ran out of talent.
  • 3 0
 @DBone95: I agree with Jolanda on her approach. Just saying that PFP is not likely to be too impressed.
  • 27 0
 @bananowy: You can see when Neff rides past her as she’s floundering around in the course ropes. She looks back at her twice with the expression of WTF is that muppet doing? Prevot then spent the next 5 laps dabbing over rock sections and riding off the course on climbs. Prevot is kidding herself if she thinks she could have kept up. Neff was riding well within herself.
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: Oh yea, for sure!
  • 10 0
 @tacklingdummy: Prevot was one of the only top riders not jumping to the downslope. Neff was probably surprised to see Prevot slowing to roll down the ramp in front of her
  • 14 0
 @dougfs: What is also interesting about that article is that PFP said that she hit the brakes to avoid a crash with Neff, but crashed instead. However from the video, PFP had a lot of space when Neff passed her. PFP didn't need to brake.

A little bit of pro smack talk after the race. Lol.
  • 7 0
 Who the F takes the outside line in that section expecting to not get jumped up the inside? Props to Jolanda for railing the inside an making her pay. Great race craft and skills. Glad the best rider won.
  • 1 4
 @juanny: Holy shit! Could it be true that this was a malicious technique from MvDP and PFP? Slowing down suddenly at the top of the drop to "inconvenience" the riders behind?
  • 3 0
 @Madfella: sure, look at how many stalls in those loose/slick climbing corners in both m and f races where riders behind ended up having to hop off and push. Not inconceivable to think that this is entirely an engineerable situation.
Also, there was a decent elbows out pass from PFP on Lecompte early in the race that had Lecompte looking shaken. Wouldn't have been a big deal for PFP though with her road bunch experience.
  • 16 0
 @Madfella: I love the narrative: PFP tries to rattle Neff on the drop, Neff is like “oh that’s the game? Well let’s see how you like a hot-fire pass on this rock section.” PFP chokes, Neff looks daggers at her as she rides off to gold.

Not saying this is actually how it happened, but if the shoe fits….
  • 3 0
 @Drew-O: I actually think that’s pretty accurate.
  • 1 0
 @jclnv: good points by all. And I guess there's heaps more that goes on in a race which we never get to see.
  • 2 0
 @DBone95: PFP had plenty of room. IMPO, it looked like she panicked. She's shown in the past that she's not comfortable in crowded conditions at high speeds.
  • 7 0
 @jclnv: That course and the conditions played perfectly to Jolanda's technical skills and her pedaling style.
Jolanda is a High Cadence Spinner with a very smooth power curve. She's the absolute MTB Queen of it.
Low Cadence Power pedalers like Jenny Rissveds predictably had traction issues. Where Jolanda is very light on the pedals, Jenny and riders like her are heavy footed and their power curve has big peaks and valleys.
In conditions with good traction the power pedalers can outclimb her but when it's slick she has a definite advantage.
  • 3 0
 PFP and Yo have a history of rubbin while racin.....ouch!
  • 2 0
 @Remedy808: I'll never forget that one.
  • 1 0
 @Augustus-G: Very true although she was extra seated and spinning yesterday. I think she just technically gets it. Her levers are more horizontal, body position is perfect, lean angle of the bike etc. Like Nino, she’s just amazing to watch.
  • 2 0
 @jclnv: All one has to do is watch her foot speed when climbing compared to most riders around her.
Her feet are a whirling dervish. She's done it her whole career.

As for her technical skills they're beyond reproach.
  • 1 0
 @pyromaniac: and maybee a less terrific stem ;-)
  • 1 0
 @CamNeelyCantWheelie: that Section where PFP crashed has 2 lines, both with turns etc, the main/quick line, and the line that MOST riders where taking was the line PFP was on! (and plenty of footage of riders following each other on that line as well)
Neff, given what just happen on the drop thought (and rightly so) best not to follow PFP and ride the other line and maybe close gap/get in front.
  • 1 0
 @Augustus-G: Curious (and bit obsessed about training) why Jolanda wasn't using a power meter in Tokyo. Okay okay, not for racing but I assume the day after it could give useful information for the trainer(s) and herself, no? Some races you see pro's using power meters other races not. Wondering why...
  • 1 0
 @stevenvl: Sorry for the delayed response....
From what I've read and heard from Jolanda is that she's more of an old school "Ride by Feel" cyclist.
She doesn't obsess over numbers and they're not a big priority to her.

" I always race on my intuition and my feeling... To me, skills and fun on the bike are the number one priority. - Jolanda Neff
  • 145 12
 Why did you put Women’s Olympic XC Champion in the title? Now I know the olympics is on. I was going to wait until the end of 2021 to watch the whole year of sport in one marathon catch-up.

Thanks a lot.
  • 9 0
 so good!
  • 4 16
flag bryanpinkster (Jul 27, 2021 at 8:20) (Below Threshold)
 Were you not expecting there to be a Women’s Olympic XC Champion? Was that a spoiler for you?
  • 3 11
flag mtb-bird (Jul 27, 2021 at 9:59) (Below Threshold)
 Dont go on Pinkbike then. it's mountain bike news...
  • 57 0
 Absolutely huge result! Podium sweep by three solid riders! With a population of ca. 8 million and 4 MTB medals.....I think its safe to say Switzerland is mountain bike land-
  • 20 58
flag valleytroll (Jul 27, 2021 at 4:32) (Below Threshold)
 ...As long as its not downhill
  • 73 0
 @valleytroll: Camille Balanche
  • 18 0
 @valleytroll: name checks out...
  • 17 0
 It’s a little MTB paradise here
  • 2 0
 @TheSwissRider: And banks. And chocolates.
  • 3 1
 @m1dg3t: Don’t forget watches and Rodger !!!
  • 3 1
 @Armand74: And cheese! Blessed are the cheesemakers.
  • 3 0
 @TheSwissRider: And why we don't have TopDogs in DH?
And why is Austria so nowhere in the XC?
so many questions so few answers;-)
  • 1 0
 @enurjetik: you dont get the pun then...
  • 2 0
 @Zuman: my bad - typed that trying to be funny. How stupid.
  • 1 0
 @TheSwissRider: Rob Warner did an interview with Jolanda a few years back and it started out in one of your cycling skills centers. It was amazing. From what I saw it's no wonder you have so many accomplished bike handlers.
  • 54 0
 Spoiler alert- they found the ramp.
  • 31 1
 Update: the ramp now suffers from depression as almost no one used it.
  • 45 4
 Das isch eifach absoluti Weltklass. Sho lo lo lo lo.......... Absoluti Legändene
  • 32 4
 Not a very inclusive message without translations in French, Italian, and Romansh?
  • 42 1
 @mi-bike: Even as a German I didn't understand a word. Believe me.
  • 17 1
 Everyone who speaks english can understand that message.
  • 3 0
 @mi-bike: dont cross the Röstigraben
They wont be happy
  • 34 1
 @IntoTheEverflow: Most people who speak English don't understand English.
  • 4 0
 @m1dg3t: What?
  • 1 1
 @colincolin: Looks like a combination of Luxembourgish, Latin and German.
  • 31 1
 All that Pisgah Gnarr training!
  • 4 1
 Pisgah and Hirschberg/ St.Anton Gnarrrr with Luca
  • 26 1
 World Cup season hasn't been the same without Jolanda battling for the podium, this result is good for the sport.
  • 19 0
 Awesome! So good to see Jolanda back, healthy and on top again. Showing her mad skills, bravery tests paying off!
  • 18 0
 Mvdp: waahhhh there's no ramp
Neff: hold my rösti...
  • 17 0
 Huge shout-out to their coach, Oscar Saiz!
  • 3 0
 100% yes. The Swiss girls were really enjoying the conditions because they knew it was an advantage for them. Saiz even hired a Swiss BMX legend just to practice jumps.
  • 13 0
 Shout out to the little Dutch girl on 5th. And that from a country as flat as a pancake. Nice riding Anne! Oh, and deserved win for the Swiss, especially for Jolanda. A strong run for her, like she used to win XC cups. I felt sorry for Loana, nto even in the top 5, that must have hurt. Sadly the coverage was so abysmal that I don't know what happened to Kate, Jenny, Catharine Pendrel, Rebecca and Maja. You know, the usual suspects for a top-10 finish at an XC event. And I don't even know where that nice Hungarian girl came from, never heard of her. Nice going!
  • 3 0
 Blanka Vas was racing the cx-leauges last winter, someone from the Netherlands should know about her!
  • 10 7
 @Der-Kaiser: CX looks too much like roadies to me, so I don't watch that.
  • 3 0
 Blanka Vas is only 19, she has been podiuming the U23 world cup races this year. Super fast, just not as well known since she hasn't raced elite yet. Hell of a race in what may have been her first true Women's elite category international race.
  • 5 2
 @zonoskar: I hope your tires are wider than your mind :-).
  • 1 0
 heard that Vas trade team is more focussed on the road. Let's hope she won't pull a Cadel Evans.
  • 16 3
 Jolanda dropped the drop to flat no issue with a dropper, MVDP could have done the same with a dropper post.
  • 4 0
 That was likely the difference. Says a lot for droppers in XC racing after that sunday save and that she won.
  • 5 0
 @tacklingdummy: that low post helped her rip that corner where she was gonna pass PFP, crash or not
  • 2 0
 @ksilvey10: Yeah, PFP looks like she didn't have a dropper or a really short dropper. The dropper was the difference in winning and second place.
  • 1 2
 Maybe, MvdP was going considerably faster.
  • 5 0
 Jolanda was awfully close to crashing in the same way Mathieu did. I wouldn't say the she dropped to flat 'no issue'...
  • 8 0
 That's some world class bullying, PFP will need to work on gaining and maintaining confidence on the technical stuff (Yolanda will be living rent free on her mind for the next months that's for sure). Same for Lecomte, need to work on technical, that chain drop shouldn't have been a problem if she was a couple of minutes ahead in the World Cups.

What a beautifull track, glad a Techinical rider took the gold.
  • 19 10
 Appreciate the spoiler free headlines and thumbnails, even if they are a bit clunky.
(watch "Bernard Kerrs winning run POV" was the complete opposite)
  • 6 0
 I don't want to be that guy, yet here I go.... My wife and I are huge women's' XCO fans and leading up to the race I told her that I thought it would be Loana, PFP, Jennie and Jolanda fighting it out for the medals, and in no particular order as I know the single day winner take all race format does wacky things to all riders.

Then after the first lap was over in the men's race, I hit the pause button and said "Wait, now mud is coming to this course for the women??.... Jolanda's gonna rip em!"

But never in a million years though did I think Loana and PFP would both not medal...... and holy shit! Sina and Linda!!

Congrats to the Swiss team for sure.
  • 8 0
 Man,that drop could easily gone so wrong! Well done Yolanda and all the Swiss team!
  • 14 7
 Kate Courtney 15th…. She seems to have gotten a little comfortable this last year.
  • 20 0
 Ouch. OR...being at the pointy end of the spear is really REALLY hard with the depth of talent in the woman's field.
  • 17 1
 @philneuve: AND having a broken arm was a bit of a setback too
  • 4 0
 Or uncomfortable. Hitting that gnar with a recently healed broken arm, had to be in the back of her mind.
  • 18 1
 @ksilvey10: Neff, broken ribs, spleen removed etc, broken hand two weeks later than Courtney’s arm, - thrashes everyone.

  • 17 1
 In one of Jolanda's Jolandaland videos she mentions how she doesn't believe strength training has a role in improving xc racing performance and that she basically doesn't do it. Perhaps Kate's huge focus on strength training (all of her videos showcase this) haven't been helping her. She also probably needs to train more on wet trails - not something you get much of in California.

Not that i know anything about world cup level performance lol
  • 1 0
 Coming off a broken arm too to be fair. But yeah, still pretty disappointing.
  • 2 0
 @Amandabree36: the science is there to prove that strength training helps for cycling in any discipline.

There can be a discussion as to how much training, but it’s not a question whether it’s beneficial to have some.

Check out Dylan Johnson’s video on the topic.

Although I think Jolanda’s opinion on the subject is wrong, she just flat out rode better than everybody else today. She’s the better technical rider and it showed.
  • 2 0
 @Amandabree36: While complete strength is important, I too have been saying for the last 18 months that Kate puts far too much emphasis on it. Maybe it looks more lopsided than it is because of what she posts, but her results the last 18 months say otherwise..... and as for the excuse that she was hurt?? Well, I'll just let Jolanda answer that question.
  • 3 0
 @bentopi: Who is Dylan Johnson and why should we listen to him?

Spend some time in sports science and you will discover that people who really know what they are doing will say, will say we don't know, and those who don't know what they are doing will say we know.
  • 1 0
 @Amandabree36: this is spot on - for the most part NorCal is clay and is impossible to ride on in the wet.
I once got caught in a cold rain storm on a ride, got hypothermic and fell asleep on the trail
Only made that mistake once!
  • 1 0
 @Willikers: are you a ghost!?
  • 1 0
 @ksilvey10: well when I wake up in the morning and see myself in the mirror I look like The walking Dead. Close enough.
  • 15 11
 Nice to see a mountain bike race involve some actual mountain biking. One wonders if whoever designed Kate Courtney's training regimen did her a disservice. If her social media is to be believed, her workouts are 95% road ride or gym. On the rare occasion she gets on a mountain bike, it's dirt roads.
  • 24 1
 Because Instagram tells the whole story.
  • 8 1
 May have to do with recover from broken arm too.
  • 4 0
 Agreed... Jolanda says in her videos that she doesn't believe strength training helps in xc racing. Interesting to see the comparison.
  • 2 0
 Also she has had the same coach since she was a Junior I believe. I think probably the arm had more to do with the lack of MTB training than anything else.
  • 1 0
 She grew up close to where I live but despite that I find her riding style and personality completely robotic. She absolutely never rides anything challenging technically - it's all fire roads she can rip.
Despite saying she needs to work on her technical skills since time immemorial it was only this year that I saw her working on them with Frischneckt in the mud.
She needs a hard reboot; sports psychologist, not a bunch of crutches.
Full seasons of Belgian cross followed by EWS should do the trick
BTW her most recent Washington Post 'essay' was an enormous propagandist, self-help narcissistic sack of drivel I've read this week, and that's saying a lot.
Who in real life calls themselves courageous multiple times in a national publication?
Kate's team is only doing what Kate wants; she's doing herself a disservice by not improving her bike handling. I'm sure a large component of that is mental.
  • 1 0
 @Amandabree36: to be clear I think she meant lifting heavy weights doesn't work for her personality and her style of pedaling.

Having said that her genius on the bike comes from her core and between the ears. Just look at the posture of her mother, her strength coach, and yeah Jolanda makes perfect sense
  • 7 0
 World Class Person...and congrats to Pendral and Smith for a hard fought battle!!
  • 1 0
 Smith never should have went in the first place
  • 2 0
 @Peach1234567: Agreed. Nothing against Smith, but Canada would have had two top 20 finishes if Emily Batty was there.
  • 1 0
 Yup. Kudos to all the ladies but Catherine Pendral is an absolute legend.
  • 1 0
 @MDW83: What was the rationale for the choice of Haley for this olympics? She has been having a very quiet year, and although Batty's season is far from the form of 2018, she at least has been seen near the front of some of the World Cups.
  • 1 0
 @FujiPT: Canada had an objective qualification criteria. Basically top WC result from 2019, and 2021 season guaranteed a spot. Haley had a 3rd, Pendrel a 5th, Batty a 9th, only two spots. No doubt there is flaws in that method, but the selection criteria was developed by the athletes in 2017.

The reality is if Batty had ridden in 2019 like she did in 2018 she would have gone for sure. Not only because she would have hit criteria but Canada would have been a top 2 ranked nation and had three spots.
  • 1 0
 @kclw: thanks for the explanation, I didn't think it was so cut and dry as that.
  • 10 5
 Why was the ramp there? They took it away for the men's race so why was it here!
  • 22 0
 It was put back in before the race because of the conditions
  • 4 0
 @jamessmurthwaite: thanks for clearing that up for did look quite slippery on the track
  • 11 0
 @rabidmonkfish: Yeah it was because of the rain but most racers sent it anyway like bosses.
  • 5 0
 The sweep of the medals! Just incredible. Surprised by Lecomte's result after dominating every World Cup.
  • 3 0
 Yeah, I was expecting Lecomte gold, Ferrand-Prevot silver after the World Cups so far this year.
  • 7 0
 @BetweenTheCircles: Neff was getting faster and faster. In the race where she broke her hand she was closing the gap to Lecompte.
  • 2 0
 @jclnv: Exactly!! I can't wait to see the women in person in Snowshoe in a few weeks.
  • 2 0
 Conditions, technicality, or just too much pressure. I wonder how she responds with the remaining WC races.
  • 2 0
 After seeing how gutted she was, post-race, after that last crash, it's really nice to see her succeed. But I never like to see competitors fall out due to crashes. PFP crashed pretty hard at Nove Mesto so it sucks that she got stung again. I know it was her decision...oh well, that's the guts'n glory of racing.
  • 7 3
 She’s technically crap. I think she would have more success on the road now the courses have got more tech.
  • 6 2
 meh... Jolanda showed skill and line choice and PFP didn't on that section. It wasn't as if PFP's crash wasn't her own fault.
  • 3 0
 @jclnv: i hate jumping on the "XC racers lack technicals skills" bandwagon but here it applies, the 3 Swiss girls killing it on the technical parts, both uphills and downhills with wet and muddy conditions, that's why they podiumed and the French girls didnt. Would love to see this track on the World Cups next years.
  • 1 0
 @Amandabree36: So we agree then.
  • 2 0
 @Narro2: Tire choice was a big problem for the French. They went with mud tires on a course that dried up dramatically before/over the course of the event.
  • 2 0
 @LeDuke: Good info.
  • 1 0
 @LeDuke: well I stand corrected.
  • 4 0
 erwin_ruiz knows how to get around a paywall, we should make sure he's a member!
  • 2 0
 Way to go Jolanda!!

Anyone know what is on many of the riders' downtubes? I first noticed the ribbing or whatever along downtubes in the last muddy WC race, does it help shed mud or what? Anyone know?
  • 1 0
 probably foam. mud doesn't stick to it
  • 2 0
 wavy duct tape.
  • 2 0
 duct tape, apparently it reduces mud accumulation, since the tape surface is more vertical in comparison to the downtube, vibration and gravity keep the mud dropping off the bike.
  • 7 2
 The XC guy from the men's race could take lessons from Neff
  • 3 0
 Stayed up to watch that and was BUZZING after, Jolanda been through so much injury recovery, she is a true inspiration to keep fighting. Well done.
  • 3 0
 To come back from such a bad injury in 2019 and win gold... Neff is a G for sure.
  • 3 0
 Loved the race.... but HATED that they came on the air (in the USA) after 30 minutes of racing.
  • 3 0
 What about the winning bikes? 1st and 3rd have steep 69 degree head tube angles. Industry disapproved.
  • 1 0
 Course designed by Paul Davies? Pretty sure it's been mentioned many times that it's a Nick Floris creation, the same guy who designed and built the Cascades WC Cup course and Rio2016 course
  • 3 0
 The course was designed by Nick Floros, not Paul Davies.
  • 3 1
 NO CURVES and MVDP are so bummed right now!
  • 2 0
 Like clockwork!
  • 1 2
 Spoiler alert? Where's the replay?
  • 1 0
 Depends on who owns the rights for your county
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