Since doing this interview Stefan and teammate Marty Lazarski won the open mens category of the TransRockies stage race. They won every day of the 7 in the event. Good job you two!
Hello Stefan, and thanks for doing this interview. Could you please tell me a little about yourself? What team do you race for, where do you live etc?
I am a 25 year old male with dual Swiss and Canadian citizenship. I am in possession of some killer flowing natty dreadlocks that have given my pea sized head some great volume for the past 8 years. I believe it was this ‘hair do’ that contributed to my nicknames of Salty Head or Salt Lick. For the past few years, I have been working hard on riding my push pedal bicycle faster and better then everyone else over rocks and roots and up and down hills. Currently I ride for the Rocky Mountain Factory Team, and have a choice of two weapons, either my new killer light carbon Vertex Team hardtail, or the time proven full suspension scandium Element Team bike.
I grew up on the West side of Vancouver and have for the past few winters moved down in Tucson, Arizona where I get my winter miles in under the scorching desert sun, while always thinking of the short dark rainy days that I’m missing back home...
1. How did you get started in mountain biking?
Started mountain biking on the north shore where I built up my West Coast technical prowess that all else envy; hucking big, riding skinny’s, pinning berms... Dude, Man, it was knarly!
Then, I got into the dex and started racing in the highschool series. Jamie Douglas was the s#*t and I wanted to be fast like him. My bike got progressively lighter and my tires progressively thinner.
2. Do you remember the first time you were able to ride with no one holding onto the bike behind you, or without training wheels?
Yep, on my front boulevard on a pink hand me-down-banana seat cruiser from my sisters. It was a sweet ride and I was already riding like a champ!
3. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Probably still in school, seems to be a bit of an endless journey… Also hopefully still riding for fun.
4. Why did you choose mountain biking?
It combines raw fitness as well as technical skill. You can’t get away with only one or the other. I also like the fact that the strongest man on the day wins. It’s not a scam like road-racing where you can hide your weaknesses and some random guy can win. If you’re having a bad day in the dirt, there is no hiding it, you are completely exposed.
5. What does it take to become an Elite mountain biker?
I think we all share some similar traits with degenerate gamblers. We seem to be missing the ‘sensible’ side of our noggin that tells us to quite when we’re ahead. We all seem to be willing to go into debt to try and fulfill our goals.
No but really, it’s a complete lifestyle, from what you do when you’re on the bike to what you do when you’re off the bike, to what you put in your body and how you strengthen your mind. Really, a complete 24 h/day, 7 days/week job that embodies physical, mental and environmental challenges.
6. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be, and why?
Dead or Alive: It would have to be Bob Marley and/or Ernesto Guevara. They are both people that strongly believed in their values and went about to spread their message and walk their talk.
7. What is your favourite color of socks to wear?
Can’t say I have one… I have some cool Sombrio socks with the rasta stripes on the cuff that I like but then again, I am told that white, tall socks are more ‘euro’ and for some reason, North-American cyclists seem to have this hard-on with being as ‘euro’ as possible.
8. What are your favourite pastimes?
I’m a big hockey fan. Love watching the Canucks but never played the game myself. I hope to change that this year.
I’m a big fan of good music. Spend a ton of time discovering new groups…
I love to cook, and I pretty much like anything of high quality when it comes to food and beverages. For instance I really like my quality coffee, quality beers, quality cheeses, chocolate… I could go on for a while…
Also, I got my motorcycle license last year and want to get a dual sport bike to play around with this winter.
9. What is your prerace meal?
4 pieces of Bagel/bread with creamcheese, cheese, ketchup, and an egg on 3 of them, and only egg white on the 4th. That is eaten and finished with 3 hours to go to the start. Nothing after that until I have a gel on the start line.
10. Are you a cat person, or dog person?
Dog for sure. Cats are useless, annoying, and I’m allergic to them.
11. What is currently on your favourite playlist on your ipod?
I’m listening to a lot of Canadian indie rock/pop music like Metric or Shout Out Out Out Out, but I’m also getting into the DJ sets with the likes of MSTRKRFT and Girl Talk.
12. Do you use Mac, or PC?
Mac all the way. People who are still stuck on PC’s haven’t seen the light and need to get with the time. And people who actually say that PC’s are still better, are in serious denial.
13. What is a typical week day for Stefan?
In the fall, it’s full on school and work but when it comes to the training/racing season, the days seem to fill up awfully quickly, while many may think that I really don’t do all too much…
So, my days start with a leisure morning. Rushed mornings are a no-go for me. I would rather get less sleep but have time for my large fruit bowl and a cup or three of quality espresso coffee. After I’ve checked my email no less then a dozen times, surfed my favorite websites and feel adequately informed on the latest news in the cycling and hockey world, it’s ride time. After training, I usually make a smoothy, have a nap, then it’s time to strap on the feed bag again for dinner; meat, veggies and a huge salad. Movie/TV while stretching is usually in order for the evening.
Pretty much the bottom line is that when I’m not on my bike, the majority of the remaining time is spent either preparing, eating or thinking about my next meal. Food is King.
14. How many hours a week do your ride?
Anywhere from 10-29 hours. Longer in the winter and as racing/intensity or fatigue sets in, it drops down.
15. You have done stage races in the past, could you tell us about them, and how you placed?
Yep, have done Trans-Rockies twice. Both times one of the hardest races I’ve done and both times swore that I would never do it again! Alas, I always seem to go back for more…
For the first time in 2006 with Matt Green, where I got my spot by replacing his injured partner with a week’s notice. We finished 4th that year. Then for the second time last year with Marty Lazarski where we finished 3rd. I was quite pleased with that 3rd place finish considering it was widely considered to be not only the hardest route they have ever done but also by far the deepest field racing it.
I am currently answering these questions on my laptop in the back of the Rocky Mountain Truck as we’re trailing a big 26 foot 5th wheel up to the start of my 3rd attempt at the race. I am racing it again with Marty and will once again go for the elusive top step that has escaped me.
16. What is your favourite trail to ride?
It’s gotta be anything on Hornby Island but if I was forced to chose one of the trails, it would be ‘The Way’ into the new cut of ‘Spasm Chasm’. A big shout out to the Hornby Island trail crew who keep those trails in mint condition year round!
17. What is the scariest thing you have ever done?
I can’t think of anything at the moment… my mom would probably know better from the sketchy stories of my trips that she hears…
18. Do you prefer carbon or aluminum?
Carbon’s sweet as long as you can keep the rubber side down.
19. What is your favourite tire to use, and tube or tubeless?
Favorite all around tire would be the MAXXIS Crossmark. Some sweet Swiss crosses down the center ridge, pretty much a formula for success! For XC racing I run non-UST with Stan’s instead of a tube but for this upcoming week at TR, it’ll be nothing but Tubeless UST action for us!
20. What is the most defining point in your career so far?
Hucking big back in 1997 off a 12 foot rock on my RM6. I was so smooth you couldn’t even hear me land. It was a thing of beauty, pretty much an expression of art.
21. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in life?
Being born. Without that act, I wouldn’t have even gotten the opportunity to strive for any further accomplishments.
22. Greatest accomplishment on a bike?
See above #20. Dude, Man, it was ‘sick’!
23. Which do you prefer hardtail or full suspension?
At a reasonable weight, I would always choose a full suspension.
24. Who is your favourite male and female mountain bikers?
Male Rider: Thomas Frishknecht
Female Rider: Katerina Nash
25. Who are your favourite male and female actors?
I didn’t grow up with TV, so I’m not to ‘hip’ with the pop culture, but Al Pacino comes to mind, and I can’t seem to forget Paz Vega.
26. Have you seen any movies lately?
The Hangover… - hilarious!
27. If you were a bag of chips, what kind of chips would you be?
Kettle chips are pretty delicious… anything thick, crunchy and salty are pretty tasty!
28. What was your toughest race?
I would say Trans-Rockies 2008 but I think it’s hard to pin it down to the ONE ‘toughest’ race. After each race, you feel like you just complete THE hardest race… Every race hurts so much that to be in this line of work, you’ve pretty much got to be a masochist.
29. What do you think about Lance Armstrong’s comeback?
Sham. He should Go Home.
The sport needs to move on from the ‘Armstrong’ era, which was too long to begin with in my opinion. Don’t get me started…
30. If you could thank anyone for where you are today, who would it be?
My parents, for without them, I wouldn’t be here obviously… but when in comes to sport related ‘Shout outs’, I’ll save them for when I’ve accomplished my goals and are satisfied with my achievements.
31. Who is your biggest fan?
Haha… fans? how to answer that one… well… I’m gonna have to go with one of my close high school friends. N-TJ who has nothing to do with cycling nor any knowledge or background with it, but always seems to find out on his own volition better then anyone else what I’m up to and how I’ve done.
This is especially impressive as my non-cycling friends know that I pretty much pull a ‘disappearing act’ during my season as I’m either on the road or unable to partake in their ‘questionable’ choice of activities... yet, he stays on top of things…