Review of Stefanie Zahno’s fantastic season

If an XCM racer deserves the title of revelation of the year 2023, it is indeed Stefanie Zahno. With victories in the Bergibike, la Forestière, the Grand Raid BCVs from Nendaz, and a title of Swiss vice-champion in marathon mountain biking, the rider from Team Rodeo Bike – Raid Evolénard has clearly reached a new level in the past season. She intends to capitalize on her excellent results and aims to confirm her performance in 2024. Interview:

You achieved an exceptional season in 2023 with several victories at the highest level. With a bit of hindsight, how do you explain this progression compared to previous years

The 2023 season was undoubtedly exceptional and very impressive, full of different achievements. It started in July with my first national victory and ended in September with my first international win :). The most significant change and probably the decisive factor for these successes was, in my opinion, the change of coach and, therefore, a more professional training structure. This allowed me to improve in several areas.

Parmi tous ces beaux résultats, est-ce qu’il y a un qui est particulièrement important pour toi, où tu as réalisé que tu peux rivaliser avec les meilleures?  On pense par exemple à la Forestière, où tu es restée longtemps dans la roue de la vice championne d’Europe Estelle Morel, avant de la dépasser dans la dernière partie de la course?

Among all these great results, is there one that is particularly important to you, where you realized that you can compete with the best? For example, in La Forestière, where you stayed in the wheel of the vice European champion Estelle Morel for a long time before overtaking her in the final part of the race?

A season like that must make it not too difficult to stay motivated for the next one. How have you planned your preparation for 2024, and where do you see potential for further improvement?

The motivation is definitely there :). I will head to South Africa again at the end of January, where I will participate in a stage race. I plan to continue training hard to improve overall and keep getting closer to the global elite.

n recent years, you have always raced within a small individual structure, notably under the colors of Raid Evolénard. Does this approach still suit you, or are you considering changing your strategy?

I like the individual structure, but I would like to find new sponsors or increase my sponsorship because I am now practicing mountain biking at a semi-professional level.

There were also a few disappointments in 2023, especially with narrowly missing out on the overall classification in the Bike Marathon Classics. Will winning this series be an important goal for you this year? In a more general sense, what will be your priorities in 2024?

The overall classification has never been a goal for me. It’s true that it was very close between Alexandra Zürcher and me for the final victory. So, the second national place is not a disappointment for me. My races in 2024 will continue to be a mix of races in Switzerland and abroad.

With the World Championships in Valais on the horizon, I imagine it gives you an extra dose of motivation to participate in such an event at home. Are you already planning the 2024 season with this in mind?

I am looking forward to having a big long-term goal with the World Championships in Valais. This event is, of course, always in my mind, but it will not have a direct influence on my 2024 season. However, I imagine that I still need to improve over such a long distance because even in 2025, I will still be relatively young on a course like Verbier-Grimentz, which is over 120 km with more than 5000 m of elevation gain.

Of course, you will be at the start of the Raid Evolénard again on June 9th. Can you tell us a bit more about your previous experiences in this race and what goals you have for participating this time?

I have been participating in the Raid Evolénard since I was very young, where I admired the greats, for example, at the CS in 2016. I first did the children’s course, then 24 km, then 32 km, and now I have tackled the long course four times, including once during the European Championships. I have a personal connection with this race. In 2023, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my performance because I didn’t improve my time. However, with a bit of hindsight, I believe it was necessary to be able to win the Bergibike two weeks later when all the pieces of the puzzle came together!

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