Interview: Claudio Caluori 2015

Claudio Caluori

Claudio Caluori is famously known for his entertaining and thrilling World Cup course previews, but there’s more, a whole lot more, to this Swiss man of many talents. The manager of Gstaad-Scott, founder of Velosolutions, World Cup MTB commentator, course previewer and presenter of Red Bull Crashed Ice. This man spins many plates, so where do we begin?

Hi Claudio, thank you ever so much for taking the time to chat with me. Many of us know you for your course previews, which are a personal highlight for me, but you’re also the manager for Gstaad-Scott and owner of Velosolutions. How on earth do you find time for all this?

Ha! I would say, no girlfriends allowed! Oh, wait, this is for Velo Me, hmmm… For real, I have a really good team together where everybody knows what to do. And I don’t need much sleep!

Velosolutions is a fantastic company building pump-tracks and trails all over the world, with New York City being the most recent creation. How important is it for you to provide fun and safe areas for riders to play and progress? And what’s the most rewarding part about Velosolutions?

Besides the fact that it is a dream job for us being able to create and build tracks that people are going to ride, we really see how pump tracks take people into the sport of cycling, or even into sports generally. For me personally, the most rewarding part is when you see the kids coming out of their houses, riding a new pump track for the first time, and loving it so much that they don’t want to leave anymore.

Can you tell us about any upcoming Velosolutions projects you have in the pipeline? And what would be your dream build, and where?

You know, Thailand and New York City really were a dream, and we just have to watch the videos once in a while to make sure it really is a reality. There are projects coming up all over the world, and I can’t really put one higher than another. Metropolises are amazing for us, but the experience of going to small towns in Asia are just as great.

As the manager of the Gstaad-Scott Team, you had to make the difficult decision last year to let go three amazing riders: Emilie, Noel and Patrick, in order to focus on supporting Brendan Fairclough and Neko Mulally. How do you feel this has progressed the team’s position, and do you think you’ll be expanding the team in the future?

Yes, it was tough, because all three of them are amazing riders and good friends. The goal is now to establish the team in the top ten of the world cup, and when we reach that goal, we can add more riders again who then will profit from a team that functions at the highest level.

Your course previews are brilliant! We all love watching you follow down athletes such as Loic Bruni and Tahnée Seagrave. And how you manage to commentate whilst riding, is multi-tasking at its best! Usually, with little/no practice, how does it feel to do these previews?

To be honest, I’m mostly very nervous, but very focused. I usually only get one run, so things have to work in that one go. Just like a racer only gets one run in the finals (but at least he can practice for it, haha). And then, hitting those jumps in the first run, only having looked at them walking… well, it’s certainly exciting.

From the World Cup tracks this year, which track was your favourite and which was the scariest?

My favourite is always Mont Sainte Anne. The scariest was probably Lourdes because we came out of the winter break and had to hit two pretty big road gaps in the first run. Aaron Gwin said the day before: “Those road gaps look pretty massive…” So I thought, if even Gwinny thinks they’re big, I should be careful…

The riders this year have really pulled out all the stops and shown remarkable sportsmanship and skill. The ladies downhill division has shown amazing performances this year with Rachel Atherton taking the top spot, Emmeline Ragot announcing retirement and seeing young Tahnée Seagrave hot on Rachel’s heels. Sadly the women’s races haven’t received the same level of media coverage as the men’s, but do you find it just as enjoyable and exciting to watch and commentate on?

NO! It’s actually a lot more enjoyable because they’re doing the same sport, but they look a lot better doing it…

Now the race season is over, and Rampage just finished, you can now reflect on the year. What have been the highlights for you? And what are you looking forward to most for next season?

The 25th anniversary of Mont Sainte Anne, the first world cup in Lenzerheide near my home, the world championships title of Loic Bruni were real highlights.

Really looking forward to Lenzerheide again, but also to Cairns and Meribel. And to Brendan’s and Neko’s domination, haha!

You’ve been in the mountain biking industry nearly your whole life, having an extensive race history, going on to build tracks, commentate and travel the world of biking. You’ve seen the sport evolve and the level of performance excels. Can you tell us your views on how the women’s industry has grown to be the highly competitive division it is today?

There were always the exceptional women who dominated the field. They were so far ahead of the others because weren’t just happy with winning the women’s races. They went and challenged the guys. Anne-Caro Chausson was one of them, Rachel is another one. It would be good to have more of them, and I’m sure even Rachel would want to have more competition. Because right now, everybody just expects her to win, which must be a big load of pressure, that she has been handling very well this year.

Claudio Caluori

A frequent, and popular, topic for discussion is the inequality in MTB for the male and female athletes. This ranges from pay disputes, prize money, lack of coverage and even sponsorship opportunities. Ideally, we’d like to see an even playing field for all athletes, regardless of gender. What are your views on this, and do you think we’ll reach a happy balance?

It really depends how you look at it, but here are my calculations:

200 men at a world cup. 8 of them get prize money.
30 women at a world cup. 8 of them get prize money. (and if I’m correct, they get the same amount as the men)

TV coverage:
200 men at the event. 20 of them get shown on tv. Makes it 10%
30 men at the event, 5 of them get shown on tv. Makes it 16%

200 men, – guessing 50 of them having a spot on a proper team. That’s 25%.
30 women, – guessing 10 of them on a team proper team. That’s 33%.

All of these numbers actually look better for women than for men. And it’s kept this way because the UCI is trying to promote women’s racing.

I’m aware of the fact that you can see this from different angles. I guess it’s not that black and white. It’s what you make out of it. Mountain bike riders generally have to be creative if they want to make a living out of their passion. Unless they can smoke their competition on the race track, but there are only so many who can do that. But there are plenty of other ways.

Why doesn’t a woman create her own team, like the Luna team in XC, and try to get non-industry female brands into the sport? There are plenty of possibilities! Maybe I should give it a try?! Haha.

You can’t expect brands to sponsor you only because you love riding bikes. You will have to give them a reason.

There are more and more women coming into our sport. This already creates a reason for the brands to get into it. Now, all it takes is spreading the passion and the good vibes! The media will pick it up and the sponsors will follow!

We’re now in the off-season of racing, how will you be spending your time and what do you look forward to most when you’re not out travelling and riding?

The travelling never stops. I don’t have off seasons.

I’ll be driving our team bus to Latvia, for a repair that would cost me half of the team’s budget in Switzerland. Soon, we should be building a pump track in Bali. The Red Bull Crashed Ice season starts, where I’m doing a similar job as at the World Cup.

And if I really do get some time at home, I’ll be preparing things for Gstaad-Scott, helping my uncle on the farm, or if things get really crazy, I might even squeeze in some time in on the Snowboard at home! Oh, I love it!

After speaking with Claudio and learning more about his involvement in the biking world, I can honestly say I have a new found respect for Mr Caluori. How does he do it all… and remain so focused?!

Claudio’s comments about riders securing sponsorship have given me a lot of food for thought. Sometimes being a great rider just isn’t enough to secure a living from it, and athletes need to be more creative to secure a big name or make their money elsewhere. It saddens me somewhat that there are fab riders out there, killing themselves in training, travelling and racing… yet, they can barely afford to make a living from their efforts…. or even afford to pay their way to the races! How creative do riders need to be to secure the support required to reach the podium? And do these extra efforts detract from the spirit of riding? Seems like a catch-22 situation, but this will no doubt continue to be the case with the ever-growing competition.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s season of course previews and creations from Velosolutions! Massive luck to Brendan Fairclough and Neko Mulally, riding for Gstaad-Scott and world domination.