How Jolanda Neff pulled off her 10th, and maybe toughest, elite national title
Jolanda Neff had to work hard to keep the Swiss champion’s jersey on her back.
No country has the same depth of elite women’s XC talent as Switzerland, which placed five riders in the top 11 of the last World Cup race in Nove Mesto. Neff has long been a dominant force in the field, with nine elite national titles, six of them in cross country mountain biking, entering Sunday’s race. But she has struggled for consistency this year, and though she had a solid showing in Nove Mesto, placing eighth, she finished directly behind her compatriots, Sina Frei and Linda Indergand.
On Sunday, she put together perhaps her most complete performance of the year, pulling away from Alessandra Keller on the final climb to win her 10th Swiss title by 14 seconds. Before the race, Neff revealed that she’d been selected to participate in the Olympic Games. Her win put an exclamation point on what had already been a joyous week.
“I’m super happy with this win, especially this year because I’ll really be wearing the [Swiss] jersey in my races,” Neff said. “The last six years I was always wearing the European Champion jersey or the World champion jersey, but never the Swiss one. So I can keep my Swiss jersey, and I will have it again [for the World Cup] in Leogang in two weeks’ time.”
The Swiss national championship course featured long flat sections that made the race relatively more tactical than other XC races. Neff, Keller and Frei stayed together as a select leading group for much of the race until the last lap, when Frei was dropped early in the final climb. Keller stayed on Neff’s wheel until Neff accelerated again and created the winning gap.
“It was hot. The race was on a really good level. Since Switzerland is No. 1 in the nations ranking, it’s probably the highest level in any championships you can find,” Neff said. “I’m super, super happy to win this race.”
In addition to her (now) seventh XC national title, Neff has also won the Swiss road title twice and the cyclocross title once, not to mention three European XC titles and a World XC title. Coming off an injury- and pandemic-disrupted 2020, there’s no question that her most recent gold was especially sweet.
Neff now rides into the second half of the year with full momentum. She will race on the road next weekend in the inaugural women’s Tour de Suisse before going to Leogang a week later. She’s ready to do the Swiss flag proud.