Gino Mäder won the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse last summer and later showed a very strong performance at the Tour of Spain. We spoke to Gino before his departure for the Basque Country about his breakthrough last season, the new generation of Swiss cyclists and his plans for the future.
TdS: « Gino, you had a real breakthrough last season. Were there any signs of that at the beginning of the year and how did you feel when the season started?»
Gino Mäder: «The winter before was difficult, with the Corona year and the races that lasted almost into the winter. I had a bit of trouble with motivation at first.
At the UAE Tour, things were tough.
But later, at Paris-Nice, I almost got my first World Tour victory. I could almost taste it!
From then on I got into a rhythm with the team where everyone was performing and delivering results. This gave me hope that I could also deliver.
Then you just have to grab your chances…»
TdS: « Following the Giro success you came to the Tour de Suisse, where you started with a strong time trial and rode in the top 10 in GC until stage 7.
Then you had a bad day on stage 7.
How were you able to recover after that and renew your motivation?»
Gino Mäder: « I started as the designated team leader. Things went well until the 7th stage – then came the crisis. I would have preferred to stop then – it was really hard and demotivating.
I had been looking forward to the time trial on the Oberalp Pass all season. It’s something different, a time trial that suits my type of cyclist.
For me the mountain- and valley time trial stood as an event in its own right – the overall standings were gone by then, but I looked at the time trial as a separated thing.
I was looking forward to it and wanted to do my best, which came out really well. This pushed me.
So for the final Queen stage, I decided to just go for it and finish on a positive note.»
TdS: « And you really did that in style.
When Michael Woods attacked on the Gotthard Pass, only Matthias Cattaneo could stay with him. You didn’t take up the chase until later – why?»
Gino Mäder: « When Woods went off, the attack was so explosive that I didn’t want to and couldn’t follow.
Later I realised that there were only the General Classification riders around me in the leading group and I didn’t expect too much in a sprint against them.
So I tried my luck in the attack.
And with Woods I had the “target” in front of me to catch.
On the top of the pass I spotted friends in the crowd who cheered me on. That gave me another push!»
TdS: «You got to Andermatt with Michael Woods, where a sprint had to decide the race. What was going through your mind, how did you feel about the sprint?»
Gino Mäder: «We were familiar with the finish from the arrival of the time trial the day before. Michael really wanted to be the first into the final corner and started the sprint very early. Too early, I thought.
200m before the finish he went up a notch and that unsettled me for a moment.
But then he let up briefly and I left his slipstream and advanced on him. At 50m I realised that he had nothing more to give and I just had to keep my pace.
And win the Queen stage!
That was the coolest moment ever – it is an emotional release that just about overwhelms you!»
TdS: «With Stefan Küng’s victory in the opening time trial, Stefan Bissegger’s victory in Gstaad and your achievement, the Tour de Suisse 2021 was a real success story for Switzerland. Did you also sense this yourself in the race pack?»
Gino Mäder: «What we all have in common is that we went through a similar school with Swiss Cycling. We met in Aigle, then later in Grenchen, and all raced on the track as a team. That connects you and binds you together. And when you see how Küng becomes one of the best in the world in his discipline, how Marc Hirschi and Stefan Bissegger start in the World Tour without much trouble… then you are happy for your colleagues and you think to yourself, I can do that too!
And for European and World Championships as well as the Olympics, this team spirit naturally helps us a lot.
You can dream big in Switzerland.»
TdS: «You are referring to this new, ambitious generation of Swiss cyclists.
What is actually still missing is a General Classification rider….
Gino Mäder: «I’ve had a good season now, how far my talent, potential and also my work ethic can take me remains to be seen.
At the moment, I don’t feel the pressure of these expectations.
I am, though, already beginning to formulate ambitions in this direction myself…»
TdS: « What would the perfect Tour de Suisse look like for you, which layout would make you say: “That’s MY Tour de Suisse!!»
Gino Mäder: « I think the Tour de Suisse is characterised by the fact that we have almost unlimited possibilities. And not only the Alps – the Tour de Suisse always has these classics-style stages with short but many climbs. This scenic and topographical diversity is what distinguishes the Tour de Suisse. Of course, I would also find it cool to just ride up and down the Alps for a week! Yay!
But that wouldn’t be a Tour de Suisse.
What is ideal is the variety and the last Tour de Suisse editions came very close to ideal.
Maybe the time trial could also be a mountain top finish for once……»
TdS: «Now you are once again at the beginning of a new season. What does your season plan look like?»
Gino Mäder: «I will ride at Romandie, then Tour de Suisse and hopefully the Tour de France. The start at the Tour de France would certainly be a sporting highlight. It’s the biggest race, and as I stood at the Alp d’Huez as a child, it was of course a great dream to be able to ride there myself.
Personally, the Tour de Suisse is definitely a highlight. I have great memories of the final weekend of the Tour de Suisse last year – also during my first appearance then with Dimension Data.
Who knows, maybe this year it will go better in the General Classification.
And if in the end “only” one stage works out, that would be ok too.»
TdS: « A lot has changed since those days on the roadside of the Alp d’huez and today. Cycling is now your profession. What would you say is the best part of being a Pro?»
Gino Mäder: « Professional cycling is of course what I always dreamed of as a child, and later during my professional apprenticeship….
Cycling as a sport brings me so much satisfaction.
Of course, professional cycling also brings stress – sometimes it is difficult to get ON the bike.
But once I’m on the bike, my thoughts are free.
It’s being in the moment, pure and simple.
The routine work on the bike can completely take over.
Always trying to get better, constantly striving for perfection – which is probably unattainable… although in the case of Tadej (Pogacar) it looks possible.
Pushing yourself, pushing your limits, improving and realising your potential, these are the factors I really admire in our sport.
It also gives you a lot of time and freedom, which you can invest in yourself!
TdS: « Gino, thank you very much for the comprehensive interview and we wish you all the best with your goals and look forward to seeing you at the Start in June!»