Straight Outta Flims: The Gehrig Sisters Interview
If you follow the Enduro World Series (EWS) or have just tuned in for a race or two, there's a name that pops up in the Women's Top 10 results more than any other: Gehrig. There's an explanation for that; there's two of them. Swiss twins Anita and Carolin Gehrig have been racing EWS since the organization was formed in 2013, not missing a single event (with exception of one absence by Caro due to a broken collar bone). They're two of the most versatile women mountain bikers in the world, mainly due to their endemic mountain biking talent but also because they travel together, motivate one another and always have each others backs.
We caught up with Anita and Caro in Whistler during Crankworx to talk about their 2017 EWS season, where they've come from and where they love to ride.
Finish line emotions in Wicklow, Ireland. Dave Trumpore Photo
Mountain biking wasn't one of your activities as youth, when did you start ride more seriously?
Caro: We’ve been riding bikes since we were 19 when we moved to the ski resort of Flims/Laax and were looking for things to do in the summer. Our brother used to race cross country so the move to racing was natural for us. We started in downhill, so we learned it the hard way I guess.
Anita: We competed in (equestrian jumping) when we were younger actually. There's a lot of girls who race mountain biking at a high level that used to ride horses. Maybe it helps with having less fear and more balance? I don't know... [laughs]
We never made a decision to turn pro, we were just having the time of our lives racing when we got a deal with Specialized Europe and were asked if we wanted to race the Specialized SRAM enduro series. I won that series and knew that this enduro thing was working for us. Then the EWS came along and we had to be a part of it.
Anita tasting the podium champagne in Rotorua, New Zealand. Dave Trumpore photo
How was the womens field in enduro around that time?
Caro: There was a lot of interest. There were a lot of females at the races, like up to 50. It was super cool because it was an amateur level competition. The downhill fields were always decreasing, but the number of girls at enduro races was skyrocketing. But even comparing to the first years of the EWS, the last couple years the (female) field has just gotten better and better. The competition is tighter than it’s ever been.
Do you feel Enduro has helped give women in mountain biking better representation?
Anita: I think it’s more appealing for girls. Enduro racing is just like going to ride your bike and smashing it on the downs. In downhill there’s a lot more intimidation from technical sections and jumps on the tracks. You also wait a lot more at downhill races for your run whereas enduro gives you so much more time on your bike.
Here's looking at you, kid. Caro in high spirits despite a mechanical in Derby, Tasmania. Dave Trumpore photo
What’s been your racing highlights so far for the 2017 EWS season?
Anita: Third place at both Millau and Rotorua were my best results. Other than that all of our races were in the wet so this year hasn’t really been a highlight. Now we’re wet weather specialists, by force. Rotorua was definitely my hardest race because I had a really sore back and was literally crying on my bike and couldn’t stand up. I was surprised I actually made it onto the podium.
Did you feel stronger after going through such an ordeal at Rotorua?
Anita: Mentally, the first race for the 2017 season was hard after finishing third in the series last year and having a really good season. We worked hard over the winter, but you only where you stand after the first race. It was a big relief to get back on the podium.
Caro: I was having the race of my life in Tasmania, I was definitely riding my very best in every single stage. But then my tube came off and wrapped itself up in my front wheel. I was all set for podium but it didn’t happen. Since then I’ve been chasing the pack hoping to make it up there.
Anita battling the elements in Millau, France. Dave Trumpore photo
Do you ride together even when you’re not racing?
Caro. Always! [laughs]
Anita: We live about 10 minutes’ drive apart from one another. Almost every day we’ll meet up and go for a ride together. Our advantage is that we have each other. One of us is always motivated to ride or go training. If one of us is not, you’ll get your ass kicked until you do it anyway.
Caro: If you’re alone you have to force yourself to go out on your bike when you’re tired. But we force each other and rely on each other to do that. It’s a lot easier that way, definitely. Having a family member close friend with you to work towards the same goal, it’s really cool to share that when you travel.
The best support is family. Twins MTB Racing photo
Are projects planned for after the summer?
Caro: In September we’re competing in the Swiss Epic, it’s a week-long stage race in Switzerland. It’s a team race and it will be the first time we’re battling it out together and not against each other.
Anita: It’s pretty much a cross country race, so we’re kind of scared. [laughs]
Caro: It has some uplifts but you have to give some pretty big uphills, too. The teams of two are allowed a maximum of two minutes gap between them, so we’ll have to stick together. It should be pretty cool, it will be a new experience for us. We’re going to be tired so we don’t expect to be fighting too much. [laughs]
Anita: We do have another special project going on but we can’t really talk about it yet. But we are running our women's bike camps back in Switzerland again with some prizes thanks to Joystick!
Team Ibis Racing leading the EWS team standings for 2017. Dave Trumpore photo
Is there anything in particular you love about riding in Whistler?
Caro: Whistler is where our real mountain bike addiction started back in 2007.
Anita: I was here learning English and my flight was booked wrong so I had to stay until September. It was the best week of my life. Whistler has always been really special. The EWS race here is definitely one of the hardest. There’s no world champs for enduro, but if had one it would be Whistler. It’s the biggest event of the year and you always want to perform well. The whole lifestyle in Whistler is windblown; it has the best trails in the world and the whole network of trails in the valley is unreal. Racing here is just so special.
With just 50 points separating the twins in the current EWS rankings, Caro and Anita Gehrig will be giving it all at the final EWS race in Finale Ligure, Italy at the end of September. We wish them both and the entire Ibis Cycle Enduro Race Team luck for a strong finish to the season.