Noëlle Rüetschi embarked on a thrilling adventure as she took on the Gravel World Championships, an event that left an indelible mark on her cycling career. As a first-year U23 rider competing in the elite category, Noëlle shared her experience and insights into the race and her remarkable journey to get to Italy. Noëlle’s enthusiasm was palpable as she recounted her race experience.
“So, first of all, this race was just super crazy! I’ve never experienced something like that before. It was incredibly epic with super steep hills that I’ve never encountered. While I was one of the only under-23 riders, I didn’t really care about that. It was just fantastic to compete with such a strong field of elite women. It’s a shame it wasn’t broadcasted, because I think it was truly epic to watch. But overall, it was a crazy experience.”
Noëlle’s adventure didn’t start at the race but a few days before, as she embarked on a bike-packing journey from Switzerland to Italy with her friend Noemi Rüegg. “Preparation-wise, I went on a bike-packing trip with Noemi, a professional cyclist from Switzerland and a close friend. We decided to head towards Varese, where she wanted to watch the race because some of her teammates were still competing in Trivoli. We covered the distance in three days, and it was an incredible adventure. We had no fixed plans; we just aimed to arrive in Varese by Tuesday around 10 to watch the race. We spontaneously booked hotels on the way, met countless people, and explored new places. It was fantastic to share this experience with her, doing something besides racing.”
Reflecting on this adventure with her friend Noemi Rüegg, Noëlle Rüetschi shared some delightful and memorable moments. On the first day of their journey, the two cyclists celebrated Noemi’s TT national title at a picturesque lake. “We went for a bit of aperitif to celebrate Noemie’s TT national title that she won actually on the same day,” Noëlle recalls. After enjoying their celebratory drinks, they continued their ride, only to find themselves pedalling towards their destination in the dark. Despite having lights, it turned into a slightly humorous and slightly unnerving experience.
The next morning, while having breakfast at a bakery, they attracted attention due to their cycling jerseys. “People started talking to us because we wore jerseys”, Noëlle explains. They saw we were professional cyclists, and they asked if they could follow our adventure on Strava. The encounter added a touch of amusement to their journey.
Another amusing incident occurred when they climbed up to a scenic viewpoint. Noëlle recalls Noemi’s attempt to capture a video of the breathtaking mountain scenery. However, in her exhaustion, Noemi unintentionally turned the camera on herself, resulting in a comical video that captured the moment perfectly.
Despite these fun stories, Noëlle also acknowledges the challenges of the journey, such as running out of food and having to make impromptu stops to replenish their supplies. “Mostly it’s about the small things that we just had to laugh about,” she concludes. Noëlle and Noemi’s bike-packing adventure was not just about the destination; it was about the unforgettable moments and shared laughter that made the journey truly special.
Preparation and Mentality
Noëlle’s preparation was more about a long-standing passion for gravel racing than specific training. “Honestly, I didn’t prepare specifically for the Gravel World Championships race. I set my sights on it last year because I felt it combined the best of both worlds. With a background in mountain biking, it felt natural to me. Despite some health struggles in the past weeks, I couldn’t prepare as I’d like. Still, I spent some time on my gravel bike, received guidance from my coach, who’s skilled in technical aspects and relied on the mountain biker within me to get through.”
Atmosphere and Competition
“The race was super intense with its steep hills, and the atmosphere was insane. There were many spectators cheering along the course, even in remote forested areas where you’d least expect it. Their encouragement was pivotal; I don’t think I could have finished without them. Moreover, the gravel community is unique and welcoming. It was my first time experiencing it, but I found that everyone was open and genuinely nice.”
Shaping the Future
“This was an incredibly valuable experience for me. It was a tough battle from start to finish, but I’m immensely proud that I made it. Such moments make you stronger and more motivated. One of the first things I said yesterday was that I want to race again next year, and perhaps explore more gravel races in the future. It’s a cool endeavour that will undoubtedly benefit me in the upcoming season and beyond.”
“After yesterday, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to try. Be aware, though, it’s incredibly demanding and rough. But the rewards are immense. I had so much fun racing my bike yesterday; it was one of the happiest moments of my season, despite the incredible challenge. So, definitely give it a try!”
Future Plans and Reflections
“For me, this marked the end of my 2023 season, as I had planned. I started on March 7th and finished on October 7th, seven months of a season was definitely enough for me. I struggled with health issues since l’Avenir, so the last few weeks were about perseverance. I took it easy, focused on enjoying the ride rather than the outcome. It turned out to be a great race, the five hours felt like a whole year filled with diverse experiences and emotions. Now, it’s time for rest and some easy, enjoyable rides.”
Noëlle is eager to repeat this incredible journey. “I will definitely do it again”, she said with enthusiasm. Her experience at the Gravel World’s is a testament to her resilience, passion, and love for the sport of cycling.