Ronja Eibl, local hero and bearer of hope.
From whichever perspective you look at the World Championship in Albstadt, you can hardly avoid Ronja Eibl. You can see her on advertising banners as a “face of the World Championship”. When you ask about German top candidates for a medal at the World Championship at home, her name is the most frequently mentioned. When talking about the Olympic year 2020, she is seen as a potential participant. When the future prospects of German cross-country bikers are discussed, you quickly come across the 20-year-old woman from the Swabian Alb. And when it comes to the “local hero”, Ronja Eibl´s local color is certainly dyed most strongly of all. Her hometown Grosselfingen is only twenty minutes away from the racetrack, her club, RSG Zollernalb, is based in Albstadt and is part of the organization. Until last year, she was employed as a helper – as a track marshal and for track construction and dismantling.
Ronja Eibl has quickly grown into the role of being the bearer of hope. This did not become apparent until she was 16, but only in her second year of U19 when she became Bundesliga overall winner, which was two and a half years ago. In 2018 she won her first German championship title in the U23. Of course, her coach Bernhard Mast-Sindlinger already knew that there was a jewel in his club. However, he preferred to step on the brakes, also with regard to the amount of training.
Ronja Eibl will be very much in the spotlight both at the World Championship and before. During an interview, she is open and every now and then her answers are spiced up with a dash of humour. She puts exaggerated statements into perspective with a laugh.
Ronja, you have become the German bearer of hope at rocket speed. How do you feel in this role?
Ronja Eibl: Well, to be honest, I don’t let it get to me any more than I let the fact that I am the face of the World Championship in Albstadt. I wouldn’t call myself that, it´s other people who see it that way. For me it’s still the same: I’m riding World Cup now, these are the biggest races there are. But the thing is that all in all nothing much has changed since I have been riding Alb-Gold Junior´s Cup. For me it’s still the same: I go to training, I go to the races with my father, I ride my race (laughs). No matter if Junior´s Cup or World Cup.
But probably it will feel a little different on 27 June in the Bullentäle?
Yes, so far at 8:30 a.m. there have been ten spectators (in the U23 World Cup), some parents and two people from the Red Cross (laughs). Basically, nobody was interested in who won the U23 race in the World Cup. I think, there will be a different atmosphere in Albstadt.
Are you prepared for the demands and expectations placed on you?
I will try to eliminate or limit unnecessary things. Some things like press stuff and interviews you can’t avoid, but you do them from time to time anyway. I don’t see it that extreme yet. For me it’s still a race in Albstadt and at the same time a world championship.
But here we come across an important topic. The important races and Ronja Eibl, this is not yet a dream circumstance. In 2019, you had one single defect and that was at the European Championship. You were sick once, that was at the World Championship.
One defect, one infection (grins). So far, I´ve always had a defect at the EC and I hardly ever have a defect. But when I do, then in the EC. At the European Championships I never had that special feeling either, maybe it’s because of the locations.
I presume you’re not a fan of conspiracy theories. Is that a coincidence?
It’s possible that you get a little bit more excited. The flat tire in Brno at the European Championship was clearly a riding error. I’ve driven over the stone field 10 or 15 times during practice and it never made a sound. And in the race I completely crash my rear wheel against a stone. However, at the German Championship I also needed several attempts until it worked out. Maybe it’s the same with the EC.
2020 is the year of the World Championship at home and according to current status Ronja Eibl could also celebrate her Olympic premiere five weeks later in Tokyo. In autumn, the cyclist joined the sports promotion group of the German Federal Armed Forces in Todtnau. The basic training lies behind her, now she could fully focus on this outstanding year. But for the U23 World Cup winner, just cycling is not enough. If she´s accepted to university studies, in the summer semester she wants to start studying medicine, which could be even dentistry.
Medicine and competitive sports, that is a challenging combination, especially in the Olympic year.
Yes, it’s a lot, but I was able to work in a well-structured way in school. Actually, I can work better under stressful conditions than when I have too much time to finish something. Other cyclists have also studied medicine or dentistry, such as Annika Langvad (former world champion from Denmark).
But the summer semester clashes with the World Championship at home and the Olympics
Yes, but in medicine in the first semester it’s mainly anatomy and physiology, mainly learning by heart and I don´t believe it´s bad when I´m not attending all the lectures. We’ll see.
This seems as if you don´t put such strong emphasis on the Olympic Games whose importance in sport is rather overstated?
Nope. I see it the same way: that everyone blows it out of proportion like too big a balloon (laughs).
And the World Championship at home?
I think when it comes to the races, there will be a corresponding excitement. But in the end, you have to think: it’s just a race, like any other race. Whether you ride really well or not – okay, it’s awesome at first if it was good and disappointing if it didn’t go quite well – a few weeks later it´s going to be history anyway. Until the next Olympic Games nobody knows anymore anyway who came in fourth or fifth. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter anyway. I don’t think I’ll be competing for victory in Tokyo, I have to be realistic about that. I’m going there to gain a lot of experience and to deliver my performance. Maybe it’s just as good not to go from zero to hero. I´m referring to Jenny Rissveds and Julie Bresset (both Olympic champions suffered from depression and mental exhaustion afterwards).
Despite this reflected and casual attitude, Ronja Eibl is not lacking in ambition. After cautiously formulating regular top-five results in the U23 World Cup as her goal last year (“that worked out well”), she wants to repeat the overall victory in the U23 World Cup in 2020, „at best“ win a medal at the World Championships in Albstadt, and reach the finish line at the European Championships in Graz in May at least once without a defect. “Get as many jerseys as possible”, as she sums it up. But it´s not the results alone that motivate her.
What is it that motivates you in your sport?
The feeling to participate in a race, to push your limits. Being completely bushed, in plain English. And then comes the flood of emotions when you cross the finish line. What’s also important to me: mountain biking is an individual sport, yet there is a team feeling. I enjoy going to a training camp every time.
And finally: what are you most looking forward to at the World Championship in Albstadt?
Most of all, I’m looking forward to getting a lot of support from my family and friends and of course the fact that Germany will finally host another World Championship, where we all will hopefully show a good performance.
Date of birth: 30.09.1999
overall winner of the U23-World Cup 2019,
3 U23-World Cup victories,
3 second places,
Vice World Champion with the team 2018,
German U23-Champion 2018 and 2019
Further information on: www.wm2020albstadt.de