Meet Jennie

CBC is now officially the proud sponsor of professional MTB cyclist Jennie Stenerhag, a strong, determined, soft hearted cyclist, Swedish Road Race Champion, Cape Argus Winner and Swedish MTB Marathon Champion!

We’d like you to meet her…

“Always have fun! If it is fun it will be easy to train and anyone can reach the top.”

Where did it all start?

I was a downhill skier from the age of 6 until I was 22 and was forced to stop due to a knee injury. I then had a “normal life” for 6 years and started to train a bit for “a Swedish Classic”. If you complete four endurance events within 12 months you have done “a Swedish classic”. The events are Lidingöloppet, 30km running in September, Vasaloppet 90km cross country skiing in March, Vansbrosimmet 3km swim in June and Vätternrundan 300km cycling in June. I did this in 2003 and really enjoyed the cycling. It was a road race but I did it on an old heavy mountain bike. There was a MTB Marathon in the area I come from that I have always wanted to do and I thought, since I had done some cycling that summer – it’s now or never. I bought a second hand mountain bike and did the race. I finished about one hour behind the first girls but I was happy with that! I thought – what would happen if I train for this? That winter I came to South Africa for a holiday and fell in love with the country, 6 weeks after my holiday I was back in Cape Town to stay for 3 months and worked with a guy that owned an adventure company. I then started my winter cycle training in the South African summer. When more and more people asked me if I was training for something called “The Argus” I had to find out what it was all about, so I bought my first road bike just so that I could do this race. I did a 3.17 and I was hooked on this sport! That is how it all started!

How many times do you train per day/week?

I train 2-3 times a day, 5 days a week. I love training and most of my sessions I do because I just love being on my bike!

Do you prefer cycling in a team or solo?

I like both, in one way it is nice to just do your own thing and go flat out and race as hard as you can, but it is also nice to have a team partner and know that even if you struggle you will always have someone there to support you and it is also not just about you, it gives another side to the race when you have to find out how the two of you can race as fast as possible as a team.

What is your ‘words of wisdom’ / advice to young and upcoming cyclists?

Always have fun! If it is fun it will be easy to train and anyone can reach the top.

Tell us a little bit more about mountain vs. road cycling.

Some people might think that it is pretty much the same since both are about riding a bike. But it is two totally different sports. MTB is more about technical skills and power and going as hard as you can for the whole race, while road cycling is more about tactics and max power attacks and it is also often the best sprinter that wins, not necessarily the strongest rider.

What is your favourite race of the year/one you really look forward to whilst training?

I have a lot of favourite races, but in different ways. The Cape Argus is very special to me since that was my first ever road race and it was special to win that race 5 years later. Die Burger is also a good race for me since it is on home ground in Stellenbosch and I have won it 6 times.

Championships, Swedish and World, are the races that are in my mind when training and at the moment that is what I am looking forward to. I look forward to all races though, every race is a different challenge and that is what I like.

Tell us a bit more about your career as a Swedish cyclist, and your career as a South African cyclist.

Cycling is so much bigger in South Africa than in Sweden, here people can recognise me but not many people in Sweden would know who I am. There are no cycling programs on TV in Sweden, no fun rides would be shown and only World Cup podiums would be mentioned on the Sports News.

South Africa seems to be your home-from-home, when did you first come to/fall in love with South Africa?

It was on a holiday in November 2003, on my second day in CT I got the feeling that this was where I wanted to live, and I even said that to my friend that I was travelling with. 6 weeks later I came back to stay for 3 months and after that I have been coming back every year for 3-6 months until a few years ago when I decided to live here.

Is it very different cycling/racing in South Africa?

Yes and no. I think racing in any one country is pretty much the same, the competition is probably about the same in South Africa and in Sweden, but if you take a European race where all the pro’s comes to then it will be a lot harder. There are some differences in the format of the races, for example we do not have as big fun rides in Sweden as we have in South Africa. Cycling as a sport is much bigger in South Africa then in Sweden.

Your favourite race course/route to date?

I really love riding in Jonkershoek, it is my training/playground and I am probably there 4 times per week but just can’t get enough of riding there. For racing, I must say the Wines 2 Whales routes around Oak Valley and also the races around Welvenpass in Wellington. It is great fun to race on single tracks that I know as the back of my hand, one can always go a bit faster when you know what is around the corner.

How do you train in the winter – or do you prefer to head back and forth between summer in South Africa and summer in Sweden?

I have not had winter for 10 years, so I guess I do not train in winter, almost skipping winter altogether !

What are the challenges you face as a female cyclist?

The media exposure is less for a female athlete and therefore it is more difficult to find sponsors. If there is a 30min TV program from one of our bigger races they give the ladies 2-3 minutes and the rest is for the men, so if you are not winning or coming second you will not get any exposure. We train as hard as the men and put as much of our time in to the sport, I think there would be more ladies racing if we got more exposure and could get more sponsors and afford to do the sport.

Any organizations/charities that you are involved in?

I did the Epic 2013 for the Big Tree foundation and I have done the Double Century 2012 and 2013 for the Give me a chance children foundation, I do support both of them since they are both helping kids to go to school but in different ways. I also support the BEN organization now and then with old cycling kit and we are going to Kayamandi later in the week to give our old computer to a crèche there. There is  always someone that can use what you will not use anymore. You do not throw  things away in South Africa!

Cycling is associated with living a health conscious and balanced lifestyle, what do you do to make sure you live a balanced life?

Living a balanced life is not something that I consciously think about, if someone thinks that I live a balanced life then it is something that comes naturally to me. I would not say that I am health conscious since I eat what I want and drink a lot of coffee etc, but I guess that when I say “eat what I want” it is also a lot of healthy things.

Do you ever take some time off of cycling?

I always have a 2 week break from training per year, when it happens during the year depends on the races. I also always take at least 6 days complete rest after a weeklong stage race.

Describe that feeling once you have just realised that you have a podium finish.

That will only happen after the finish line, I never think of  a podium finish until I have crossed the line, anything can happen in cycling, you can fall or have a puncture 1 km from the line and loose the position, one can never celebrate before you know. The feeling of a podium finish will depend on the status of the race and who are with you on that podium.

Who do you look up to in the world of cycling?

Gun Rita Dahle, she is amazing to stay at the top level of ladies cycling for 2 decades!