Mathias Flueckiger is taking time to recover from what has been, by all accounts, a rough month. After a highly-publicized crash, and the resulting online-blowback, the Swiss cross country rider tested positive for COVID-19.
To get his season back on track, the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist is sitting out both North American World Cup rounds.
Off-camera crash – online backlash
When Nino Schurter and Flueckiger crashed while leading their home World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, no camera caught the incident. That left an air of mystery around the incident. Both riders stated their verion of what happened. In the absence of any hard proof many fans, who are frenetic about mountain biking in Switzerland, made up their own minds.
Fluckiger reports he was the subject of an intense online backlash after the incident from people blaming him for the crash.
“I was shocked by how many people online are fueling frustration, aggression, anger and hatred – and all this just because of a fall of two mountain bikers,” Flueckiger revealed in a recent update. “For the first time I have personally experienced how anger, frustration or even hatred is expressed online. This to a person you don’t even know personally and because of something that really doesn’t matter all that much in this world.”
Another setback in Andorra
Flueckiger has only five days to re-set and get back on a World Cup start line in Andorra. When he did, he didn’t look at all phased by being on the recieving end of online trolls ire. Flueckiger won the Short Track XCC in Andorra.
“Thanks to my environment, I was ultimately able to concentrate on my job in the following week” Fluckiger says. “Winning the short track in Vallnord (Andorra) meant a lot to me. It showed me that I am stronger than ever. It showed me that my joy as a professional biker is undiminished and that I continue to go my own way together with my team and those around me. That includes winning, but it also includes losing.”
“Losing” would follow not on the race course, but in his health. The Thomus Maxon rider tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday before he could race Andorra’s XCO.
The twin blows have led the Swiss star to briefly put his season on hold so he can focus on the rest of the season.
New goals, new path
For now, Flueckiger will be on the sidelines and out of the spotlight. While the decision to skip Mont-Sainte-Anne and Snowhoe ends any World Cup ambitions for the Swiss rider, he says he is feeling healthy and has another, bigger goal in mind.
“I have decided to skip the two overseas World Cups in Snowshoe and Mount-Sainte-Anne,” Fluckegier explains, “I have to take detours to get to my big goal of the season: the world championships.”
Standing by his story
Despite everything that happens, Flueckiger isn’t changing his tune on the events that took place in Lenzerheide.
“It is well known that cross-country racing did not end the way we would all have wished,” Fluckiger said, adding “I had said what needed to be said on Sunday evening. I had honestly and directly communicated what it was like, what I felt, thought and how I classified this racing accident. I also said I’m sorry we crashed. And today I would say the same thing again.”
While missing out on a World Cup win at home in Switzerland was hard, Flueckiger says what follows was worse.
“What hurt me particularly (besides the missed victory) was that I was accused of intention, frustration, bad character and much more,” Flueckiger explained. “Anyone who has ever raced or can put themselves in the situation of a biker knows: you have to make decisions in fractions of a second, intuitively. And intuition is based on experience,” Flueckiger added. “I would never cause a fall on purpose or out of frustration.”
You can read Flueckiger’s full statement – in German – on his personal website.