Q&A: Stefan Bissegger on disappointments and joys of the last year

Our Swiss ace talks about his rollercoaster year since the Tour.

June 8, 2023

The past twelve months have been a roller coaster for our Swiss time trial specialist, Stefan Bissegger.

The morning of the opening stage of the 2022 Tour de France, he had high hopes that the day would end with him pulling on the coveted yellow jersey. His race preparations had gone to plan and he knew every corner of the TT course. But instead of the win he had been working for, Stefan crashed twice on the rain-soaked roads and finished the stage in 98th place.

Ahead of Tour de France: Unchained, the new Netflix documentary series about last summer’s Tour de France, Stefan opened up about how he overcame the disappointment he experienced at the Tour and the ups and downs he’s had since then. Read on to hear from our Swiss ace.

Did the Tour de France last year go as you had hoped?

I think the whole Tour de France was more or less a big disappointment for me. I had a really good chance on the first day, which was a time trial, to take the leader’s jersey but because of the rain, I had no grip on the corners or on the straights and no braking power. I crashed two times. It was really disappointing because when you look at the power file and the numbers afterwards, it could also have been the win if I’d stayed upright so that’s a big disappointment. Magnus’s stage win was really nice to have. It was a big pick up.

How did you deal with the disappointment?

For me you can’t change anything so you just have to live on. The next day, the next race, the next chance. You can’t start to think negatively like this because it doesn't help you to get too much into depressing kinds of stuff. New day, new goal.

What happened with the rest of your 2022 season?

The European time trial championships were obviously pretty good with the win but the rest of the season was not like I’d expected. Also at the world championships, I was not on the same level I was two weeks before for the European championships, so that was a bit disappointing but you always learn from it. The world championships were the main focus but for sure I wanted to do well at the European championships. You still want to win so I also gave it a proper go for that with my eyes on the world time trial championships later. It went quite well at the European championships. I wasn’t super good on the day but it was enough. Then afterwards in training I kind of lost it. I don’t know if I overtrained a little bit. I struggled a bit with motivation afterwards, just to dig deep every ride and go again and again because we really did a lot on the TT bike. Probably it was too much. It cracked me a bit. We learned from that to not do so much on the TT bike before these events because it’s just too much mental stress. But winning the European time trial championships, it’s a really nice race. Not everybody can say they were the European champion so it’s always nice. Nobody can take it away. It will always stay with you. You’ll always have this jersey at home and you can look at it and realize all over again what you actually did. That’s nice. In a way it makes up for the season’s disappointments. Not quite as much as a yellow jersey at the Tour but it’s nice.

You were focused on the individual time trial at the Wollongong world championships, but you won a medal in the mixed team time trial. Was that a mix of emotions for you?

It’s always nice to win as a team. I might even like it more than winning alone because if you win alone, it’s just you and the people that are super close to you that are happy but to win as a team, the whole team, it’s kind of emotional and you get really hyped about it. You really feel like we did it as a team and that also includes the staff. With the mixed relay, I really like it. It’s also really hard to win because everything needs to work out, both with the men who started first and also with the women who took off really well. It’s not easy to pull this off.

After nine months of racing, how did you enjoy your offseason?

My wife and I went to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, the islands off of Portugal. We actually went hiking. We had a pretty active holiday. We enjoyed it. For me, hiking is more of an offseason thing. Also during my injury that I sustained just a few weeks ago, a broken wrist, I walked a lot and that was nice. I don’t mind but normally in the season when I’m preparing with the road bike, I don’t walk because I can’t handle the pain in the legs. It gives me a muscle ache. In the offseason it’s just fine. After that we did a little trip in Italy. Five days, five cities and that was really cool. In the Azores we walked a lot so we burned a lot of calories and then in Italy we put them all back in.

How did your 2023 season get started?

The year’s start was pretty good, just how we expected. I didn’t train to be one hundred percent at the start of January. I was always supposed to be there to help Neilson and the guys and to use that racing to get into better shape. The big goal was always Paris-Roubaix. It was really nice to see how I progressed during this period. I really progressed very well so I had big expectations for the races to come. Everything was going in the right direction until I hit the ground and broke my wrist in Dwars Door Vlaanderen. Everything was going fine that day and then it was a moment of pushing a little bit too much. We were on winding roads, fighting for position, and the guys in front of me nearly crashed so I got pushed to the back. We went on the smaller roads and I knew it was a part where you had to be in position so I took too much of a risk and went on the side. As soon as I was alongside another rider, his knee hit my handlebar and that just pushed me off the road. It went so fast. I was just on the ground. Actually, I’d never crashed that fast. Not even the speed at which the crash happened but the moment of the crash itself. I think my front wheel went off the road and it caught just on the edge so it just went. There’s nothing you can do in a situation like that. I sat up on the ground and felt immediately that something was really wrong with my wrist. Then I went to the hospital and we had x-rays to check and it was a fracture so I went home to Switzerland to do a proper check and have surgery. It was obviously a big, big disappointment because it was just before Flanders and Roubaix. We didn’t have big expectations for me with Flanders because the race is too hard for me, too much climbing, but I would have been there to help Neilson. With Roubaix, I would have come in as the leader and I would have tried to get a result. I’m really convinced I could have stayed with the front group there. I actually watched both of those races on TV because it was such entertaining racing. With Roubaix, it was basically from kilometer zero that I started watching. I also had nothing to do with a broken wrist. Nothing! So I was sitting at home and watching the race. I was really rooting for the guys.

How did you respond to this disappointment?

It’s frustrating and you’re angry but you also have to move on. It’s kind of both. You take time to actually accept it to close that chapter. I had to write it off. You can’t train or anything any more. You lose your fitness. You’re at home. You can’t train. What else do you want to do? If you sit at home and cry, it doesn’t help you. Just get on with it, focus on new things and enjoy life a bit.

How is your wrist now?

It’s really good. It’s really good. I had surgery eight or nine weeks ago. I think the fact that I had surgery made it a lot better so I could start to move quickly. Straight after surgery, I could move the hand, get the wrist turning, and get the movement back really fast. Three weeks after surgery I had 95 to 98 percent of movement back. After that, the only restriction was to not grab anything heavy. I wore a bandage most of the time. I wasn’t allowed to do push ups or pull ups or anything using your hand like that but I could use it for cooking and normal things. Six weeks after surgery, I was cleared to do whatever I wanted to do so I was super happy. As soon as I was allowed, I went straight on the bike for four hours. I didn’t feel anything bad, no pain at all. I kept on training and I put some big hours in my first week on the bike. The longest ride was over eight hours. It was a nice loop with a friend. When I did that, I didn’t have any troubles at all. It’s just perfect. It’s been three or four weeks now of a normal training schedule. During this initial period with my broken wrist, I was on the rollers and I was hiking a lot so I basically got the hours in. When I got back on the road bike, the shape I was in was better than expected. Now that I’ve been back on the bike, we’re pretty optimistic for the Tour de Suisse that things could go well and that would be winning stage one. Sunday is the time trial, it’s the opening time trial. I’m excited. Racing at home is always incredible. The last two days are in my training region. The second last day finishes three kilometers from where I was raised and lived for most of my life so it’s amazing just to be able to race and to do it in Switzerland as well. And with two time trials, it’s a really nice course and I’m looking forward to it and hoping for the best. With the staff and my teammates, the last time I saw them was right after I broke my wrist and I was not in a really good mood so it’s nice to get back and enjoy life.

What are your goals for 2023?

The world championships, obviously. The TT worlds are a big objective. I’m looking forward to that. We’re going to try everything and hopefully get at least on the podium this time. Before then, the plan is the Vuelta which will be my first time at the Vuelta so that’s pretty exciting. And I’ll finish things off with China. In between I have the Tour of Poland as well. We are pretty optimistic that I’ll have a little bit more in the tank than others because of the break I had to take. I’m looking forward to it.

Can you tell us about your big news off the bike?

I’m a father now. Soon my son will be six weeks old, little Oliver. I could have changed diapers right away with my wrist but my wife was happy to do it so…This experience is good, it’s special. You always have to think of someone else. You don’t just go out as a couple for dinner, you always have somebody with you. We are really lucky. He doesn’t cry a lot. He lets us sleep during the night. He just wakes up once a night to feed and have a diaper change and the rest of the night he sleeps. We are super happy and we can’t complain! Whenever we go out, he always sleeps so we can actually do a lot of things without any troubles or worrying that he’s just crying all the time like other babies do. We’re super happy.

Share this story

Related Stories