First, Last, & Best: Mona Mitterwallner

Photos: Salva Moreno

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In her short cycling career, Mona Mitterwallner has figured out how to have fun and win. At just 19 years old, she is only just beginning.

Mona Mitterwallner has a fire inside her that is fueled by a passion and drive to be the best in the world. In 2021 , she won just about every major XC race. Mona capped off her season with a win in Elba, Italy — claiming her throne as the undisputed champion of the MTB Marathon World Championships. Humble off the bike, Mitterwallner is a force to be reckoned with when she clips in and locks her vision onto the trail ahead, a view scarcely obstructed by a rival thus making her a perfect fit for the (Cannondale) team. Mona, let us be the first to say; WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!

Mona Welcome

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First

When was the first time you rode a bike?
The first time I rode a bike was six years ago. My dad was a former downhiller and he asked me ‘do you want to join for a mountain bike ride’ It was during the easter holidays I was like, “ok let’s try!” After that, I wanted to ride my bike every single day. Sooner or later my dad said, ‘That’s fine, but I’m tired, so we have to phone a cycling team or something like that,’ and then everything went very fast from there.

What was your first bike?
I don’t really remember the brand because my dad brought it home. He came home from work, and he just brought this bike that was hardtail 26. For me it wasn’t important which bike I rode, I just wanted to ride! I don’t really remember the brand, but I will always remember that it was a special bike for me because it showed me my passion.


When was your first bike race?
So, my first bike race was five years ago. It was in Italy. It was a really special moment because I finished second in the sprint finish. I was first and the other girl, in the corner she cut me off, and I got second by just a second. From there, the fire was on.

Can you remember the first time you thought, ‘riding a bike is going to be a big part of my life’?
I think it was at the first race, because the fire was really on. Before that first race, I loved to ride my bike, but I didn’t want to spend too much time traveling. But this race feeling, I got it in the first moment, and I knew I wanted to race every single weekend!

When was the first time you were genuinely lost on a bike ride?
That was also five years ago, 2017 because after school I decided I wanted to do a bigger bike ride. So, I started on one, but then it started to become dark. I was lost in the forest. I was completely lost, and it was in the wintertime, and it was pretty cold. My smart phone switched off. I couldn’t phone someone or look at the map where I am and it was crazy and I came home in the darkness and my parents they were so, so angry. But I’ll remember this day for my whole life, I guess.

What’s the first thing you grab when you go for a bike ride?
Actually, my bike I think — because that’s all I need for a good bike ride.

What was your very first big trip with your bike?
Ok my very first bike trip with my bike was to Timmelsjoch pass, in Austria. It’s about 3,000 meters of climbing in 100 kilometers. But it was pretty big in my first season as a bike rider, and I was out the whole day and pretty hungry and tired when I came home.

Who was your first cycling hero?
Oh, that’s difficult because I came into the sport pretty late. There were a lot of heroes I looked up to and I was racing against them already. I think Mathieu van der Poel, I think it was quite impressive that he won in three different disciplines, so I really like that.

Last

What was your last race?
I mean, I planned the season, and my plan was to finish it in Elba with the Marathon World Champs. But I think it was my real last race because after that I had done a fun race, but I didn’t really prepare so it wasn’t really a race. So, that was my last race, Marathon World Champs. And it was quite a good race to end the season with the rainbow stripes again. I impressed myself with my mental strength. I really overcame my limits.

What’s your last meal prior to a big day on a bike?
In the evening before I like to make a self-made pizza made of spelt flour and a lot of vegetables, cashew nuts. In the morning I need a big pot of oatmeal with banana and then I’m ready to go.

When was the last time you rode somewhere completely new and surprising?
Uhm, that’s difficult…I think that was actually in Elba, Oh no! It wasn’t in Elba! It was in my home in Austria. A friend said we are going to the Servine, which is a valley in Tyrol. I said “ok.” I know everywhere, everyplace to go and he said ‘no, I found a new way,’ and it was so impressive. He showed me a new path. We rode one hour up and up and up, then we were on the top and the view was stunning. That was the last time in a new place.

Best

What was your best time on a bike?
I think I mean there are good bike rides, there are bad bike rides. I think the best, there is not one best because the best is always in the flow and that can happen in training, that can happen in racing – you just shut out everything else, you focus and you just feel your heartbeat, your legs, legs burning, you hear yourself breathing and you don’t think of anything else than riding.

What was your best bike race, or event?
I think it has to be Elba because the Marathon World Champs. Of course, I’m a cross-country rider and I love to ride cross-country but when you try out something new then you try it at marathon World Champs, and it works out then it’s pretty cool feeling because you have to really overcome your limits and yourself. At this race I had to do that because I wasn’t experienced with the tactics, with the nutrition during racing and all surprisingly worked out. And this feeling, overcoming my limits that’s what I’m looking for every day.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever been on?
That’s difficult, I think it was pretty cool when the first time I went to lake Garda in Italy. It was five years ago and there was everything new for me and then I went to lake Garda and my dad showed me the mountains, we went up to the top and around the Mountain. I have such good memories of those days because every day we tried different trails and a different way up.

Who, in your opinion, is the best bike rider ever?
Hmmm, that’s difficult because I think in every discipline there are big legends.

What’s the best bike you have ever owned?
That’s easy, I just tried out my new Cannondale bikes, with the Scalpel.

What would be the best advice you would give a younger version of you?
I would tell my younger self the same as I would tell myself right now because I’ve still not learned it…in life you have to trust in your decisions and even if sometimes it seems like it was the wrong decision or it seems like oh, I’ve made a mistake. In the end there is a way for you, and you have to go this way and it will lead you to the point where I am now and I’m at a really good point in my life right now. So, just trust in yourself, in your future and the way that is there for you.

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