Last weekend, Union team rider Oli Zwar earned a career best World Cup finish, grabbing 8th place at the Vallnord World Cup. We caught up with him to chat about his weekend, the fresh track, and what’s on his horizon.

Crankbrothers: Fresh off of Lenzerheide and a big road trip, what's it like jumping into the second leg of a two-week world cup block?

Oli Zwar: It's a lot less stressful these days than it used to be before! It makes life easier having a team that can help out, and having a mechanic changing tires and getting things ready makes a huge difference, but you feel quite exhausted after the dust has settled.

CB: From stolen bikes to big qualifying crashes and now getting career-best results, you've had quite the up and down start to the year; how are you managing it all?

OZ: Yeah, its definitely been up and down. The start of the season was a huge challenge on and off the bike. Even though its been rough, I've had the speed which is comforting, so I knew once all of the stars aligned, it was going to be a good opportunity for a good result.

CB: How did your week go adapting to the new track? Does your process for the week change a lot with a new track?

OZ: I personally like new tracks, a level playing field for all. I'm still quite new to the tracks in Europe compared to someone else my age, so I welcome new tracks. It doesn't really change from other venues, but it usually starts with a lot of visualization after track walk, GoPro runs, and more visualization

CB: The dust was the talk of the week; do you feel comfy in those conditions?

OZ: That's a hard one. A lot of people say these would be similar conditions to back home, but tracks never quite get to those conditions. It was such a loose and skatey surface. You were fighting on the edge of traction the whole way down, feels quite similar to wet weather riding personally.

CB: With times so tight, can you play it safe in qualifying these days, or is it basically just another race run?

OZ: Times are crazy tight this year; you've gotta push in qualifying to even make the cut. You've just gotta push; there's no playing safe for me.

CB: How did your race run go? And how did you find 6 seconds from qualifying?!

OZ: Smooth, it was super smooth, and I worked out a few spots I would be able to open up the brakes and let the speed go, and it seemed to work.

CB: What was it like sitting in the hot seat for so long and seeing your time hold against so many riders?

OZ: It was a sick feeling. Not often do I get to do that since the level is so high. Got a little sunburnt haha.

CB: Coming off this top 10 finish, does it change your mindset for this second half of the season?

OZ: Nah, not really. I'm not in the mindset I need a top 10 every race, but now I know it's possible, it gives me some self-belief. Just want to keep riding smooth and doing my thing.

CB: And is there anything that this result revealed that you can carry on into the next races? A different warm-up, a plan for practice, things like that.

OZ: I think more just believing in my weekend routine, it's hard because all these top guys have been doing it for so many years, and it's easy to get stuck watching what they're doing and start doing that when it doesn't work for you. Again just believing in myself is the biggest takeaway from the weekend.

CB: What's next for you? A mid-season break or just right back to the grind?

OZ: Taking a few days of recovery before heading to Snowshoe. Benny just mentioned 5 races in 6 weeks so she's going to be full on! Really looking forward to the next few races. I've had some good results at the next tracks, and I'm really excited to get back there and get riding!

Round #6 in Snowshoe, WV, USA is right around the corner! Be sure to watch Oli, and the rest of the Join The Union crew, live on Red Bull TV.

Images // Sven Martin

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