Jennie Stenerhag

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End of a cycling career - thoughts about motivation


It has been a while since I have updated my website and during this time I have retired as a professional cyclist. It feels a little strange to write this statement, but at the same time it feels incredibly nice! Lately I have struggled with motivation, I tried to find it and at times I told myself it was there but in all honesty it wasn't. And if there's anything I've learned during my 19 years as an elite cyclist, it's that your true inner motivation makes it fun to compete and this is the basis of all success! It must come from deep within, be honest and cannot be forced. I have really seen the difference.

When I started cycling, I had an incredibly strong feeling that this was my life, and this was for me! My first years as a cyclist did not go according to plan at all, I fractured my spine the first year and completely overtrained the second year. At the same time, I had such incredible motivation and drive, which today I find difficult to understand! During my third year e.g. I went to New Zealand to participate in a Road World Cup race, I had never competed outside of Sweden or South Africa for that fact! Why would I go all the way to NZ and do at a World Cup!!!? And being so new to racing. I brought this up last week, with my big support pillar in cycling, Åsa Mattsson, my mental coach,and who also helped me with my physical training. Without her I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did! She said, I was so determined she couldn't talk to me then in 2006, I bought the most expensive plane ticket of my life because I was so determined to go there!! I never waited for things to happen, I made them happen.

This drive and inner motivation, combined with the fact that I found training and racing to be the most fun there is, did so that it never felt like I sacrificed anything and I have had a long and successful career on the bike! It has been fraught with a few accidents and setbacks along the way, but I've always made it back to what I thought was the most fun thing to do in the world. There was nothing I would rather do, and it resulted in 767 race starts around the world. Nothing felt hard, just fun. When others said that every training session is not fun, I didn't understand what they meant, I thought every session was motivating! It wasn't a job and a must, it was a hobby and I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to do it full time!

Then eventually came that time when it wasn't fun anymore and like I said, you can't force it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cycling!!! And I will continue to do so, hopefully, for the rest of my life! But I have lost the motivation and joy in competing and my business is starting to feel more motivating, challenging and exciting to develop. This has probably been a gradual process and, to be completely honest, it started with the Cape Epic being cancelled in 2020.


You, have to go back a long way to see the whole background to this. 2017 was my dream year, Esther Suss and I won 4 big international stage races together, I think I had 37 wins that year (counting stages + one day races) etc, it was a dream! In 2018, of course, I wanted to repeat this but tore 2 out of 3 muscles in my hamstring so that year was gone (I still managed to win the Swedish XCM champs though;) ) 2019 was a year to come back and it was a bit difficult, but I won a bronze medal at European XCM Champs and this result gave me so much motivation and I did my hardest effort ever to win the Epic again in 2020, the goal was also a World Championships medal in Turkey. It would also be my last year as an elite cyclist as I felt that the company was starting to take a lot of time and I was 45 years old. I enjoyed my last venture with my partner Nadine Rieder. We had that unusual but 100% calm and confident feeling (it doesn't come around often) that we would be on top of the podium at the Cape Epic! So, when it was less than 48 hours until the start and the competition was cancelled, I lost something....


We had lockdown in South Africa, during the Covid 19 pandemic. We were not allowed outside for  9 weeks, and sitting on a trainer has never been my thing, I questioned why I’m doing it, there might not be any competitions anyway. I think there and then my deep inner motivation disappeared. I had a really hard time feeling the joy in training in 2020 and the World champs in Turkey was a real disappointment. I didn't really want to end it this way and knew that it would be the World champs in Denmark in 2022 and it felt like a good goal and like a good end to the career instead.

I'm glad that I followed through on my plan, although it may have been a bit too long in some ways. I didn't find the true motivation in 2021 either when races were cancelled again, and I almost started to panic when it came towards the end of the season and races started to happen. I managed to get in good shape for the Swedish XCM champs and Cykelvasan and am incredibly proud that I managed to win these during 4 great days in August! The Cape Epic was a pure struggle and I started to get very strong feelings that I didn't really want this anymore.

In 2022 I tried everything I could to find the motivation and joy, I thought it was so incredibly fun to go to the races again and meeting all the happy cyclists, it's something I really love and thanks to my company, Right for Bike I will continue to be out at the races and meet people!! But the drive in the competitions was not there. Every competition became an inner confirmation that my decision was right! Considering that my personal worst came at the Swedish, Euro and World champs and Cykelvasan this year and that I only competed in 11 races (compared to 70 the year I did the most races and around 50 has always been "normal" per year) that says a lot! I am of course very proud that I still managed to win 3 races as well as the overall in the Swedish XCM series. Many have said that I will surely compete again, but to be completely honest, I don't think so.

I feel done with racing and I'm happy that I've stopped because I want to, not being forced to because of an injury or lack of sponsors or family situation or anything else, but simply because I'm done with that particular chapter and now, I'm passionate about the next one! It's been 2 weeks since the World champs in Denmark and I've thought that cycling has been so much fun again!!! I wish and hope that I will be like my parents who still cycle a lot at the age of 74 and 76!

I look back on the 19-year long career and am proud of my results. The highlights have of course been the win in the Cape Epic and the Euro XCM medals (silver in 2016 and bronze in 2019), the 8 Swedish XCM champs titles and 5 wins in the Cykelvasan are of course also up there! Perhaps not many people know that I also won the Swedish National Championship on the road once, in 2009:)

If you are interested in hearing more about my career, please get in touch! I gave 2 lectures on this in the spring of 2022 and would be happy to do more, it's always fun to share the experience!




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