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Five Minutes With... Ana Orenz

Five Minutes With... Ana Orenz

20 October, 2022

Nicky Shaw

By: Nicky Shaw

With a mountain goat prowess, Ana focussed on hill-climb racing in 2018, achieving sixth place at the UK National Hill Climb Champs. Later that year, she returned to ultras with the Race Across France finishing as first woman. The following year, she dominated the women's category in both the Trans-Pyrenees and Paris-Brest-Paris, placing as first woman in the 1,200km Audax in a field of thousands!

In 2021 she suffered a devastating crash while racing the 3500km Transiberica Ultra Race, colliding with a wild boar while descending at full speed. Her recovery is ongoing, but we know from her past endeavours that she has incredible strength of mind to keep fighting and making the best of the situation.

She lives in the Cantabria region of Northern Spain with her daughter Ruby.

1. In 2020 you relocated from the UK to Spain. The area in which you live is incredible for cycling; tell us about your favourite local loop and perfect mid-ride snack.

The truth is all my local routes are my favorite routes. Cantabria has been somewhat detrimental to my vagabond spirit, as I don't want to leave and keep wanting to come back here no matter where I go. There is such a vast variety of different routes and landscapes to explore in this basically infinitive province, that it's hard not to fall utterly in love with it. Best routes: Los 10000 del Soplao and La Cantabrona. Both sportive routes feature all the epic climbs of the area. Best snacks: La Capitana in Valle de Villaverde.

2. At some point before you became a bad-ass ultra cyclist you made the transition from horses to bikes. What are the similarities and differences between horses and bikes?

Similarities: Ultracylcists eat and train like racehorses plus neither quite knows when to stop. Dissimilarities: Bikes might break your bones but not your heart, horses break both.

Photo credit: Charlotte Gamus, 2VS 2020

3. In 2021 you had a horrific cycling crash, colliding with a wild boar at high speed while racing the Transiberica. How has the incident altered your view of free route ultra races, and what could be done to make them safer?

I would love to see more information on good insurance for ultra events and also reinforcement on taking out the correct cover. To all participants: Check if unsupported events are covered under your insurance policy, as well as repatriation, dental cover and always go for maximum cover available, you won´t regret taking it out but surely will regret it when you haven't... There are a lot of grey areas that need to be addressed to keep things safe for participants, after all most of us are normal people who work for a living and might even have to support a family.

An upgrade to trackers with a panic button and perhaps a sleep button might be useful, perhaps in combination with some designated dotwatchers put in place by the event. Of course we are all responsible for our own actions but as the technology is there, why not also try and look out for each other a bit ?

Photo credit: Charlotte Gamus, 2VS 2020

4. Since the accident you have defied the odds and made an incredible return to ultra cycling. However the road to recovery is still long and arduous; what words of wisdom would you impart to others who might have to go through significant injuries?

I am far from back to my old self and at times I have even started to forget who I was before the accident. There are no wise words, the only thing that springs to my mind is to not ever be afraid to listen to the inner voice. If something feels right, go for it. The body and mind have the power to heal, but only you know best what will work and need to fight for it. Trust this process more than anything or anyone else. With Spinal Cord Injury there is always a lot of damage that will remain permanently. So all you can do is try. It's like falling, failing and getting up again repeated endlessly. It might not heal you, but at least it will keep you busy and stop you from giving up on yourself.

5. You have a month free for a cycling adventure starting tomorrow, where do you go and what do you take?

I would take Ruby, my teenage daughter and keep riding south to escape the winter. I most likely would regret it after the first 10k, as she can be even more stubborn and annoying than me, but I know we still would have the best time (at least until she eats my snacks).