Five Minutes With... Hannah Ghazi-Idrissi

Five Minutes With... Hannah Ghazi-Idrissi

7 July, 2023

Hannah is an ultra-distance cyclist that joined the ultra-distance cycling world in 2022 with one of the hardest road races out there, the Three Peaks Bike Race, a free route ultra with 4 mountain passes as the parcours. She tackled this race heroically but really captured the dotwatching world's attention at the start of this year winning the inaugural Unknown Race. As the fastest woman, she had a blisteringly pacey race whilst defeating the challenging new checkpoint concept. We caught up with Hannah to talk about all things racing and learn more about her ultra-mindset. Make sure you keep an eye out for her this weekend at 2023's Three Peaks Bike Race.

Featured photo by Victor Eklund

1. The Three Peaks Bike Race 2022

The Three Peaks Bike Race is a notoriously punchy race, with some of the biggest climbs in Europe on the roster, what made this your first race choice?

To be honest, I didn’t know there were other ultra races. I found out about the race from the film Three Peaks and in between. I thought I’d like to know if I can do it too. After registering for the race, I discovered there might be more suitable first ultra races.

But it’s typical for me to tackle the toughest challenge first when I begin a new thing!

Photo Jacob Kopecky

2. The Unknown Race No1

You recently finished the Unknown Race as 1st woman. Could you tell us about how you found this format compared to the Three Peaks Bike Race?

The Unknown Race is special with the first checkpoint being revealed an hour before the start, and the following checkpoint locations are given when you reach the one before.

We had absolutely no idea in which direction we would be heading, whether we would have to expect snow or the Mediterranean Sea. The organisers were keen that no one had any idea, we didn’t even know that we had to reach a third checkpoint as actually only two were announced. It was nerve-wracking and exciting, all race long for the riders but also for dot-watchers – Even my mom and grandma were guessing where we would go.

In contrast to the 3Peaks, where you knew all the Checkpoints and could plan the entire route in advance. I knew exactly what to expect and could optimise my set-up and the track. But for some people that also seems to invite breaking the rules (booking a hotel, sending packs to a hotel, etc). That’s what I appreciated the most about the format of the Unknown Race, no one could cheat, and everyone had the same conditions.

And of course, the Unknown Race (~1000 km) was much shorter than the 3 Peaks (~2300km), it was more “racey” and exciting as everyone was closer together and changes in the ranking happened frequently.

Photo by Victor Eklund

3. Planning for The Unknown Race

What was your plan for the Unknown Race? A lot of people are keen to hear how you'd mentally and physically prepare for such an Unknown Adventure!

I had no real strategy for the race itself. Normally, I want to be as prepared as possible. But for the Unknown Race choosing the right set-up with the equipment for all conditions was quite a challenge. I checked various open mountain passes around Lyon, looked at the weather forecasts, and prepared for the worst; temperatures below zero & rain.

I get cold very quickly, so it’s essential for me to always be warm enough – but I easily tolerate warm temperatures (That’s why I wore bib tights and planned to take off my long-sleeve jersey and ride in a Merino shirt when it gets warm). Like that, I saved a lot of energy and power and was never stopped from riding by the weather conditions.

Physically, I was not as well prepared as I wanted to be. The race took place at the beginning of April, which is early in the season, and I expected that I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of outdoor cycling before. So, I spent some time in January on holiday gravel riding. I tried to keep my fitness level up with Ski touring, swimming, running, and some (short) indoor cycling sessions. And I did 10 minutes of core training every day, I think my back thanked me a lot for that.

During the race, I used Komoot and Strava and opted for the flattest route. Otherwise, I just tried to have as little stopped time as possible, but as many breaks as necessary including 4-5 hours of sleep – which was the game-changer for me (cycling is much more fun when you’re not completely exhausted!).

Photo by Victor Eklund

4. Seven Serpents

At Seven Serpents, you were forced to make the difficult decision to scratch. During a race it's important to look after ourselves and often that means making difficult choices. Can you tell us a bit about what occurred and how you're doing now?

At the Seven Serpents' start, I knew this might happen. Since the Unknown Race (5 weeks prior) I had knee problems and hadn’t been on the bike a lot. Also, just a few days before the start, I crashed, hurt my left knee, and broke my nose. So, I wasn’t in the greatest condition.

At the start and for the first 500km I felt great, had no problems, and was in good spirits that everything healed properly. But unfortunately, on day 4 at 3 am in the morning (on my way to catch the first ferry to the mainland) on a gravel section, I missed a step on the path and fell on that left knee.

First, I thought it was nothing and went on to the ferry. But my knee and hip started to hurt, and I realised that it would have to last for more than 300k with 6000m of elevation gain. So I decided to stop and not risk getting inflammation in my knee and hurting my body even more. Now, some weeks later, I’m still totally behind that decision, I’m so glad that I can take advantage of the good weather now and am looking forward to a long pain-free season with a few more races.

Photo by

5. Three Peaks Bike Race 2023

You're heading back to the Three Peaks Bike Race for your second time. Can you tell us how your strategy has changed and what your process for Free-Route planning is?

The biggest difference to last year's Three Peaks Bike Race is that I have a strategy at all. With all the experiences I have made since my last attempt, I know myself much better and figured out what I should eat and drink, which music to hear, and mind games to play to have fun on the bike for a long time. I plan to keep my sleep rhythm like in Unknown Race with 4-5 hours per night, that way I can ride much fast, minimise the stopping time during the day, and can enjoy the journey. I also adjusted my set-up, it will be more lightweight with a reduced sleeping set-up but more warm clothes (especially rain gear – since the Seven Serpents I would never leave without a rain jacket with a hood).

Actually, I love Free-Route races, I can spend hours planning the tracks and love to find little shortcuts and to know where I will go and what to expect. Usually, I plan with komoot and double-check with strava and google maps. This year I couldn’t put much time into it, but I’m confident I’ve found a good route to Barcelona. Since the Unknown Race I am relatively relaxed about route planning.

Photo by Jacob Kopecky

6. What's Next?

Apart from the Three Peaks Bike Race, what is next on the agenda?

After the 3Peaks I will celebrate my graduation from med school with some weeks of easy bike-packing back home to Innsbruck and give my body a little rest. Then I will switch back to the gravel bike for the Bohemian Border Bash race at the beginning of September and end the season with the Komoot Women’s Rally in Slovenia (I’m so hyped for this!). I hope after all these adventures I will be exhausted and fulfilled enough to start my professional career.

Photo by

7. Quick question, what is your favourite ride snack?


Photo by Moritz Kreilinger