Five Minutes With... Jasmijn Muller

Five Minutes With... Jasmijn Muller

15 April, 2023

Growing up in the Netherlands, Jasmijn grew up with the bike as a daily part of life, riding to school and elsewhere like a lot of other Dutch kids. She didn't pick up cycling as a serious sport until in her early 30s and living in the UK. Initially Jasmijn's focus was on time trials, becoming the national and world 24-hour time trial champion. She has also set the Zwift static bike distance record alongside numerous other long distance endurance events such as London-Edinburgh-London, Paris-Brest-Paris, and a double attempt at the LEJOG record.

Over the past few years Jasmijn has been partaking in multi-day unsupported ultra endurance events and races, the most recent of which was NorthCape-Tarifa in 2022; 7400km from the most northerly to the most southerly tip of Europe. She also shares her love for cycling through voluntary and charitable work, for instance co-directing the endurance event Pure Peak Grit in 2022. Jasmijn has made a significiant mark on the ultra distance cycling scene, and now works to impart her knowledge to others through her coaching business - Be The Egg Cycle Coaching.

1. You've recently moved to the green pastures of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. How has this lifestyle change been, and has your riding changed as a result?

After 13 years in London - where my mid-week training was nearly all done on the turbo or riding laps of Richmond Park - exploring new roads, lanes and trails in Wales feels like being a kid, discovering and falling in love with cycling all over again. The Brecon Beacons is paradise if you love your outdoor sports. I can hike up Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big all starting from our garden. During my road rides I see more sheep than cars. The riding is beautiful, but rarely flat, I am really spoilt for choice when it comes to hills now.

I also ride more off-road since moving here and love how I can just pop out for a lunch-time gravel loop around Talybont and Pontsticill reservoirs, although I still need to dare myself to brave the Gap loop on my hardtail. Building up new social networks takes time though and being away all summer last year did not really help that. I have started riding with Cardiff School of Rocks a few times and hope to ride more with the local cycling club in Brecon once injuries to my knee and hand have improved. Once a week I travel to Cardiff for lectures for my MSc in Sport Physiology, which also gives accesss to bigger cycling clubs, better dentists, physios, etc or fancy restaurants and any other big-city withdrawal cravings.

2. In 2022 you completed North Cape - Tarifa, a 7400km unsupported bike adventure across Europe. As an experienced athlete, were there any unexpected lessons learned along the way which you'd implement for future ultras?

Riding the length of Europe all the way from the most nothern tip of Norway to the southernmost tip of Spain last summer, simply was THE most amazing cycling experience. As expected I learned more from Europe's longest ultra, than from the shorter ultra races of up to 2,000km I had done previously.

Patience is probably the number one lesson I learned. An injury to my hand after I crashed in the north of Spain meant that could not ride for a week as I could not use my brakes. Albeit much later than targetted, I DID make it to Tarifa in the end with the added benefit of having enjoyed a little hiking and reflecting holiday in Spain. It made me realise that I enjoy being in 'race-mode' for up to 4,000km or so and really crave touring after that. North Cape - Tarifa taught me that there is little point trying to outsprint dogs; just get off your bike and walk for a bit, a lesson that ironically has come in handy more often since being back here in Wales than riding the length of Europe! Finally, never put your shoes in the sauna (a mistake I never would have made if the mosquitoes had not liked me so much and I had simply bivvied in Norway & Finland)... and Shimano sandals absolutely rule!, even more so if I glue an insole with arch support in next time. And if I may add one more useful trick: if your brain is used to the little kick of caffeine chewing gum, even normal chewing gum has a nice placebo effect once you run out of the good stuff.

3. Over the past few years you've built up credentials as a cycling coach, making the transition to doing this full time. How has this development affected your own goals, either from a cycling or coach business point of view?

For the first few years I ran my cycle coaching business on a part-time basis whilst also working part-time as a management consultant. Partly because of the added financial security in those early days, partly because I actually really loved my job and thought I needed the mental stimulance of the variety of people, tasks and subjects. But with less A-Z involvement in my management consulting projects, I felt increasingly like an overpaid researcher and the job no longer gave me the same satisfaction or joy. At the same time, my cycling coaching business had grown from strength to strength. Taking the business full-time felt like the right thing to give my clients the best of me. Financially it was now possible, which also tied in nicely with moving out to rural Wales.

I've decided to invest more in my skills and knowledge as a coach and go back to university to study for a MSc in Sport Science, with a specialisation in Physiology. The studies go nicely hand-in-hand with my coaching. It gives me that endless mental stimulance that I crave, whilst enriching my coaching at the same time. I don't know yet where it may lead to next. A PhD ? Expanding my coaching business with more physiological/fitness testing services? Following through with my ambitions to write a book? It has certainly confirmed that you are never too old to make a change or to learn more.

As for my own cycling goals, they have become a bit scuppered by a 6-month struggle with a Bakers cyst and painful osteoarthritis in my left knee which have led to soul-searching moments and rethinking movement with Pilates classes and physio exercises. I hope to have turned a corner now. For now my goals are reduced to simply 'moving without pain'. I hope to enjoy at least 1 shorter ultra race this summer, likely relying on sleeping in commercial accommodation to lighten the load on my knee. Shorter races are also less disruptive to business. I do however continue to dream of a bigger adventure again in a few years when I may have expanded my business by bringing in other coaches perhaps.

4. Alongside ultra coach Niel Copeland, you have recently launched Dotbooster - a unique and comprehensive training camp for aspiring ultra racers. Tell us a little about the motivation behind creating this, and what to expect from it?

For the past 3 years I have run a weekend cycling trip for 'bivvy-curious' women, introducing them to the world of bikepacking in a friendly environment. But there are so many similar initiatives now and I fancied a change, whilst also doing something for a wider audience.

The idea of running a training camp specifically for ultra cyclists had been in the back of my mind for a while. It struck me that no such thing existed yet and that whilst the number of ultra races on the calendar is absolutely booming, the DNF rate in our niche also continues to be fairly high. From personal racing and coaching experience, I know how much time, cost and energy we put into these races. How disappointing it can be when you don't succeed, but also how much more can go wrong, the longer and more remote the races are. Whilst some enjoy the process of trial and error, there is a limit to how much you can learn from reading blogs. By learning hands-on from experienced coaches and with other racers, I am confident we can short-cut that trial and error process, leading to better race results and more riders at the finishers' party!

So I contacted Niel to create and co-deliver 'DotBooster' a training camp for experienced, rookie and aspiring ultra racers. Unlike many other coaches who may have a few ultra racers on their books, Niel and I both really specialise in this area. Between us we have raced and coached many of the most popular races. We have complementary skills and a similar ethos of leaving no stone unturned. The concept is a week-long experience, set in Wales.

The camp has a lot of in-built flexibility. You can bring your MTB, gravel or road bike. You decide how long, far or fast you want to ride each day, be that on or off-road or a mix. We'll supply you with a few routes, but ideally you embrace the route planning skills we will teach you. It is much more than simply 'eat, ride, sleep'. There are daily group workshops in areas such as route planning, roadside repairs, nutrition, training principles, physiology, adjusting bike fit for ultra, pre-hab stretches and exercises to avoid potentially race ended niggles and injuries, mental skills etc. Dotbooster is a unique and comprehensive learning experience, getting you ready for your races in a friendly environment, whilst benefitting from unparalleled knowledge and experience.

Dotbooster runs from the 20th - 27th May, and deadline for entries closes on the 30th April. You can find out more about this incredible experience and sign up here!