The Hope 1000 was the first race off the back of the global Coronavirus pandemic. As countries began to relax restrictions, ultra-distance racing came to life again. After his win and new course record, we managed to spend a few minutes with Jochen Böhringer to chat to him about his journey across the Swiss Alps.
How did you get into MTB racing and eventually into ultra-distance racing?
My first experience with bicycle races as a teenager was at the age of 15. I trained in a local bike club and joined a few MTB cross country races each year. During this time, I laid the foundation for quite solid off-road skills on the bike. Unfortunately during my studies and early professional career, sports in general became a low priority for me and there were years with nearly no sports at all. But in 2012 I rediscovered MTB as a hobby for myself and soon started to participate in races again. The main focus was on MTB marathons and I also finished the BIKE Transalp stage race several times in the subsequent years. Still today I regularly participate in MTB marathons of all lengths starting from 1-2h short tracks to very long events like the Salzkammerguttrophy at more than 200km.
In 2016 I had my first connection with ultra-cycling as I joined a 400km and 600km brevet on the road bike. The experience of these long rides pushing your personal limits was great and I wanted to transfer that experience also to races. Participations at the Race Across Germany in 2017 and 2018 on the road bike were the logical continuation for me. To combine ultra-cycling with my MTB background I then started to go for 24h MTB solo race participation events and ultimately entered the area of multi-day unsupported events with my first participation in the Navad 1000 in 2019. The adventurous nature of unsupported events combined with elements of classic racing really fascinate me!
What are some of your memories from the 2019 edition of what was then called the NAVAD 1000?
The Navad 1000 last year was my first unsupported MTB ultra-cycling experience. So I was quite nervous what to expect from the race and how to properly prepare in regards to equipment. I therefore had a look at other successful riders and even contacted Lael Wilcox and Štěpán Stránský to get some insights into their equipment. From Lael I got some inspiration in regard to the sleeping bag she uses and Štěpán's setup inspired me to go for a really easy gearing (I ended up with a 30 chainring for my 1x12 SRAM setup) which withstood the test especially on the steep climbs of the route. At the end I was in the lucky position last year that I was able to lead the field with a buffer of a number of hours which allowed me to take longer sleeps and even to stop sometimes to eat. To reduce these breaks significantly was one of my main goals for 2020 in order to improve my finish time.
What did your prep/training for the Hope 1000 look like especially given the lockdown restrictions in Germany?
The good thing was that we never had lockdown restrictions in my area in place which would have stoped me from training outside. For sure group rides were prohibited but as a single rider, I didn’t face restrictions. I always train quite an bit on my trainer at home because of time constraints due to business and family responsibilities. This was even more intensified during the Corona lockdown.
Beside short rides of 1-2 hours which mainly consist of intensive and extensive intervals I also did some long rides in the preparation phase to get used to the demands of a multi-day ultra-cycling event. For example I rode to our family skiing vacation in Austria by bike in one shot (~350km) and back again after one week, did two Everestings to get used to exhaustive climbing and finished a 700km road bike trip a few weeks before the Hope 1000 to also get used again to ride through the whole night.
Did you go into this year’s Hope 1000 wanting to win?
I took a look at Štěpán's record and had the goal to stay below it. To defend the title didn’t seem realistic to me as I discovered that Sofiane Sehili also registered for the race. But at the very least, I wanted to make it difficult for him to win! ;-)
What would you do differently next time?
In regard to kit, bike, training and fuelling I think I’m already quite close to my personal optimum. For sure I could always improve my training to be a better athlete, but this would require quite some additional investment of training time and that is not compatible with my personal work-live balance.
But I definitely learned a lot about myself this time in regard to sleep deprivation and how this affects my mind. And based on these learnings I will try to further improve my rest strategy. This year I slept 2h 15min overall. I think I should not go far below because my brain needs sleep to be really focused again but I would try to distribute it more evenly and in smaller chunks next time.
What is your advice for others wishing to take part in the race next year?
Learn from others and never hesitate to ask experienced riders about their approach if you have concrete questions. Do not be too proud to go for really easy gearing. You will definitely always be happy for a lighter gear and you will not miss harder gears from the second day onwards as you will not pedal hard on the descents and instead try to recover.
And one important thing which I learned from experience: if you sometimes feel bad and exhausted during an ultra-endurance endeavour keep positive. It does not necessarily always get worse. In most cases it will get better again if you just continue with reduced speed and ensure that you eat/drink enough. And never forget that racing is not everything. Always take the time to enjoy nature around you and have an eye for the beauty of the Swiss Alps and the wonderful landscape.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
My original plan included some 24H MTB solo races (e.g. 24H European Championship in Czech Republic) but they were all cancelled or postponed to next year. I therefore spontaneously registered for the Race Around Austria (Challenge unsupported) which is a road bike ultra-endurance race in August. In addition, I will go for some regional MTB marathons as soon as they are allowed to take place again.
Jochen uploaded a few short videos throughout his race which you can view on his YouTube channel. We hope to see his dot again in the not too distant future.