Gravel World Champs Qualifier Poland
Many gravel cyclists have already longed for their own World Championship and here it finally is: The UCI Gravel Race Series. So if you like tough gravel and rough stones, you were in the exact right place in Bad Flinsberg, Poland – just like VOTEC Endeavor Project athlete Thorben Haushahn. How he felt on his way to the podium? Read his story now!
A different way of “stress relief”
The small town of Bad Flinsberg is probably more known for its healing spa activities and stress relief – and still it was the second stop of the gravel world series on European soil. The 100km long track with 2.000m of climbing started directly at the ski station. Before that start, each athlete had to do a 20-30 min test ride depending on their performance level. What sounds (and is) quite hard, is in fact very practical to sort the peloton and allows each athlete to find the perfect group for the following 93km of gravel adventure.
The start of the race was supposed to be at 9am, which called for a breakfast at around 6am – which is totally against my nature. It should consist of 250gr of carbohydrates, plus a bottle of an isotonic drink 30 minutes before the start. Also a 40 minute warm-up program is part of my routine that give me security in moments of tension. Some easy rolling, 4-5min @ threshold and a few primers of 4x 1min @ VO2-Max.
With all the pressure I put on myself, my main focus was to enjoy the event and have fun. That sounds easy, but with just under 14-20 hours of training per week, fun is also defined by success and by achieving your own goals. So obviously it was no surprise that I wasn’t on the front row, but way too far back. This definitely cost me the top group and probably even the fight for the victory – but it also helped me calm down. With this freedom in my head I was able to finish 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. And that just behind riders like Nathan Peter Haas and Sebastian Breuer who just finished in the top 15 on the 200mile classification at the Unbound in the USA.
Recognizing and accepting that and making a winning move out of it took a lot of mental work for me.
So there it was, my top spot. What is it, that brings me so close to the top starts of the scene? Above all, it’s my willingness to work on myself every day and to take the word discipline very seriously. I train every day and have a maximum of two or three days a year when I don’t do anything. Even on bad days, I get on my bike, knowing it will take me further. Consistency is the magic word here.
I also have a talent that never got me where I wanted to be in road cycling: I’m an endurance athlete. I usually don’t tolerate high-intensity training as well as other athletes. But if the hard anaerobic are removed, I can use my skills. Recognizing and accepting that and making a winning move out if it cost me a lot of mental work: we all want to be able to ride like Mathieu van der Poel.
Already as a teenager I enjoyed these intensities as they occur in gravel cycling, but now they seem to be connecting with me. In addition to hard training and determination, in the end it’s the fun that makes me ride fast. I went to the Orbit Festival two weeks ago for exactly this reason: to collect good vibes and fill up my heart in order to continue working with the mental power to gravel fast.
I’m excited to see where the newly won freedom will take me.
In any case, the UCI race progressed quickly downhill: 63 km/h top speed on a gravel descent not only makes the heart beat faster, but also pushes the material to its limits. With the forthcoming VRX carbon frame, I was able to run tubeless 42mm tires from Ultradynamico at 2.6 bar. That may sound like a lot, but when 80 kg hit Polish gravel at over 60 km/h, the motto was: better 0.2 bar more than too little. Thanks to the smooth running of the VRX Carbon, I was able to find more relaxation on the long descents of almost 15 minutes and focus on the next climbs. Equipped with carbon handlebars, seat post and saddle, the frame shows its full potential and creates comfort on the rough ground: And every bit of freshness is important for success in these adventures.
The topic of refreshment itself is a separate one: because I rode the race with 1.5 liters of water. Where others struggle with cramps and the hot weather takes their toll, my body can still perform at high levels even after hours of not drinking enough. Every body reacts a little differently and it’s exciting to re-experience, test and learn about yourself in this emerging construct of a cycling discipline. With the success at the gravel adventure in Poland, I feel a calm that gives me security and tells me that it’s possible to ride with the best in the world. I’m excited to see where this newfound freedom will take me.