VOTEC Endeavor Project athlete Lukas at Unbound
We met up with Lukas to talk about the pitfalls of the race and, above all, the imponderables. About the different phases in a long-distance race and why the preparation and working with the material is so relevant. It was a very mixed experience for Lukas on a demanding track. The day before the race, the route was adjusted again due to severe flooding and the mud that was left behind provided unexpected challenges. But now let’s talk to Lukas Löer about the Unbound.
Photos: SCYENCE / Sebastian Samek
Hi Lukas. How did you prepare for the Unbound?
Theoretically, a preparation over several weeks would be advisable. To be honest, I didn’t manage to do that and so I tried to train very efficiently. From my point of view, this is a very good way of preparing, especially for hobby athletes. I trained around 10-14 hours a week before the race. The focus was on rather low-intensity sessions with some more intense ones. Above all, HIT training sessions to maintain the continuous performance of ten hours. Besides that, there were a lot of material tests to prepare me properly for the material. Finally, I rode another 8-hour tour – that was the Orbit route I’m working on at the moment. In the end, it was important to me to have a good plan for the day of the race so that I was prepared for all eventualities.
Where does your fascination for the Unbound come from? Basically I was already packed in 2019. On the one hand due to the many videos that are circulating about the Unbound, but also because it is one of the fastest gravel races. An average of over 30km/h on ten hours is simply exciting for me as a former road racer.
With SCYENCE you are very intensively involved with aspects of sports science – how do you use the Unbound for these purposes?
For me, the Unbound is one of the greatest experiments of recent times. I like sports science theories and the background they provide. However, especially in coaching, they do not replace the experience of how certain values feel, what it means to be hungry and, above all, the feeling of riding at the limit and being able to explore it well with the scientific background. Experience also shows me the complexity of the requirements in a gravel race – we can simply respond to that much better with this practical experience. In a 10-hour race, the likelihood of having to adjust plans along the way is simply very high.
What was the best moment?
After my problems increased at km 270, I finally managed to adjust my gears again. Before that I couldn’t change gears for a while, so I finally knew that I would somehow manage the last 60 km. That was just very relieving. Besides from that, the first two kilometers of the race in the sunrise where pretty epic. This realization that after all the preparation it is finally time to start – this unique mixture of tension, joy and also ambition. That also carried me through the entire ten hours.
And which one was the worst?
There were basically two. The one time I had to close a gap of two minutes to the leading group. It worked in a 30-minute effort. But then I had a puncture after 500 m and from then on I completed the race as an individual time trial. The second moment was 70km from the finish. We just had to carry our bikes 2 km through mud and dirt. I finally had my bike cleaned of all dirt to be able to ride again and then found that the gears were stuck in the highest gear and I knew that the next 70km were going to be really bad.
What phases do you go through in such a long race?
Basically, the best way to start is with a really nice high and good legs. Then there’s problem #1 – you can usually handle that well. Then problem #2 comes with a first mental kink. This is usually the moment when you think about what goal you are pursuing in the race and whether you might have to adjust it. Then there comes the point where you think about the value of finishing. This is basically the moment when you make the decision for the further course of the race. For me, it was just this decision to want to finish and get the race over with as quickly as possible – that gave me wings and gave me the strength to face the problems with self-confidence.
This realization that after all the preparation it is finally time to start – this unique mixture of tension, joy and also ambition. That also carried me through the entire ten hours.Lukas Löer