Lee-Anne is relatively new to MTB stage racing and doesn’t classify herself as a pure racer but does like a tough challenge. We caught up with Lee-Anne after she completed the 4 day MTB stage race in Poland. Here is what she had to say about the race and about mountain biking in general.
MMTB: How are the legs feeling after 10,400m of climbing over 289km?
LA: (Laughs.) Bit bruised from some tumbles and quite tired in general as you can imagine.
MMTB: How did you get into cycling in the first place and how did you end up doing MTB stage races?
LA: It is actually an interesting story. We moved to the UK a few years ago and my husband didn’t have any friends so he decided to buy me a MTB. I didn’t want to disappoint him so I tried riding and enjoyed it. The more I rode the better I got and the more I enjoyed it. I’m not brilliant, but when you see improvement in your fitness it motivates you to train harder. My husband started to do races, such as the Cape Epic, so I also started to sign up for races and that is how I got into doing these events.
MMTB: You had a go at this event last year. What made you come back again this year?
LA: Unfinished business. I don’t think I was very well prepared last year and I only did three out of the four days. I felt I needed to complete all four days within the cut-off time. I was much better prepared this year as I knew what to expect and to be honest, I was a bit scared!
MMTB: Tell us a bit about your preparation for the race and any tips you have for ladies that would consider doing this race or any other stage races in future.
LA: I think the most important thing is that you have to cycle a lot. A lot! Not only on weekends as we did last year. Last year we used to do social six hour rides with a lot of stopping but this year was a lot more focussed with interval training, hill training and about three mid-week sessions in addition to the longer weekend rides. For instance, we did 1000m climbing sessions mid-week. On average I spent 10-12 hours training on the bike.
MMTB: Do you recommend any strength training in the gym?
LA: I tried to do some core and upper body exercises, however, not too much as I was normally tired after getting home from a long cycle session and just didn’t feel like doing more work.
MMTB: What was your longest day in the saddle and how did you manage to motivate yourself to keep going?
LA: The last day was 9hours 15min, however, it was still better than last year when the first day took me 10hours. This year it was just because of all the mud on day 4. I thought I wasn’t going to make the cut-off and was getting a bit de-motivated but then I decided I could just as well enjoy the views and look at the flowers. Green, a friend of mine, then came along and he was my personal motivator. He kept on saying: ‘we have a lot of time’.
MMTB: Do you prefer the climbs or the technical descents?
LA: I’m definitely more of a climber and I do think the climbs made all the difference as I kept on passing a fair few weekend warriors on the climbs.
MMTB: Did you sometimes find men’s egos kicking in when you passed them on the climbs? Any interesting battles you can share with us.
LA: Yes they hate it when I pass them. I can see they stare at me in slight disbelief when I pass them and they then start chasing me, after a while though, they normally run out of steam. There was this one guy who was really suffering on a climb, I passed him but he then came past as the climb was longer than I expected. On the decent I caught him as he was having some troubles with his brakes and we ended up descending together. When we hit the road section I put in an attack and dropped him which felt great.
MMTB: In general how did you find the organisation and the course?
LA: The organisation is really very good and the technical team was really really good. The course is tough especially when it is wet as I struggled in the mud. Otherwise it is beautiful – if you remember to look. I do make point of looking around when I get tired as scenery is awesome.
MMTB: Would you recommend this race to other ladies especially those that are not at the sharp end of the field?
LA: If you are more serious about mountain biking I would recommend this race, however, if you are more into social rides this may put you off. If you have a goal this race will give you the best sense of achievement.
MMTB: Who washed and checked your bike after each stage?
LA: My dear husband Myburgh. If I didn’t have him as support I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it.
MMTB: This was quite an international race. Did anything interesting happen to you due to all the different languages being spoken?
LA: There was this one incidence where there was compulsory portage for a short section due to a steep cliff on the side of the track. The marshal at this point only spoke Polish so we had to figure out from his hand gestures how to pass safely. This time we paid close attention to what he was showing us and we all managed to pass without any incidence.
MMTB: Any advice to female riders that want to attempt their first stage race?
LA: Training with men helps a lot as they push you quite hard. You have to be committed – you have to really want it. I would say building up gradually from smaller events to bigger events helps a lot.
MMTB: Will you be going back next year?
LA: I was wondering about that on the last day of the race. When you are looking at the photos you start thinking whether I shouldn’t go back? This race is great value for money so in actual fact I’m thinking of going back again next year for round number 3.