Christoph Strasser – RAAM 2014
Until recently, we knew nothing about the man who broke his own record at this years ‘Race across America’– Christoph Strasser. A cross country race starting from Oceanside and summing up at Annapolis, covering 4800 km in just 12 days. Our team member and dear friend Hitisha, followed him via Tractalis and other live social media updates while I wondered what’s so fascinating about this Austrian-born ultra cyclist.
For those two weeks, Hitisha’s Facebook updates and tweets revolved around RAAM and specifically around this one man named, Christoph Strasser. Her near obsession with him got me curious. Why him? Why not the American on a Trek or the German who was ahead of Christoph this year? (but is now lagging behind because of a crash) Or why not the third Indian who’s about to make India proud? Our founder(Abhishek Tarfe) sat down immediately to do his research on Christoph Strasser.
In no time, he realised that he stood out from the other ultra cyclists. He set such high standards that we might have to wait for another era for a hero like him to be born.
This year VeloCrushIndia’s Abhishek Tarfe followed him too. Day in and day out he kept a track on his every move as Christoph kept crossing every time station with ease. Instantly, he became a fan of the yellow lycra and the black Specialized Shiv. And just like that, he finished the race in 7days, 15 hours and 56 min.
Very much like the followers of Lord Ram and their chant of Ram Ram Ram, It was Chris Chris Chris for Hitisha and Abhishek. They couldn’t help wondering if this feat accomplished by a mortal was even humanly possible. The also would never hesitate before referring to him as the god of Ultra Cycling- Christoph Strasser.
When it was time to interview him, Abhishek Tarfe did more research and with some help from Kailas Patil and Hitisha, we’ve compiled all our research to come up with every question, every query, every thought one could comprehend when given the opportunity. After all, it’s not every day that you get a chance to interview the God of Ultra Cycling.
Take a look at the Christoph Strasser Interview below in detail:
1. What is your favourite fraction of this year RAAM?
Hard to say. In the last years, I liked Kansas most, but this year we had heavy crosswind in Kansas. In 2014, I loved the first 24 hours because I was very fast. Improved aerodynamics and tailwind made me ride Time Station 2 with an average of 45 kph. This was crazy and very exciting!
2. What was your plan? Did you have intentions to break and better your own record?
No of course not. My plan was to be as fast as possible and fight until the finish line. But I knew that a new record was possible if the weather is on our side. If you want to break any record and plan to do this, then you put too much pressure on yourself. That happened to Reto Schoch in 2013 and the result was that he stopped after 4000km, because he calculated that the record is not realistic anymore. Then he had a breakdown and a heavy crisis. The record is too much depending on weather conditions.
3. Where there any obstacles faced by you besides the climatic conditions?
I was afraid of the missing strong opponents, I mean the best ultra cyclists were not at RAAM in 2014. No Reto Schoch, no Dani Wyss, no Marko Baloh. Even Alberto Blanco was not here, and Gerhard Gulewicz has his mind-problem and always quits when I am in the lead. Of course, there were very strong racers like Mark Pattinson and Nico Valsesia, who were on the podium in the past, but they said that their goal is finishing between 9 and 10 days. So I knew that if I have no problems and can give my best performance, it could be a lonely race, which can slow you down after some days.
4. How do you cope with changing weather from heat to cold especially heat waves?
This is nothing you can prepare for specially. You need to do 2 weeks of acclimatisation, but this is needed as a basic preparation every year. If you have brutal heat, you can only protect yourself with cooling vests, cooling caps, arm-warmers from special material. The most important thing is to drink a lot and have enough salt in your nutrition to avoid dehydration. When it is getting cold I am always very happy, that makes RAAM much easier. Just use some winter clothes in the rocky mountains and enjoy the cold temperatures, because it will get hot again in the next days…
5. What made Race across America so special this year?
We had good weather conditions in the first 2 days and tailwind, which made the race very fast on the first 1000km. It was also the first year when I crossed Kansas without a thunderstorm, and also the average temperature was a bit cooler. We also had massive crosswind in Kansas and some thunderstorm in Ohio, but all together the conditions were better than in the last years. For me, it was a special situation because I could become the fifth man in RAAM history to defend his title. I knew there was the chance to have a “historical” race and that was giving me much motivation.
6. Tell us something about the crucial week before the event – nutrition, sleep, workouts, and core?
The week before the event should be nice, you should be in a good mood and enjoy and look forward to the race. But of course, you need a lot of discipline. I switch from solid food to liquid nutrition three days before the start, the workouts get easier (about 15 hours per week in endurance zone, no too intense intervals any more), I try to sleep as much as possible to be 100% fit from the start, and I train a little bit core, but not too much.
7. What ratio did you ride on for flats and for climbs? Do you train on the same ratio?
I have a compact crank with 52-36 chainrings on the crank, and an 11-28 cassette. I use the same ratio in training and race, also on the Shiv-Timetrial-Bike. So you get perfectly used to it, and you do not get confused after a few days when you are looking for the best gear for the actual terrain.
8. How frequently do you change equipment considering climbs, winds, terrain and also how do you save time on changing gear from, warm, to cold?
We change equipment if necessary, depending on the weather. Bike changes from TT-bike to road bike are planned before the race, we know exactly which place we will change the bike. We always talk on our cardo-devices and plan to stop a few minutes before, so everybody can think of what he needs to do before stopping.
One example: If the wind becomes too strong in Kansas, we decide to change the disc-wheel to an ordinary wheel. Then we have 5 minutes to prepare everything for the stop, we check if anything else needs to be done (new Garmin device, new drink bottles, toilet, ass-crème, suncream,…) Then we stop and everything gets done at the same time. While I go for a pee, one of the crew puts suncream on my head, another one changes the wheel and puts oil on the chain, and another one changes the battery of the lights and the cardo-device. The whole stop takes 45 seconds!
9. Was there a time when you were really tired and demotivated and how did you overcome that?
Surprisingly, not a lot of motivational problems. It is a question of how you define your goals. One Example: My goal in 2013 was to beat Reto Schoch, no matter what time. After he nearly quit the race and stopped for 12 hours, my motivation to ride fast was gone, because I knew I will beat him if I do not crash. In 2014 my motivation was to push until the finish line, no matter what the opponents do. So I never lost motivation, also when opponents were far behind.
But tiredness is part of the game, you need a good crew to keep you in a good mood, make jokes, talk a lot, and give you the feeling of good company and never leave you alone with your thoughts…
10. How frequently do you stretch and get massages during the ride? If so than how does it help?
Not very often, only during sleeping breaks or when I have pain in my knees. Hard massages are too painful when you muscles are exhausted and hurting! Easy massages and taping are great when a good physiotherapist does that.
11. Do you switch from carbohydrates to proteins as the race progresses?
I use two main products: one is a carbohydrate and electrolyte drink by GSfood from Switzerland, and the other one is Ensure. This is completely balanced nutrition, I do not need to add proteins. One or two times a day we use a recovery drink with more protein. That’s it!
12. How does indoor training help and how has it benefited you?
It simply is the most efficient way to train, you are not dependent on weather conditions, you do not roll too easy. You train in the perfect training zone every minute and do not waste time. It also makes you strong in the head, 6 hours of indoor training (3 days in a row) will help you when you cross boring Kansas 🙂
TO BE CONTINUED……
Questions framed by:
Abhishek Tarfe, a man always on the move! A cycling enthusiast, a content writer by profession and a dreamer by nature. Abhishek always has something different up his sleeve! To know more, do follow him on his social media accounts.