MarathonMTB.com correspondant Chris Pedder is on location in Ornans, France, ahead of the UCI Marathon Mountain Bike World Championships. While also working for Team GB, Pedder found time to sit down and talk to one of the the strongest Marathon and Stage Racers around – Karl Platt (Team Bulls) who will be representing Germany at the World Championships.
MMTB: So here we are sitting in glorious sunshine in Ornans near a very muddy course. What do you reckon? Is it a worlds-worth course?
KP: Ah for sure. I mean, the conditions are very tough, and the course is only 84km, and you think “oh, it’s not that long”. But the conditions are so hard that you ride the first two hours and you’re already blown, and you have to ride the last couple of hours in that state. I think the difficulty is not only the strength of the other riders, it’s also that you have to concentrate the whole 84km. It’s slippery and the Jura stones are extremely slippery, so you have to be careful. If you are going on the limit, it’s easy to lose a little bit of concentration and make a mistake.
MMTB: You started your season back in March in South Africa.
KP: I think a bit earlier, in February. Ah, no, it was earlier still, I started in January!
MMTB: So how have you kept your motivation to train and to race all the way up to this at the season close?
KP: You see, I entered the first races in Lanzarote at the end of January, and if you have to race at the end of January you think “ah, I can’t show up without doing any training” so you have to be motivated to ride, and this is a great benefit of starting to race early. So you start to train in December just to have a little bit of form for the first races, whereas if you have no early goals then your motivation is less. Also, many races we go to just to compete, for sure you want to win every race, but then there are your special goals, like for us the Cape Epic in March, and then you build up towards these races.
MMTB: Apart obviously from the Marathon Worlds, what other races in Europe motivate you to train? When time is tough and you know you have to ride your bike in the pouring rain in January, what makes you think “I have to ride my bike because…”?
KP: I think we don’t think that far ahead, I mean we have the worlds in October, in January I’m not thinking about worlds. You have to pick somewhere in the future, but you really only think from race to race, and then for the occasional race you prepare differently. I know for myself that I need six weeks to prepare for the worlds, so I go a little bit backwards and then after those six weeks I’ll have a little break
MMTB: That actually sounds like a good way to live, just working towards the next race
KP: I mean it depends also on you, and if you put lots of pressure on yourself, and of course if you put pressure on yourself for the whole year, there’s no motivation left for the end of the year. Instead you can handle it differently to take the pressure off in the year, or after some particular big races where you have been successful, then you can reward yourself with some time off to spend with your family and enjoy your success. Form goes up and down through the year, it’s important to be able to catch the good times and make the best of them.
MMTB: Presumably there’s a lot of travelling involved in your life as well, do you have a family that comes with you?
KP: I have a family, I have three kids, and a few years ago my wife was travelling with me to races sometimes, but my kids are in school now, so now we have to organise around school holidays. If the races fall in the holidays, I can take them with me, and they really enjoy it. But you have to remember that when I am at a race, it is like my job, and you don’t always want to have your family with you when you are doing your job.
MMTB: It’s easy to forget as an amateur, when you go to races it’s basically a holiday, but for you guys it’s a job
KP: For sure if I wasn’t a professional I would take my family, but then I wouldn’t go every weekend to a race. If you’re a hobby rider, you pick a few races and you enjoy them. That’s not to say that as professionals, we don’t also enjoy the racing, but we also have our commitments to our sponsors because they are putting a lot of effort and money into the development of the bikes, and we have to represent them well.
MMTB: So, if you weren’t a professional bike rider, what do you think you would do as a job? (For the record, I would hate to answer a similar question myself!)
KP: No no, it’s okay, it’s not the first time I have thought about a similar question. Of course, it’s a huge privilege to have your passion as a job, and I really don’t know, because my family are not involved in sport like me, so, I was just lucky to get into this sport. But without, I don’t know. I have the right contacts to be able to do this, so I guess if I wasn’t a bike racer, I’d like to be a car racer! . But definitely I won’t be in the porn industry! But it’s really hard to say…
MMTB: So racing is definitely in your bloodstream?!
KP: For sure, my other passion is car racing, but I don’t really have the time for it. I have a racing license for car racing, and I have some contacts to enter into car races, but honestly I don’t have the time. Since May I have raced every weekend, either a normal race or a training race, and if I have a spare weekend my wife says “ok, you stay at home!” You can’t go and race a car so maybe we can keep that for later!
MMTB: So something for your retirement?
KP: As long as I have the money!