From high school to the USA – My story Part I

I havent been a cyclist all my life but it has always been sports that got me to places. After high school I wanted to study mathematics, medicine and join the German Airforce depending on my mood of that day. Clearly, I had no idea what I wanted to study.

However, my biggest passion was Volleyball at that time so I was looking for ways to make my passion to my main focus. The only place where I could actually do that was the USA. Since there was no way I could pay the tuition for an American university I had to get a full scholarship to make it happen.

Being relatively small for Volleyball, playing only 4th league and not having the most remarkable grades for English in school, my chances to make it happen were low.

However, every day I was dreaming how awesome it would be to play Volleyball for an American university team and speak fluently English.
This experience of wanting something so badly while the odds were against me taught me early on that hard work – no matter how unlikely it seems – is the key factor to get you what you want.

So I went to the USA to play Division I Volleyball.

 


Three ways up Mt Ventoux – Pictures and routes

Last weekend I had the opportunity to race the three day cycling challenge – the Haute Route Mt Ventoux.

We were challenged by three stages and three different routes heading up the famous climb, Mt Ventoux. Unfortunately, two out of the three days the race finished at lower elevation due to strong winds (up to 120kmh) at the summit. Nevertheless, the headwind during the race made it just as hard.

Here is the weekend in pictures and videos. At the bottom, you also find the routes of the weekend.

 

Even if you dont want to race the event, those routes are highly recommended. Tough but also very scenic. (The route ends at the top of Mt Ventoux, thus, you just can roll down back to Bedoin)



I really like the setup of the event: tough stages in scenic and iconic regions and then the best recovery possible: massages, a healthy meal and a nice hotel. So my fourth event with Haute Route after the Triple Crown did not disappoint.

Check out their calendar. New events have been added for 2018. Cool stuff!


This summer was all about the bike – a dream has come true!

Greetings from Barcelona!

This summer was all about the bike. I could ride, breathe, talk and film about cycling.

A dream has come true!

After quitting my job in December and moving to Spain in January, I wanted to pursue my passion for cycling. But I not only wanted to ride a bike, but wanted to get fully immersed into the cycling industry and be involved in the cycling community.

First, I stayed near Malaga for four months and rode solo with nothing but a super tiny backpack through half of Spain. In June, I packed my suitcase and bike-bag travelling through Europe for cycling challenges, bike tours, photo-shoots, conferences and endurance races – anything that was related to cycling and sounded like fun. I never thought that this summer would be like that. Here are the highlights:

June

  • The Ride”, the 1300km challenge: 8 days, 8 countries from Italy to the Netherlands
  • Orbea photo-shoot in the Basque Country Spain for the Orbea Orca Aero
  • Cycling tour in the Dolomites as a semi-tour guide with the tour company Velodrom Studio

July

  • 3-day Invitational cycling weekend with the RAW Cycling Magazine “Among The Giants” in Slovenia
  • 330km/ 8000m Tour du Mont Blanc Cyclsportive, France
  • 3 day Tour de France camp with Sierra Sports and Tours
  • A week in Madrid to meet the custom-bike brand The Draft

August

  • Haute Route Pyrenees: 7-day stage race from Biarritz to Toulouse: 910km/19300m of climbing
  • Haute Route Alps: 7-day stage race from Nice to Geneva: 896km/22000km climbing
  • Shimano Media camp in Au, Austria connecting with 20 cycling journalists and photographers
  • Eurobike in Friedrichshafen, Germany

September

  • Haute Route Dolomites: 7-day stage race from Innsbruck to Venice: 852km/21000m of climbing
  • Move to Spain, finding the best cycling location in Europe to stay for the winter

All routes of the events above are on Strava.

But I not only like riding a bike I also like talking about it – especially about the experience. If there is any doubt whether I like to talk about it, come visit me in Girona and we go for a 7 hours ride. That will give me enough time to tell you the highlights of my adventure cycling stories (with intermediate test questions ) I can think of a few people at Haute Route and The Ride who got the full “Monika-tells-hours-of-stories treatment already. 🙂 (You might wonder now how I do it during the solo cycling adventures…)

Some adventure stories and thought articles are published in magazines like the Australian Cyclingtips, German Gran Fondo Cycling Magazine, Australian Huffington Post, American Executive Athletes,  Dutch Cyclosportive and Spanish Raw Cycling Magazine. Sometimes I let others talk too, like during the interview with Fabian Cancellara. I also started my “raw and real” vlog and had the opportunity to share my thoughts about Haute Route during an interview. And now also the very exciting partnership with Shimano.

Holla….what a summer! There is no other way to say this but it was awesome, with a lot of o’s:

A summer being surrounded by so many like-minded yet different people, discovering new places, seeing stunning scenery and pushing my mental and physical limits. And that all on my bike….Dont pinch me. If this is a dream, I dont want to wake up.

Life lesson: Go for it. 100%

The biggest life lesson I learned from it is to really go 100% to pursue a passion, not being scared to fail because if you are 100% committed, you have a totally different motivation and drive. You are basically on turbo drive. Plus, opportunities will arise you never think were possible before making the big step of “following your dream”. The saying “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” (Confucius) is true.

After an amazing summer constantly travelling with all my belongings fitting into my bike bag my plan is to stay for the winter in one place….well…I use the word “plan” very loosely because things can change tomorrow. However, my intention is to have a place in the most ideal European location for riding while being able to connect with the cycling industry. In the last four months having had the chance to chat with people around the world, Girona/Barcelona was always a suggestion. Thus, a ticket was booked and here I am – two days fresh from the plane.

Now it is time to let everything sink in and look towards 2018. A plan full of cycling – riding, talking, filming, inspiring!

Next year is going to be awesome (as per pronunciation above)! In addition to exciting cycling projects next year, my aim is to inspire and encourage others that anything is possible while creating their own path on and off the bike. That could mean to pursue a dream or ride solo through a foreign country. Everyone can do it!

In the next days, I will be writing more about the experience of the Haute Route Triple Crown and about Girona and Barcelona. (If there are any specific questions about these topics, please comment below and I will answer them as well)  One thing I can say already after one ride in Girona and one ride in Barcelona….loving it here already. I love the smell of the pine trees in this area. I love the exciting terrain and architecture around.

And so much to see!

So stay tuned, positive and upright.

Oh….and just something for the soul ….if you have a fire in your heart wanting to do something very strongly, don’t throw a blanket over it, pour oil on it!

Happy riding!


How to successfully quit your job and pursue your dream

Do you remember when you grew up and you wanted to become a fire fighter, musician or maybe a professional athlete? A passion you wanted to pursue because you loved doing it. However, once you grew older you were told that this profession wouldn’t get you anywhere because it is just not a career and doesn’t earn you enough money to start a family and buy a house. Thus, you settled for a job you are not passionate about but with a solid paycheck and a promising career track.
Soon you realized that this job doesn’t fulfill you, you don’t see the outcome of your work because you are just a small wheel in a big engine. Sometimes you wonder, if your work even matters at all. You are sitting up the hours in the office. 8+ hour wasted per day. You give a third of your day to something you don’t really enjoy and doesn’t fulfill you.
That was my experience working as a management consultant for one of the biggest IT companies in the world. I was a small wheel and my only reward for the job seemed to be that I wasn’t fired yet. Finally, I decided to make an end to this rat race and I quit my job to live the life I really wanted.
Now 8 months into my journey, I am doing all the things I love doing… epic cycling events, videoshootings, publications in international magazines and solo adventure cycling tours. Every day looks different, I have no idea what happens in two weeks. I don’t have an apartment and live out of my suitcase. I travel and cycle throughout Europe meeting incredible inspiring and like-minded people and coming across opportunities that I never thought would be possible 8 months ago.
No words can describe how much richer, fulfilled and happier my life feels right now. I can truly say, I am living my dream!
While pursuing my dream I found there are some crucial conditions to successfully quit a job and pursue a dream.

Below are seven aspects I found to be important:

1. Have no baggage

Literally and figuratively. This is a pre-requisite for quitting the job and doing what you want to do. Don’t have debt. Reduce your reoccurring costs. I manage to decrease my monthly costs to my 30 Euro phone bill. I don’t rent a room or apartment currently. Thus, the only costs that incur are what I do right in this moment. It comes with an awesome side effect: it creates a complete sense of freedom not to be owned by a bank or material, it also means that I don’t need to have a high-paying job. Even if you are not looking to pursue your dream job, I would highly encourage to reduce material needs. We don’t need most of our stuff. It is a perception that we require a lot. Sometimes, people only own so much to show it off but that is a different issue. If you don’t need to prove your worth through your belongings, then evaluate what you truly need. I bet, you don’t need most of it.

2. Be fully dedicated.

I wanted to pursue my passion so many times in the past. But I failed. I failed because I thought that a partial dedication to pursuing my dream job would suffice. Like working for 4 days and having an extra day to explore my passion. However, the only way how I could make it happen is to go 100%. The reason is two-fold. First, since there was nothing else to focus on I had the complete focus on making my dream happen. It creates a new feeling if you know that there is no excuse to do something else than pursuing your dream. The second and even more important reason why 100% “all-in” is important that you are now free. There is nothing holding you back from trying everything out, succeeding and failing. When I quit my job, I knew my passion but I wasn’t really sure what exactly my job would look like. I needed the time and energy to try everything out without any constraints or drainers. Plus, the opportunities arise when you expose yourself to them. I would never have received any of the opportunities given to me if I had another commitment because I would have not been available to do it. Now, I receive offers to projects and events because people know I am completely free and not tied to a normal job.

3. You must have the passion for it.

Without a fire in your soul you will not get anywhere. Just quitting your job to sit lazy at the beach doesn’t get you anywhere. But if you have a vision and you cant stop dreaming about a different life, then you are on the right way. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Every day you want to jump out of your bed and work on your passion. You will have so much fun pursuing your passion that you feel you never work a minute in your life. Confucius was right.

4. Stand up for yourself

Go your way. While you are creating your own path, your own way, your own life, there will be many, many people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The more you do your own thing and the more you don’t go mainstream, the more people will question (and admire) you. Dont feel offended by the people who question you. Listen, understand where they are currently in life. They might be scared or jealous but by no means shall they take you off your own path. As Churchill said: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

5. Be able to handle failures.

The good thing for doing your own thing is that you are responsible for everything you do – your successes as well as your failures. There is no boss or other authority that takes the hits. Everything comes to you directly. I have sent hundreds of emails out and receive many, many rejections. But the few successes I get I celebrate them as it is Christmas, New Years and my birthday combined. It is an incredible feeling to call the successes yours. Sometimes the failures are just rejected emails, sometimes the failures are bigger. But never let them get to you and if they do, it is next key aspect that will get you out of it.

6. Have a support network

A support network is absolutely crucial. It can be one person or a few but your support network should serve multiple purposes and since they are fundamentally different, I would encourage to have at least two different supporters. Have one emotional support person. Someone who loves or likes and appreciates you who you as a person are, no matter your successes or failures. That person doesn’t necessarily need to know in depth what you do but can listen and says the right words when you need it. This person could be your mom, your partner or a close friend from your childhood.
Another important person is your “business advisor”, someone who is genuinely interested in your business success. That person can give you advice about your work and your path as well as wisdom but also challenges your thinking in a positive way.
Have a few close supporters who are “joining your journey” by listening to your updates and sharing your ideas. These supporters have to be carefully selected because they should be genuinely interested in your success and stay positive. You don’t need people telling you that you cant achieve something; you will have plenty of them telling you that anyway without you asking for their opinion. No; these supporters shall give you energy and strength while also giving you positive criticism and challenge your thought process so you can see your path from different angles. These supporters could be your siblings, your best friend or former colleagues.

7. Don’t be afraid

A dream stays a dream if you are too scared to pursue it. Most people’s dream job remains one. Fear of failure or rejection by friends keep them away from truly unfolding their possibilities in life. Don’t fear the unknown. That makes life exciting. I always ask myself when I am scared of failure: When I am 90 years old and look back at my life, would I regret my decision of not trying something out? Life is there to be explored, to be used. As Abraham Lincoln said: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

These are my seven key aspects to successfully quit a job and live the dream. Thus if you have a strong desire to life your dream, then don’t hesitate and go for it!

This article appeared in slightly different versions in the Huffington Post and Executive Athletes.

Photo Credit: Antton Miettinen


How three weeks of racing changed me physically and mentally – A video diary

From 13. August to 8. September 2017, I raced three 7-day stage races back-to-back totaling 2658km with over 62500m (!!!) of elevation gain, first in the Pyrenees, then in the Alps and finally in the Dolomites (all organized by Haute Route). I was excited, nervous and a bit crazy!! I postied updates about this incredible adventure on Youtube, Instagram and here on my blog.

13-19 August Pyrenees: Anglet to Toulouse (910km/ 19300m of elevation gain) incl. Tourmalet, Aubisque, Soulor, Peyresourde, Port de Bales, Portillon

21-27 August Alps: Nice to Geneva (896km/22200m elevation gain) incl. Granon, Alpe d’Huez, Vars, Izoard, Glandon, Madeleine, Saisies, Epine

2-8 September Dolomites: Innsbruck to Venice (852km/21000m of elevation gain) incl. Timmelsjoch, Monte Giovo, Pannes, Gardena, Sella, Fedaja

Watch my vlogging diary about this adventure:


When you start alone and finish with a support team – Haute Route Triple Crown

When I started racing the Haute Route Triple (3×7 stage races in the Pyrenees, Alps, Dolomites), I came by myself with no support or teammates.

I did not know a soul.

Now, after 21 stages of Haute Route I can say that there is an entire team that has been a major contribution for completing such a massive challenge. After three long weeks I got to know so many people who are working just as hard as the racers do to give us, the participants, the best experience. I havent had a chance to take a picture with all of them but let me introduce a few crucial people who I want to say thanks to:

Look at all the hundreds of volunteers and staff that made such an incredible event happen. Always professional, helpful and smiling. That makes such a big difference. Unfortunately not in this picture, I want to give a special thanks to the French motorcycle crew which supported us in the Pyrenees and the Alps. I seriously never felt so safe on the road as with them. Plus, they were always asking how we are doing and really wanted to be part of the event.

This girl might be nominated to the best cheerleader on Haute Route, Julia. I saw her everywhere, especially in key moments. She was always cheering and smiling. The small things that matter most in these type of events.

Max (right) from the neutral support. What a great support! After 2650km and 60000m of climbing, those guys help out for everything. And I must admit, I have a thing for support vehicles. It just makes my heart beat faster when I see cycling-branded, bike-racked support vehicles passing by. Porsches and Lamborghinis just dont do it for me.

John (middle) runs the bike touring company, Duckstore Productions,  out of Annecy, France. He was always supportive, gave me his tea during the first rainy, cold stage in the Dolomites. Now it seems such a small, minor gesture but when you are cold and completely wet, those small things make or break a day.

The mobile coffee shop team: Cafe Pod. Wow! You hear their van from miles away. Their very unique music style and honking system just puts a smile on your face. Plus, when I hear them I know there will be coffee on top of the climb. When I was really exhausted after a long, long climb like Col d’Izoard, I couldnt find them fast enough. They are even so popular that I heard another female racer, Kat, proposing to one of the Cafe Pod guys!

The massage team at Haute Route is just exceptional. In the beginning of the Dolomites I started to get IT band issues. Without them, the pain would have gotten worse throughout the race.

 

The Mouss Production camera team. Busy trying to get the best shots and coverage, those guys are always on the road. We were constantly passing each other and they always had an encouraging word. They made daily videos, one of which I had a chance to be featured in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKJx2hIXyOI

The quality of the picture might show that after this stage I was not even able to hold the camera still. This was day 20 of the Haute Route. I met Darryl from Sports Tours International on day one asking him if I could use his tire pump. What I didnt know that day is that I would see him every single day for three weeks. He always had a good word or offered me food and drinks during crucial moments.

There were many great people out there that made the three weeks very special. Thanks to everyone and congratulations to all Haute Route finishers!


8 Tips to get through a 7 day stage race (Haute Route)

Hi guys,

I cant believe it but the first “round” of Haute Route is successfully completed: 910km with over 19000m of elevation gain in the Pyrenees. There were awesome, terrible, emotional, exciting and tearing moments. It was tough! Very tough. Along the way I learned a few lessons I want to share that helped me not only to “get through” the stages but to enjoy it. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

All the tips below are based on my goal to get through and enjoy the 3 weeks of Haute Route without wanting to sell my bike afterwards as well as enjoy each day to the most. Thus, I am not going for the classification, I am here for my very own challenge. I see everyone around me as a friend and not as competitor. That being said this is what I have been doing (in random order):

  1. Pacing. I know this topic has been chewed to its last bit but still it is the important part. I ride for myself, my pace. When I am in a group I evaluate the benefits and drawbacks being in the group and if it is too fast or too hectic, I let myself get dropped and stay on my own pace. Dont get me wrong, I prefer riding with people rather than riding solo. But it is very tough to find a person who has the exact same pacing like me for the entire course. But I still try to chat with other riders for a bit because it is just more fun riding together.
  2. Cassette. After two days on a 11-28 cassette and sore knees and back in the very steep Pyrenees, I changed my cassette to a 32 tooth cassette. It saved me! All back and knee issues became history.
  3. Drinking. I am getting better but I keep forgetting to drink during and especially after the race. I have been buying flavoured water so I enjoy it more to gulp down liters and liters of liquid.
  4. Multivitamin tablets. I am actually not a big fan of tablets if it is possible to take it in naturally but I dont think I can eat enough to get all necessary nutrients in. I might be wrong but currently a daily multivitamin has not hurt yet.
  5. Sleep after lunch. This is my best recovery. A nap after lunch is perfect. I usually feel very grouchy after it and take forever to wake up again but I can feel how my body started the recovery process.
  6. Massage. Light massages work wonders. Just getting the circulation going feels good. I am trying to take advantage of the free daily massage at Haute Route.
  7. Legs up. When I lie on my bed I put my legs up against the wall. Especially after a hot day my legs tend to accumulate fluid in the ankle area so putting the legs up feels especially good.
  8. Dont stand if you can sit. Dont sit if you can lie. I try to avoid walking around or standing for a long time.

Let’s see what lessons I learn from Haute Route Alps. By now, it is more the mental part that becomes increasingly important.

And if you are curious about the course for Haute Route Alps, the road book is here.

I wish everyone a great ride!

Cheers from Pra Loup.

Monika


News: Excited to be Shimano ambassador

For long endurance challenges and remote adventure rides it is absolutely crucial to have reliable and high-performing products; that is why I love riding with Shimano.

I am very excited to be part of the Shimano ambassador program. With a thrilling, action-packed year ahead full with cycling projects I can count on a very strong partner.

Thank you, Shimano-Road!


Four climbs in the Alps that give me goosebumps

In the last 8 weeks, I got to ride parts of the Slovenian, Italian, Swiss and French Alps covering 26 passes. The European Alps has hundreds of passes so this is a selection of a small list. Nevertheless, I wanted to share with you four passes which gave me goosebumps – and not because I was freezing. It was the same kind of goosebumps when you listen to a great singer who hits a certain pitch – there is something that just struck a cord with you and you are fascinated.

Here are the four climbs that I was fascinated with:

1. Stelvio, Italy

This climb is special. It makes my heart beat faster just seeing all the switchbacks heading up that wall of a mountain. Riding up Stelvio is like entering a painting. The small tunnels along the way make me feel I am entering a cave as there is water dripping from the walls. The waterfall from the side of the mountain and the vast landscape once over the second part of switchbacks just creates an unreal atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Velodrom Studio

Stelvio from the Prad side. The weather is unpredictable. This was in June, three weeks after the picture below.

Stelvio from the Bormio side.

2. Gavia, Italy

Maybe it was due to the weather but Gavia felt very mystical when I was heading from sunshine and short-sleeve into the clouds and snow. Especially at the top, despite the typical restaurant at the top of all passes, I felt like I am far away from civilization. I couldn’t take my eyes of the lake and the mountains in the background. The pitch-black tunnel towards the end of the climb added to the feeling that this mountain requires attention of all senses.

Photo Credit: Velodrom Studio

3. Fedaia, Italy

Similar to Gavia, the weather on Fedaia created an interesting atmosphere with low hanging clouds pressing against the mountain. This area is fully covered with grass which appeared to be extra green. At one point, I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings. It seemed so unreal.

Photo Credit: Velodrom Studio

4. Cormet de Roseland, France

I have a thing for climbs that feel out of this world. I got that impression of Cormet de Roseland. After a set of initial switchbacks (from Bourg St Maurice) I found myself surrounded by mountains that seem so far away – or are they actually close? Because there is no way to compare the actual size it was tough to gauge the vastness of the surroundings. The wind and the landscape made me feel vulnerable and so small.

Photo Credit: Andrew Dennes (Velodenz)

Photo credit: Denis Smyth

 

What is your favorite mystical, unreal, goosebumps-causing climb?

 


Publication in Cyclingtips: Rides to Remember: Exhausted, hungry and beaten in Spain

Cycling is not just about riding a bike – it is about creating experiences, discovering new places and getting to know myself better while it teaches me life lessons in a nutshell.

The recent 580km Half Through Spain trip was exactly that – a tough multi-day bike ride instead of a convenient bus ride.

But life is not about reaching the final destination in the fastest possible way. It is about creating a journey that make me feel alive with everything that comes with it.