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Q&A: Endurance cyclist Kristof Allegaert

Joseph Delves
10 Aug 2018

Cyclist talks to ‘The Machine’, the man who's is the undisputed King of ultra-endurance riding

 Cyclist spoke to Allegaert recently to get a glimpse of what makes the Belgian endurance cyclist tick. 

Cyclist: You’ve won the Transcontinental three times, plus the 9,200km Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme. What’s the attraction of ultra-distance racing?

Kristof Allegaert: I love riding on my own and having to do everything by myself. You never know where the next stop will be or where you’ll be able to get food or shelter.

In conventional racing you can sit in the bunch and then sprint for the line. With ultra-racing the mental element is much stronger. 

Cyc: How much of it is responding to the actions of the other riders and how much of it is a personal test?

KA: For me, it’s personal. If you check social media every five minutes you can get a picture of what’s going on, especially with every rider carrying a tracker.

But all those moments you’re not making progress. The first thing is always to push yourself. My own world is pretty small at that moment – it’s just me and my bike.

I don’t care if other people are suffering, or going well. I can find out afterwards. 

Cyc: What are the key ingredients to winning an ultra-endurance race?

KA: You have to be very efficient. It’s just a big time-trial. All the time you’re not riding you’re not going forward. The mental part is hard, because you have no one to talk to.

On the first day, I love being by myself. Three, four, five days in it’s a different story. In the space of five minutes your mindset can be like a rollercoaster, up and down so fast from the most positive to the very darkest place. You have to be able to handle this on top of the physical fatigue and hunger. If you’re not ready to suffer, forget it.

Cyc: How do you stay motivated? Is winning itself a motivator?

KA: The first race I ever entered was the first Transcontinental [Allegaert was the fastest finisher]. I’d never raced before and didn’t know what to expect. 

It was just a big adventure. I hate the word competition – I want to ride my bike and have fun, and I was surprised I did so well. If winning is your only motivation, you’re going to end up disappointed.

I have more respect for the last rider on the road who’s enjoyed it, than the second place rider who’s experienced nothing.

Cyc: How many kilometres do you ride each year?

KA: Last year I did 45,000km. The numbers are not the goal, although I’m always happy if I can do 25,000km. I get out on my bike as often as I can, and when you add it all together, in the end it’s a big number.

Cyc: What’s the worst place you’ve ever slept?

KA: In Australia, I was sleeping by the road because there was nowhere to lay my head down for an hour. I take a lot of care about my sleeping spots, both to get a good rest and also so as not to be robbed.

I turn my Spot GPS tracker off a few kilometres before so no one knows where I am. When you sleep, you really sleep. You could have all your stuff taken and not wake up. 

• The full interview with Kristof Allegaert, including his least favourite country to cycle through, his thoughts on the future of the Transcontinental, and the one luxury he always carries with him on his adventures, appears in the October 2018 issue of Cyclist, which goes on sale on Wednesday 15th August

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