Little Interview: Johanna Jahnke
You may have seen Johanna Jahnke racing for East London Fixed and pushing the pace at the Red Hook Crit or many of the other fixed crits that we're spoilt with these days. The track bike isn't all that she is familiar with as this year she pedalled her way through the Transcontinental Race, along with Marion Dziwnik. They just so happened to be the first ever pair of women to finish in the allowed time frame. We handed her some questions to get all of the insider info, tuck in and get inspired!
First things first, how long have you been cycling? And how did you get into it?
I started cycling 5 years ago, when I decided to buy a road bike instead of a car. I wanted to be able to leave the busyness off Hamburg but in an environmentally friendly way. Having just quit playing competitive rugby, my goal then was to just ride for fun without any sort of competition. That didn't last very long. Having the legs and strength of a Rugby player, I quickly started to win fun competitions like goldsprints and alleycats and yeah, started to like the taste of victory. My friends all rode fixed gear and I soon bought my very first track bike, a steel Sancineto. I raced my first Red Hook on that one too.
Do you have a favourite bike?
I really love all my bikes. My Quirk is special of course, it's the best crit bike I've ever ridden, with a perfect geometry for races like Red Hook. Also, it's handmade by a very great person, Rob, which adds to the good feeling I have. Now that I spent 15 days on my Cannondale Synapse, I can't not be fond of it, either. The more relaxed geometry and comfortable features like a flexing seat post and space for 28 tires were perfect for the Transcontinental Race. I had no neck problems, no nothing.
ALL THE VEGAN SNACKS
Nuts, dried fruit, Pizza (without cheese), Pasta Risotto, dark chocolate, fresh fruit (when we had the time to wash it), biscuits, crackers
Best place you have ridden?
Montenegro during the TCR. It's my favourite country because of the absolutely open and friendly people. There are of course more spectacular views and sceneries in other parts of the world, but Montenegro really is a place I would like to visit again.
What drove you to enter the TCR?
Well.. I watched Mike Halls videos and was hooked. I just couldn't resist. The spirit caught me and there was no way out. TCR is so much more than a bike race, it's changing peoples lives and maybe I was ready for a change, too. Finally ready for an adventure again, after years of playing it safe due to having two kids at home and some personal crises. TCR was a present to myself and though we knew it would be hard, we never doubted ourselves. At least not during the race. For me the biggest achievement was to be at the starting line at all, to have managed all the preparations and to have the confidence to try. You never know, until you try. And even if you "just" reach CP1 or not even, you reached more than if you don't start at all.
What was your training like and how did you fit this in with work and other life happenings?
Since I'm a crit racer, I did add longer (100km-130km) rides from January on, but mostly stuck to interval training. After Red hook Brooklyn, from May on, I started to focus on TCR and added more long rides, 3-4 day endurance blocks and did 2-3 Test tours (with fully loaded bikes) together with Marion. To fit this into my life, I often started very early to be back home in time for breakfast. I believe you don't have to do hours and hours of training if your training is specific. Just train smart, have your bike fitted, spend the time to find a good saddle, test your set up regularly and try to make yourself as comfortable as possible on the bike.
Had you done anything similar before?
All I had done were two bike packing trips last year. Until May this year, I'd never ridden more than 200km at once.
What were you eating during the race?
See favourite foods. We were snacking ALL THE TIME. Benubags made us some really cool food pouches so we were snacking while riding and didn't lose time.
Were you sleeping for long?
Yes. Much longer than the typical ultra cyclist I guess. Everyone has her limitations and my teammate Marion is a person who needs more sleep than most people. 7 hours was already a compromise for her to function well, so we had a tight schedule to ensure her to get the rest she needed. Personally, I would have done with less, but it didn't harm me either. We managed to ride the planned distances every day, so I won't complain about it now. In a team you have to find out what works out for both, Marion generally wanted to ride faster, but that would have destroyed my legs too much. In the end we had a pace between 22 and 26 kph depending on the stage. I feel that's pretty ok for ultra cycling.
What do you struggle with when on the road for a long time?
I know it sounds weird, but I really enjoy it. I do need a conversation from time to time, but somehow I "switch off", I just ride.. I don't look at the Kilometers, I just make sure I feel good and continue riding. I only check from time to time to see if the planned distance works out and for deciding where to book the hotel for the night.
What did you pack? How many changes of clothes etc?
Two bibs (with different padding), one jersey, one base layer, two sports bras, one bikini bottom, 3 pairs of socks (1 of them compression), legwarmers, gillet, rain jacket, recovery pants, one piece, buff, gloves long and short, overshoes. Would not take again the gillet, the recovery pants (too heavy and the socks did their job), the one piece (hardly ever needed non-cycling clothes).
Is there one item that you couldn't survive without during the Transcon?
Oh there are a few. I guess I used my mobile phone quite alot to check for hotels and the route. Cycling-wise, chamois creme and recovery creme. I had a very well fitting saddle and bib, but yeah, sitting in the saddle for 12-14 hours is still not ideal for your bum ;)
Do you have any top tips for those dreaming of completing the TCR?
First of all, just do it! Honestly, even if you don't succeed the first time, you can always come back and try again. And you'll enjoy it anyways. But only do it if you really want to, not to prove anyone you can. Life is too short to do things you don't enjoy and TCR too long to make such a sacrifice. During preparation, I learned a lot from reading other racers blogs and talking to experienced people that were somehow approaching things the way I did. When a question bothered me, I had 2-3 people I could ask and then decided which answer fitted best for me.
Who and what inspires you?
In the process of application/preparation I read Juliana Buhring's book about her setting up the first World Record in riding around the world. What caught me wasn't the fact that she did it, but the fact, that she hadn't even been a cyclist when she decided to do it. People always say you need to be such and such to do such and such, you need to ride brevets, or need to be an ultra cyclist to enter TCR. No, you don't. Anyone can do it. Anyone including two fixed gear women who usually race 40 minutes in circles.
In times of doubts, I was very lucky to be able to reach out to Angela Walker who is one half of the first female pair to finish the TCR last year. Not in the "official" time, but still the very first pair to finish. Having her support, also throughout the race, meant a lot and pushed us enormously. Thank you! Then there were Chas and Niko, our fixie fam. Their happiness, totally positive approach and message to us in the middle of the race...You just had to feel good when they were around. They won the pairs in the end, well deserved, congrats again guys!
What do you have planned next?
Nothing actually. I will take my time to digest everything and just see what happens. Right now my partner subscribed cake and no cycling for some time, so I will meet friends, enjoy spending time with my kids, catch up with little things, and so on. Just enjoy life and try to beat the post-race depression that tries to kick in ;)
You can watch Johanna's Instagram for more Transcon goodness including extra packing info.