Quinda Verheul (@avoidtheavoid) is one of the increasing number of women cyclists racing at the Atlas Mountain Race this February.
Having won the women’s race Hellenic Mountain Race and being the first solo-woman to finish the three races organised by Nelson Trees after completing the Silk Road Mountain Race this past August, Quinda is headed back to Morocco for a “fun” winter challenge.
The race starts this year with about 250 cyclists, of which 20 women, the biggest number to date! We asked Quinda a few questions about the race, her training, and of course snacks!
What inspired you to participate in the Atlas Mountain Race?
I love a winter challenge, and Morocco is a beautiful place. The race takes you through various desert landscapes, making it an absolute treat. I keep coming back here; there must be some law of attraction at play.
How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally for such a challenging race?
I continued riding my bike as usual and intensified my training by using Trainerroad. Mentally, I visualize the race course and consider what I would need for the race. I think about potential issues that could arise, what can be fixed, and the expected weather conditions. I also plan my food and water intake. With experience, this process becomes easier, but I will still undoubtedly feel nervous.
What specific challenges do you anticipate facing during the race, considering the terrain and conditions?
The long nights, with approximately 12 hours of darkness, are not my favorite. However, I’ll try to use them to my advantage, as they are great for getting through long hot stretches of the race. Food and nutrition, in general, will be a challenge, so I plan to tackle that by bringing some prepped camping meals with me.
Can you share any strategies or tactics you plan to use during the race?
Take each day as it comes, focusing on one step at a time. Break everything down into manageable chunks, and eventually you will reach the finish line. It’s important to acknowledge and allow yourself to feel emotional, and to prioritize getting enough sleep. Stick to what feels right for you as much as possible.
How do you approach bike setup and gear choices for an endurance event like this?
I make my choices based on previous experience, considering what has worked in previous races, and trying to envision what the race and course will be like this time. I am aware that Morocco can have rough terrain, so I will opt for some comfort by using a new prototype Sour frame. Based on my experiences in Morocco, I believe I will be able to go relatively light, but I will carry more water than I have in the past.
What role does nutrition play in your race strategy, especially during long, demanding rides?
I never gave much thought to this until recently. I always make sure to bring protein powder and magnesium. However, now I will also include some other valuable nutrients in my bags.
How do you manage fatigue and stay motivated during such a lengthy race?
Good question. There will be lows and there will be highs. I try to balance the extremes as much as possible. I take the low points in stride and enjoy the highs for as long as possible. If you feel low, eat and if necessary, sleep a little more. You’d be surprised how much more you can recover from an extra 1.5 hours of sleep. Motivation always comes with the sunrise, and you’ll always have one of those every 24 hours.
What aspects of the Atlas Mountain Race course are you most excited about?
Laying on the dry desert floor while I look at the stars from by bivvy-burrito and hanging out with donkeys!
Have you encountered any unexpected obstacles or difficulties during your training, and how did you overcome them?
I have spent extra time training my brain in the past few months (due to a mild brain injury), so it should be much better by the time we get to the race. However, this has resulted in fewer hours on the bike due to overall fatigue.
How do you strike a balance between pushing your limits and staying within your capabilities during the race?
It will all play out in the race. You can only plan so much, and depending on the flow and mindset that happens to be there, a lot can happen. 🥰