It’s 8am and the sky is slowly turning from deep black to light grey. Here, on the flat coast of Northern Holland, you can feel the vastness of nature and weather, as a stiff, frigid wind rolls off of the North Sea.
For some, the thought of spending a weekend on the sand in January might not be appealing, but for Lisa Wörner, orthopaedic surgeon, gravel racer and founder of the No Borders Gravel team, it is just what she needs to placate her inner racer in the off-season.
‘After time off of training at the end of the season, I’ve slowly gotten back into riding again. Wanting to progress my career I decided to go back to working full time during the off season, which means that I have slightly less time to train then when I was working less. But it feels right to do this because I want to progress as a surgeon too. Depending on the day I need to be at work around 08:30 so I tend to train in the evening as I finish around 17:00. It can be hard sometimes to motivate myself to ride after a long day, but I know that it will make me feel better. I have a gym where I work – right next to where I park my bike – so that is good when I want to do some cross-training.’
‘I think that balance is the key. Racing is important to me, but so is my work and social life. I feel that being able to do all of these makes me a rounded person. To be honest, before the World Championships last year I was already mentally tired from the season. I felt like I had to pull the motivation out of my toes to stand ready on the startline, but once I was racing, it went well. I think that is why I planned these early season races. There’s a balance of staying motivated, but without putting pressure on myself or consuming too many weekends. I’m sure that I could be a person who raced both winter and summer.’
‘When it comes to riding, I am doing some longer intervals this winter, but also concentrating on making sure that I have a little top end for the races I’m going to do. Beach racing is something so unique – a cross between a crit and a MTB race – that I felt I needed some shape to be able to ride as I want. Egmond Pier Egmond was only 38k, but it was full-gas racing to get into groups, battling not only the sand, but also the wind.’
‘Other than these two weekends of racing, very little else is planned at the moment. I have just got a licence to race for a small team on the road in Holland in the spring. I think this will help my gravel riding a lot. Knowing that the spring will involve racing 120K distances, rather than the 180k races you get on gravel, will be mentally a bit easier.’
‘Gravel racing is changing. Having road racing form will help me to keep up, but I know that my season will not just revolve around the tarmac. I like being competitive, but now that gravel is becoming more dependent on your ability to ride in groups, and – if there are no separate women’s races – how well you can follow the men, I will need some extra adventure too. Gravel bikes can take you to such amazing places, so I have some plans to do some bikepacking trips, and get out into nature. I should have my season planned pretty soon, so watch this space.’