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Getting through winter on a mountain bike – interview with Elisabeth Brandau

05. January 2012

Elisabeth Brandau is not only Germany’s MTB marathon champion, but also our professional coach for the Bike Camps next summer. Right now, she is preparing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games. But she made the time to tell us how to best get through the winter as a biker and to shape up for the Olympics.

CUBE: Hi there. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into cycling?

Elisabeth: I have always loved riding my bike. Through my local bicycle club, I started participating in road races. After a five-year break from racing, my friends persuaded me to sign up for an MTB marathon, and from then on out, everything happened so fast. I won the marathon and got to know my first team. Then, in 2008, I took out another license and went all out – I simply really enjoyed racing in a group.

CUBE: Mountain biking is highly popular in Germany and riders’ skill levels are just as high. What qualities do you need to get to the top?

Elisabeth: As in each other sport, your mind and your talent are the key. You need a healthy mix of ambition and determination to win, and you also need to take it easy or else you won’t have fun. But without talent, you’re never going to rise to the top.

CUBE: Can you tell us something about your winter training schedule? Do you work out on your bike or do you do alternative sports?

Elisabeth: I love biking, and at no time am I going to entirely mothball my bike. Not even in the mountains when it snows (laughs). You know, it can also be fun riding down ski slopes and practising your technique. In December, I took my racing bike to Mallorca for 10 days and this is where I will be going for another two weeks in January. At home, I alternate between cycling, running, swimming, kickboxing and climbing. Right now, I’m on my way to CUBE SAVOGNIN for five days of cross-country skiing and mountain tours. I think that every sustained physical activity that lasts two to four hours and is fun is also very suitable in the wintertime.

CUBE: What about nutrition in winter? Do you eat as usual, or do you adapt your diet to the cold season?

Elisabeth: Nutrition – that’s a good question for me. When I traveled a lot doing installations (Elisabeth is a cooling systems engineer by trade), I acquired some rather poor eating habits. But since this winter, I’ve been looking deeply into this matter, though it is actually independent of the seasons – it’s all about losing fat and building muscle. The trick is to find a healthy ratio between animal and plant protein, combined with vegetables and grains. I received a cookbook for cyclists as a gift that contains great recipes.

CUBE: Which tips have you got for amateur bikers who like to ride in winter?

Elisabeth: Put on several layers of clothing and have fun. Keep your heart rate 5-10 beats lower than usual so you don’t strain yourself and build up energy for spring. Stretch extensively and don’t forget to hit the gym. Of course, you can indulge in grandma’s cookies once in a while or stroll across a Christmas fair – if you’re not in the mood, your body isn’t ready to go at full speed, either. This has happened to me time and again.

CUBE: Starting in 2012, you will compete in a new team, right? What can we expect of that?

Elisabeth: Yes! It’s a great and focused group that enjoys cycling and is a force to be reckoned with in the professional field. We are three elite riders and two young talents (U23, below 23 years of age). The goal of the Olympic Games in London is written all over our faces, and our main sponsor,, is totally committed to us.

CUBE: What are your plans for the next season? What are the milestones you hope to reach?

Elisabeth: There is a kind of tiered plan: The first stage will comprise the 4 World Cups to qualify for the Olympic Games, to be followed by the Olympics themselves or the world championship in Austria. The last stage will be the marathon world championship. There are always obstacles – but I am optimistic. I’m getting better each year, and practice makes perfect, as they say. But I am confident that I can reach my goals.

CUBE: What will be the highlights of the Bike Camps at CUBE SAVOGNIN this summer?

Elisabeth: The tours in the gorgeous region of Savognin and the riding technique training. The Bike Camps are coached by our team, and we pay special attention to the individual needs of the participants. This is why we can also give specific advice for the body and soul of the bikers.

CUBE: Thanks a lot for the interview! And we wish you success for 2012!

Elisabeth: Thank you for your support and confidence in our team!