Mieke Kröger is a 22-year-old pro cyclist riding with Canyon//SRAM Racing, she’s also the German National Time Trial Champion and has claimed National Track titles in the Omnium and Individual Pursuit.
I met Kröger at Canyon//SRAM's December training camp soon after the team was launched and the new kit unveiled. We had a lovely chat about track cycling over breakfast, indeed she advised me on what sort of handlebars to set my own bike up with and gave me an honest account of her journey through the ranks in cycling. Seemingly shy initially but incredibly friendly once comfortable, she struck me as a young woman with a lot of ambition and ideas in her head.
Like any pro cyclist, Kröger monitors her training carefully – logging mileage, wattage, recovery and nutrition. But her training programme also includes something a little different. Rather than embarking on a traditional spring training camp this month, she’s off on an adventure which began on Saturday. Kröger will be riding 1000km from Leipzig in Germany to Munich, via Prague – carrying everything she needs on her bike. As well as planning her training zones and recovery, she’s also factoring in searching for places to sleep and what sights to visit.
Kröger has embarked upon a similar spring trip for the last two years in a bid to regain her “endurance legs" after the track season in a less conventional way. She explains: “The first time I did this, I started very spontaneously...I did not want to see Mallorca...I did not want to have a normal training camp…to see the same things every day. I had an overwhelming desire for an adventure. So I started on a Monday. The weather was the worst of the whole year and my bike was loaded with way too much weight! But I just did it; I took my bike and rode from south of Cologne to the north of Germany, back down to Hamburg and then east to Dresden. More or less on an impulse! I found the adventure I was craving and that trip gave me some special feelings."
Each race season, Kröger looks out for cities she’d like to ride in, the possibilities for adventure keeping her entertained over the daily routines that a pro cyclist has to adopt to be successful. She said: “Last year I rode three days south to Freiburg in Germany and then headed over to France. I would love to visit Scotland one time but in March it could become a very wet and cold business. Although that said, Eastern Europe could have my feet wet this week!"
Kröger will stay in mostly youth hostels or small hotels along the way, but does carry everything she needs strapped to her bike. She said: “I try to pack as light as possible; I’m much better than the first time I did this. Rapha sent me an extra Brevet Insulated Gilet, and I know I will have to handwash my clothes several times but it is fine. This trip always reminds me to appreciate everything I normally have!"
With a goal of earning a spot on the German track cycling team at Rio Olympics, the modest rider admits that it’s more of a journey of self-discovery than a deliberate act of inspiration for other women. “It is both self-discovering and a feeling of feeding my spirit of adventure. But I think for me it's more self-discovering. Mentally I can just enjoy the riding and I can completely forgo any pressure that is awaiting me in the upcoming season. I hope it will inspire women! Can you believe that?! Who knows next year I might even have some company. To be honest I just am thankful that I can do this and I still keep in mind, that an important road season and something called Rio Olympics is coming up."
If Kröger has inspired you to try a similar adventure, she’s got some tips for you: “First thing is to understand that you will never be as fast as on a loop, so plan with a lower average speed. Second thing is don’t pack too much. Third thing is just go and do it, get out there and ride! And my last tip is to never give up...even if it’s raining."