Interview | Lorraine Truong & Kerstin Kögler of Team BMC
One is blond and the other one has brown hair. One is pretty tall and the other one rather short. One speaks German and the other one French. One is a riding skills teacher and the other one is an engineer. One likes long distances and stage races and the other one like steep technical downhills…
At first sight these two women have nothing in common. Yet Kerstin Kögler and Lorraine Truong are both part of the BMC Factory Trailcrew and share the same passion for cycling. But how did they get there and how do they see women cycling evolving? We caught up with them over a cup of coffee to get to know them a bit better.
There are as many stories as people when it comes to cycling debuts. How did it all start for you?
Kerstin: My father loved to do mountaineering. Eighteen years ago he decided to start exploring the mountains by bike. I was into athletics at the time, I was doing heptathlon and high jump so cycling was just an alternative for me. We went to the mountains on the weekend. I finally took part to my first race in 2004, I was 22, it was the German national university championships marathon and I won. From that on, I did not stop racing.
And you, Lorraine, you started earlier, didn’t you?
Lorraine: Not really. I started when I was 13, in 2003. My parents are not into cycling at all, we are more of a skiing family. Many skiers do mountain biking in the summer and it is how I discovered it. Then, I wanted to race Downhill but my parents did not want me to. My dad even said “As long as I am alive you won’t race Downhill. He is still alive and I’m racing Downhill!” (laughs). Both my parents are doctors and what they see from Mountain Biking is crashes and as they don’t practice it is not easy for them to appreciate what is dangerous or not. So I went for cross-country, at least it was mountain biking. But what I’ve always preferred was going down. Three years ago, cross-country racing started being very tough for me so I thought it would be the time for something else. I started Enduro because it is the discipline that suits me best and Downhill because it is the funniest things in the world!
So if you didn’t go biking with your parents, who did you go with?
Lorraine: I went with a group of friends who were all much older than me in Les Mosses. They put me on the bike and taught me everything you need to know when you start riding. Then, I went by myself mostly. I think it is pretty cool because riding is something I wanted and nobody else wanted for me and helped me to do. But I did it anyway and that’s pretty cool.
Kerstin: So we both started in about the same age! But I am much older… (Laughs). I got the support from my family for mountainbiking but nor for mountain bike racing.
Lorraine: So, something we have in common!
Why didn’t you get the same support for bike racing?
Kerstin: They thought it was too dangerous and they are very afraid of things I was doing. They wanted me to focus on my apprenticeship and my studies so they wanted to see me in an office, with a normal job and not doing these racing cycling things.
Do you think it would have been different if you were boys?
Lorraine: For sure not. My parents are cool; they do not make any difference.
Kerstin: It would have been easier if I was a boy I think…
What does a typical day look like for you?
Lorraine: I wake up early, really early, and I go running before breakfast, have breakfast on the train and work. I go biking and do some gym in the afternoon. I try to ride my downhill bike with friends as often as possible. Sometimes, I chill a bit at home instead…
Kerstin: I am not sure you’re able to chill…!
Lorraine: Sometimes I go to the BMX club and I always go to bed early so I have eight hours sleep.
Can you chill Kerstin?
Kerstin: Hmm… No… Sometimes… Something we have in common with Lorraine is the 8-hour sleep. I can’t train before breakfast, I hate that. I go up later (around 8.00), have breakfast and do some office work: check emails, organize my riding skills classes. I go training at 11.00 or 12.00 and I have to work again in the evening. So my days can be quite long. I sometimes write my newsletter at midnight… I also spend many days giving riding skills lessons for the whole day. It is my job.
Lorraine: For sure I couldn’t do that… After 8.00pm I am useless…
Kerstin: But I cannot train as early as you do! Never before breakfast.
What makes a day a good day?
Lorraine: Having fun, laughing and not getting tired.
Kerstin: I love loooong days on the bike with good friends. And a glass of red wine in the evening.
And can you have a good day off the bike?
Kerstin: Yes, it can be a good day! I love to meet with friends, to have good conversations, cook together and I really enjoy the nature so I love to walk in the mountains. Two years ago I worked 100% as a guide and as a riding skills coach and the free time I had I spent walking in the mountains. It was my hobby. I also like to ride a horse. I started when I was really young. If I ever have to quit cycling I would have a horse.
So your lifestyle is quite different from the average. Do you consider yourself lucky?
Lorraine: Oh yeah!
Kerstin: Yes, but it is also a hard way! It is not like “It is easy, everything is cool, just ride your bike”, you have to work for that.
Imagine a terrible future with no bikes… What would you do?
Kerstin: I would ride a horse and walk in the mountains or go skiing.
Lorraine: I would ski for sure and… (hesitating)
Kerstin: Do you play music?
Lorraine: Yeah I played the trumpet.
Kerstin: Me too – but accordion.
Lorraine: When I was six I hesitated between trumpet and drums. And now, I so much regret I didn’t take drums… So maybe one day I’ll learn drums… I think I would be a shipper in this world without bikes. Maybe I could ride ship??!
Your paths crossed last year for the first time. It was in Scotland at a EWS event. Now, you are part of the same team, the BMC Factory Trailcrew. Your first competition experience as team mates was in Ireland last month.
Before a race, do you have any special habits?
Lorraine: I generally feel like sh… the day before a race. Most of the time, I just ask myself “Why do you do this? You could have a quiet life in a quiet place. But I do some mental coaching exercises, I juggle too or slackline. It is a mental thing because you have to be fully focused and can’t have any other thoughts. Before the race EWS in New Zealand, the pumptrack challenge was probably the best I could do because during that time I didn’t think about the big race. I always try to do something like that but during a EWS event, it is pretty hard. The day before is practice so you’re in all day, and stressed all day…
Are you stressed too?
Kerstin: I was stressed for the cross-country races. Now it is my 11th season so I am nervous for sure but not too much. I try not to forget anything important for the race. Enduro is really new to me (she started in 2014) so the boys (François Bailly-Maître and Florian Golay) told me what I need to take with me and what I should wear. For me, the most important thing is to get active before a stage. At the start, it is so hard for me to be ready. Now I have my warm-up. It is one or two minutes long and after that I am ready, I can start.
Lorraine: That’s pretty funny because I wasn’t so nervous at the start of a cross-country race. In my mind, when racing cross-country, I had time. If you did a mistake, you still had an hour to make up time. In Enduro and Downhill, you only have one shot. It makes me so full-on. I think I have improved compared to last year but I know I’m always going to be nervous. To some extent, I think it helps me.
Kerstin: The day before the race, I like to do yoga.
And I also like the feeling of being part of a team. For sure, everyone does his own race but the jokes of Adrien (the team mechanic) and the music that Flo (Golay) puts on in the morning of a race make me feel good. We try to motivate each other and that helps me a lot.
After the race, how do you celebrate or how do you solace?
Lorraine: If it is a good result, it is easy. I go out and I party. If it is not a good race, well I party too…!
Kerstin: I like to have a glass of red wine. I don’t party often but sipping a glass of wine at home is nice, whatever the result. The day after a race, when I get home, I like to go to a little pizza place which is 200m from my place and enjoy lunch in the sun reflecting about the race.
Is there an event or an achievement that makes you dream?
Kerstin: My big dream is to do for five or six days to Monte Rosa with a mountain guide. I like biking there but I never walked there so it is a dream to climb it. I hope I can find the time to do it next year.
Lorraine: I’d love to invent something. It is not going to happen but finding a new theory in physics or mathematics, something that is so new that you cannot see it happening. That would be pretty cool!
Is there somebody you really admire?
Kerstin: Nobody in particular. But in the last three-four years I met really interesting people. Some people are really interesting and all have their own way, it was a real eye opener. I get inspired by these people. For example, there was a 62-year old man taking part to a trail-camp and he told me that every year he tries something new, something he believes he cannot do. I love that!
Lorraine: I would like to meet someone like Einstein. He just came out of nowhere with a theory that nobody thought about. And that was 80 years ago!
You are evolving in a men’s world. Is it something you like, something you got used to, something you’d like to see evolving?
Lorraine: I definitely like it. I usually feel more at ease with the boys than with the girls. But I also think it would be good to see more girls getting involved in mountain biking.
Kerstin: I am the only woman in the German trainers’ team. I am ok with that but I always have the feeling to prove more than the others that I am good at what I do. It is a bit harder for me to get the respect of the participants.
Lorraine: I think it is not only in mountain biking or in sport. In every day’s life, a woman has to work harder than a man to get to the same position… In engineering it is the same, at school too.
Do you think it makes you a bit feminist?
Lorraine: It is hard to explain to boys that there is a difference made in society between boys and girls. They don’t see it. But as a woman, you feel it every day. Either you accept it and you get into the system or you say no. I choose to say no because I don’t see why there should be a difference.
Women cycling is currently going through a certain evolution. Equal prize money is becoming more and more common. You’re happy to see that I guess?
Lorraine: There is a difference in the way the men and women’s bodies work but it doesn’t mean that what women achieve is worth less. In Enduro it is even more true because the transition times are the same. So we do the same as the men with about 15% muscles less. Come on…! In a way, I understand that people who do not race see a difference in the times and the style but if you look at the work it takes to get there, it is the same! It is only by encouraging women that there will be more of them at the start of races.
How would you encourage women?
Kerstin: I think it should start at the beginning. We should try to get as many women as possible on a bike.
How do we achieve that?
Lorraine: One thing I saw in New Zealand is tracks for beginners. I saw a group of 60-year old women riding together in the evening. They can ride on fun and not dangerous tracks. How cool is that? Here in Europe, where do you start? It is so hard…
Kerstin: There are more and more women taking part to my riding skills courses. I do not do many women specific courses though, I do more mixed groups. Women want to enjoy the nature and feel better in their body. I see a lot of 40-year old but unfortunately I miss the 20-year old, the 15-year old…
Lorraine: At some point, as a teenager girl, if you don’t really want to ride you stop. It is the same for maths and physics. When you ask 10-year old girls if they like maths, they’re like “oh yeah!” and then people tell them they should do that because they are girl and they give up!
Who tells them to stop? The parents, the teachers?
Lorraine: Everyone, women included! You know the Always “Like a girl” video? It is so true! I even surprise to tell myself “Oh sh… I rode like a girl!”… We should change this way of thinking.
Kerstin: In my classes, many parents tell me “You can’t make them go down that way”. Of course I can! Children can do so much. We shouldn’t limit them, boys and girls.
If a 12-year old girl was telling you she wanted to ride, what would be the first tip you’d give her?
Kerstin: The first thing at that age is having fun. Riding skills and coordination are also important. They are too young to work on endurance. Kids should do many different kinds of sport to develop their coordination, not only cycling.
Lorraine: My first advice, and it is not only for kids, would be “don’t’ brake!” because most of the time braking is the worth thing you can do. It works pretty good, I tried it with my sister!
What would the skills teacher say?
Kerstin: I wouldn’t say that to everyone!! I think I would give more an advice where to brake and where to let the brakes open ;-) Only people who can already ride a bike should be given this advice… But there is a big difference inbetween riding skills for racing and MTB touring – AJUHU.
Words: Team BMC Photos: Jérémie Reuiller / BMC