Swiss mountain-biker Konny Looser suffered severe stomach cramps during the second half of the Desert Dash but battled it out to win the 369km one-day endurance race in Swakopmund, Namibia, yesterday.
Looser, who claimed his fourth successive victory in the 24-hour race that started in Windhoek, said after 200km his stomach started cramping and for long periods he could neither eat nor drink.
“It was horrible. I felt so good for the first half and I know from last year that if you start too hard it will become an issue for the stomach. But as we started really slowly this year I was hoping for a better end.”
He added that he needed to stop three times during the overnight race and had to close the gap to the front riders each time.
“From 200km to 250km I was riding mainly on my own because every time I caught up, I had to stop again. For the last 150km I hardly drank or ate anything just to save my stomach, but it wasn’t a nice feeling.”
Looser said the first 30km were slow as nobody wanted to take the lead into a strong headwind. The next 70km was a combination of saving energy and moving about in the wind.
“It was much more comfortable during the evening as it cooled down and the altitude also didn’t matter anymore after a while. Reaching the half-way point was my highlight as there were so many spectators.
“The second part of the race always looks the same and is mentally challenging. I didn’t like the last 45km as it felt like a never-ending story and I reached a point where I didn’t want to ride anymore.”
However, Looser said, despite his stomach problems there was never a time when he felt he really could not continue.
“It’s just amazing how long and hard I could pedal for. I never reached my limit.
“A normal marathon race is much harder for the muscles, because you ride harder. On such a long distance, it’s just about riding a consistent pace.
“It’s more about my mind. Mentally, I did reach my limit. It’s always at around 300km where I’m just over riding my bike.”
Fortunately, Looser said, he was physically stronger than ever before as he had been riding at a high level throughout the year.
“As I’d won the last three races, the goal was clear to win my fourth in a row. It felt good to win and I can proudly say it was the end of a very successful season.”
He added that winning made him emotional as he had gone through many ups and downs.
“There were lots of people supporting me, following my progress . . . and I wanted to give something back to them.
“After reaching the finish and achieving my personal goal it became emotional.”