German fixed gear crit rider and former triathlete Tanja Erath is taking the fixed gear crit scene by storm. She won the Rockstar Games Top Antagonist Award in first two Red Hook Crits this year, placed third in the RHC Barcelona No.5, and on top of that finished first in the other seven crits she participated in. With a track record like that you wouldn’t expect her to have less than a year of experience in fixed gear racing.
Text: Date Burgerjon
|Cycling for||17 years|
|Fixed for||1 years|
|Training hours a week||12-15hrs|
|from which fixed||2hrs|
|Work/Occupation||Studying medicine, 40hrs a week|
Tanja started doing triathlon when she was 11-years old. “I did that for about 16 years. The first seven years of triathlon were like a hobby. It got serious when I started working, but I injured my right leg, so I couldn’t run anymore. I tried for two years, but it didn’t improve,” Tanja explains switching sports.
Erath was doing triathlons at a high level. She participated in the IRONMAN 70.3 age group World Championship in 2015, but was already injured by then. “I came off the bike in 5th place, but lost like 40 places during the running.”
In September last year Tanja tried riding a fixed gear bike for the first time. “Two weeks later I did my first fixed crit in Rijswijk, and I finished in second place”.
Because of her history in sports Tanja wasn’t new to training. “The biggest difference is that I now only swim a couple of times during the winter and ride my bike the rest of the time.” Erath has a coach who makes her training schedule. “I always think the more I train the better I get. So I need someone to tell me what to do, otherwise I train too much. I’m not really into sport science.”
Tanja still works with the same coach as she did during her triathlon days. “My trainer Utz Brenner is a triathlon coach. So we are finding out what works on the fly, but it goes quite well, I think.” This past winter Tanja worked on her base condition doing some endurance work, and strength training in the gym. As the season comes closer she does more and more race specific training. “I do lots of 6 second max sprints followed by 2 minutes of keeping a high pace.”
Even though Tanja works over 40 hours a week she does the same amount of training as she did when she was in school. “I still train about 12 to 15 hours, spread out over six days. But now I have to train after work.” As the season progresses Erath replaces here strength training in the gym with strength training on the bike. “I’ll do some heavy gear low cadence exercises.”
She also does some endurance work. “In the weekend I do long rides, 4-5 hours. For fixed gear crits it’s not that important, if you have good base. That’s the thing I like about fixed gear racing: you don’t need to train that much, it’s easier to combine with work or school.”
Tanja trains with a power meter, but never uses one during a race. “Workouts are more complicated. You not only train for pleasure but also for the watts. I like the scientific part, the numbers and stuff. But during a race I never use it, I like to race on instinct rather than on the watts. I think I can do more in a race than during training. Maybe it’s the adrenaline. I don’t know.”
Even though having a strong season so far, Tanja stays modest in her ambitions. “My ambitions for this year? To have fun!” She thinks she chose the right sport to do so. The fixed gear scene is totally different from the triathlon scene. In triathlon everyone is really serious. They go to bed early and they never drink a beer. Fixed gear riders are much more outgoing. It’s much more fun.”
Tanja participated in the German road race championships this year in the elite-women category. She finished 21st in both the road race and the time trail. Asked if she has ambitions turning pro, she says: “Maybe, I don’t know if I have the level. But for now, I do not have the time to train as much as needed because of my work. I’ll get my medicine degree in November, so I’ll decide then if I’ll give it a try”.