Live on Instagram with Graham is Stephane Roch. Just after a 45-mile ride at 4000 ft elevation.
Stephane Roch is a pro mountain biker, adventurist, and cycling coach. He's dedicated his life to living in the sun and making the outdoors his personal gym. Check out his interview below.
“It's one of those things my parents always look at me, I just love to live simply & use the outdoors as your gym”
G: When did you really start competing?
S : I think I was either 13 or 14 yo when I did my first race. It was in Temecula; you didn’t really see big international names at these races but all the fast guys from the area were there. And they were fast! Then I went up to Big Bear to race. NORRA (National Off-Road Organization) used to host a big race up there that would attract some really fast guys. There was lots of heavy competition up in Big Bear, which I totally wasn’t expecting. Riders from all over, the fastest from the states were there that day. It totally captured me. Ya know, mountain biking is tough because it's not televised or has any big advertisements so that day was huge for me to see so many great riders all together. In the mountain biking world, it's a challenge to make it to the next level in competition, it's really really tough to make it to that world cup stage. That’s really the only place where there are great funding and sponsorship.
G: Did you travel or compete outside of the states?
S : Only in Switzerland, which actually is where I’m from. I moved to California when I was 2. But anyway, yeah in Switzerland I competed in a 5-day stage race called the Swiss Epic; 2 person team, 5 days, 50 - 60 miles a day where the lowest elevation was 6000ft. That was a fun challenge.
G : Sounds like it. Are there any other tough races that come to mind?
S : That one reminded me of The Leadville 100, that one was a battle.
G: Ahh yes did you get the belt?
*Stephane flashes his winning silver belt to the screen*
S : Oh yes I did. 7:57 finish time which was a huge accomplishment, anyone that finishes under 8 hours can really say they crushed it. It's 104 miles of purely fitness-based skills. Then there's also the Belgium Waffle Ride (BWR) which is to date one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done.
G : BWR is a unique challenge, talk about that race a bit and why it’s so hard.
S : I mean, it's just a gnarly day. 140 miles with a fair amount of trails that you should probably be riding on a mountain bike. Buuut, you’re on a road bike. And in a pack with hundreds of riders racing.
G : Yeah it sounds nuts!
S : And you have 12,000 ft of climbing
G : I’m sure the training going into an event like these is pretty intense, how many hours a week are you doing to prepare?
S : Yeah, so it kind of ranges. I’m really strong from all the years of riding and training I’ve done. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. If I’m really trying to peak for an event I might be doing 20-25 hours a week on the bike. But, part of the reason I got into coaching because I wanted to show people how to maximize their time on the bike and not have to do massive training hours to achieve a lot.
G : Yeah speaking of training, do you have a set schedule?
S : These days I do a lot of other sports for cross-training. Surfing, hiking, changing up on the bikes too. With my coaching I give a lot of core workouts, it's the base of importance. I'm not a huge gym guy unless it's a climbing gym but I do enjoy plyometrics training a lot too. I really like using the outdoors as my gym.
G : As far as training goes, what is your key to success?
S : Well after my years of racing, there were a few years where I wanted to qualify for the world cup. I really trained so much on the bike. 25 hours on the bike, 300-400 miles a week. I got over riding, it just isn't fun anymore. I wanted to shift my riding to help people get better at it too. I teach people consistency. I think I'm as fast as I am now because I haven't stopped, ya know? If you train for anything 5-6 hours a week you’ll get good at it. It's that consistency that makes all the difference. Plus it gives me the chance to tour people around, I love showing people all new places.
G: Consistency is a great technique, tell us more on that
S : Yeah, of course, I mean as a beginner that's when you gave the most potential to grow. Personally, for me to grow at this point, I need to put in 30 hours a week, I'm at a plateau after all these years of riding. But as a beginner, you can get to that expert level at very little. Consistency over 2-3 months, once a weekend, just getting out there is really all you need to get better, that and time.
G: As a coach, have you taken anyone from beginner level to professional?
S: I haven't taken anyone to a professional level, I work with a lot of people that simply just want to get better. I worked with this lady who had never done a century (a century is where a rider either rides 100 miles or 100 kilometers in a single ride). She came to me after signing up for Padres Pedal the Cause which is a huge cancer fundraiser down here in San Diego. The route is over 100 miles with significant climbing and she had never ridden more than 40 miles in a ride.
I wrote her a training plan, & asked her realistically how many hours can you do a week. She told me 8 was possible. So I wrote it up and on her hardest week, I was giving her 12 hours of training. I would ride with her every few weekends to check in on her progress. By the time the event rolled around she was ready and she crushed it. That’s what I love about coaching!
S: Exactly. I gave her the goal to finish it in 8 hours, and if you can do it under 8 you’re golden. She finished at 7:56. She’s 50 yos. It comes down to pushing your limits, if you push the boundaries you will become stronger. Don't overdo it, I definitely want to stress that but she didn’t give up and she fought hard to that finish.
G: How did you get into mountain biking and all these outdoor sports. I feel like a lot of people that choose an outdoor lifestyle to have some type of moment that inspires them to try and recapture that feeling over and over again.
S: For me, I’ve had a lot of friends that have tried to get me into motorcycle riding because I can really ride the tire but there's something about it that that doesn't get me. I love the planet and having that eco-friendly perspective. I love surfing because you're using this energy that the planet has already made. It's unlimited. Seeing people out on the trail, discovering the world, the weather, the views, all the environments, it's all completely different, from cactus to shrub to oak trees it's just awesome. That's why I enjoy mountain biking so much.
*Suggested trail by Stephane: Noble Canyon: “one of the most technical trails in SD, crazy rock gardens.”*
G: I love that, San Diego has so much to offer in terms of terrain and scenery. Let’s talk about gear! So much has changed in mountain bike tech, what’s your favorite innovation in the time that you’ve been riding?
S : For me the biggest and most important has been the 29-inch wheel. I prefer riding my hardtail (a mountain bike with only front suspension). I love the weight of this bike and the invention of the 29-inch wheel has made it so that you can tackle more terrain with a hardtail bike!
G : So that kind of leads me to my next question and I think I know the answer, but if you had to choose one bike, what would it be?
S : If I could only have one bike it has to be my 29er hardtail. I can crush it with that bike. The big wheel makes it easier to roll over things. Lower tire pressure, you can absorb the terrain. Eliminated weight, helps with shifting, steering, and climbing. One advantage of being a cross- country rider is you can really ride anywhere.
G: Speaking of places to ride, if you could choose anywhere to ride, from the places you’ve been, where would it be?
S: That is a really tough question, ahh favorite place, if I had to go somewhere...shoot I’d probably go back to the Alps. There's a lot for me to learn out there, there's a lot of rocks, trails that are well built, steep stuff that's so fresh in my mind from last summer that I really want to tackle it again. Maybe bring a few bikes next time too.
G: What are your Bucket list spots?
S: After the Swiss Epic race, I’ve contemplated South Africa. There’s a really cool race down there called Cape Epic that’s been on my list. Plus, as a bonus I could bring a surfboard and hit some waves too.
After a little more banter with Stephane, we had to let him go and rest after a long morning of riding. If you’re interested in getting to know Stephane more or wish to have him coach you, head to his website and give him a ring. Ride Unbound.
Final words from Stephane, for all our mountain biking loving friends.
S : “Mountain bikers, we just go to rip our legs off”