Lying 3rd overall at the Cape Epic, Mariska Strauss sits down with Jenna Barenblatt to talk pre race day rituals, breathing for optimum performance, riding in extreme conditions and her favourite pair of Oakley shades.

1/ Do you have any rituals before a race or a ride in general that help you get in the zone? Please describe…

  • After my commonwealth games crash- where I tore my abdominals etc, I religiously have a foam rolling session- I then tend to downing oats and coffee!
  • I listen to music.. Country Music. Eric Church.

2/ How do you breathe when you ride and how does it help your performance?

  • I breathe from my diaphragm/ stomach and try to be as relaxed as possible, and never hold breathe as it tenses you.
  • To calm myself down, I need to breathe, as I am hyper as it is, so breathing helps.
  • I suffer from asthma so it’s a challenge. Sports induced asthma.

3/ Do you use music in your training at all? If so, what kind of music – any particular theme songs? – and how does it help you?

  • It changes constantly depending on my mood. If you are out training for 5 hours, you can only have so many conversations with yourself.
  • You can’t race with music, so I play by the rules!

4/ Cycling can be pretty hard on your bum and your “lady parts”. Any tips on how to make it easier or deal with chafing and other discomfort if you do experience it? And any war stories to share the readers could learn from?

  • It gets better as you go along.
  • I use Squirt barrier balm to protect my lady bits and combine with baby bum cream.
  • Saddle choice is critical, and you have to find a saddle that works for you.

5/ When conditions are not ideal- rain , wind etc is there a way of mentally getting through it?

– I love hectic conditions. I am an extreme person and I love the challenge and mental side of it. It brings out how mental things can get and it’s about over-riding your mind. I love pushing my body to the extreme.

6/ How do you manage to maintain control of the bike and not fall?

  • I have been racing for 16 years so I think I am fortunate in that regard, but it’s about spending time on the bike and getting used to your bike and how it flows and through crashing you learn what not to do.
  • Finding the sweet spot.

7/ Aside from the basics, what essential pieces of gear do you always carry with you? 

  • Inhaler- pump
  • Multi tool
  • Saddlebag with extra hanger, valve and lots of gassies, and always sealants.
  • And my Oakley’s of course.
  • She rides in the Oakley RadarEV- she calls them pretty- “ they have HD vision.” She has the Prism road lenses in them. “I love the photo chromic lenses.”

9/ Do you have any helpful tips or tricks to share that you’ve just picked up over the years and wish someone had told you early on in your career?

  • Stretch- and loads of it. What really helps me- citric soda and rehydrate after a race. Gets the job done!

By Jenna Barenblatt