Reflections on 2023: Robin Gemperle
As we creep towards the final months of 2023, we asked three riders from three different disciplines to open up about their year on the bike. From ultra-distance racing, months-long tours and single-day gravel racing, Apidura is proud to support the leading riders who represent every angle of our sport. Robin Gemperle made it his mission this year to firmly establish himself in the ultra-distance racing scene, completing the Atlas Mountain Race, Hope1000, The Transcontinental Race and Badlands. Read on to get an insight into the mind of this determined rider, his highs and lows and why a tin of sardines means more to him than you might expect.
“I think by now I have completely forgotten how I felt at the beginning of this year,” says Robin Gemperle, opening up about what has been an absolutely storming year for the rider who was barely known in the ultra-distance scene before last year.
“Yes it was my goal to become a relevant part of the scene and with that I was expecting my attitude towards ultra cycling was going to change. I also knew that the goals I had set myself were realistic, but never had I actually thought of what it would mean for my everyday life.”
Establishing himself as one to watch at TCRNo8 in 2022, Robin had a blazing start leading the front of the pack until he dropped back, presumably out of energy, but still finishing in the top 10. A scrappy, all-or-nothing approach would come to define Robin’s approach to racing, but after some time to reflect and with some more experience under his belt, Robin started 2023 off with a bang – winning Atlas Mountain Race in February, covering the 1,300km course in 3 days, 20 hours and 15 minutes.
Winning Atlas at the beginning of the year was quite the emotional highlight. I had proven what I was capable of and it got rid of quite a few personal doubts. Floating through the year with that reputation could actually be seen as one continuous highlight, but of course I had to live up to it.
Despite bursting onto the scene during ultra-cycling’s premier “road” race at TCRNo8 last year, Robin’s background in pro mountain biking no doubt influenced his race calendar this year, choosing to attack the Hope 1000 FKT in June after the Atlas Mountain Race (which he did, winning in a time of 3 days, 12 hours and 31 minutes – taking 4hrs 25mins off the time set by Marin de Saint-Exupéry in 2021).
His off-road skillset was certainly put to good use during TCRNo9, which featured a number of mandatory gravel and off-road sections. While his closest competitor in the race, Christoph Strasser, chose to take longer paved road options, Robin took risks on shorter, more direct off-road routes – a strategy that frequently looked like it might pay off, with both riders leap frogging each other for most of the race – before Christoph Strasser eventually gained enough of a lead to shake Robin off in the final throws of the race.
But how did this feel for the rider who said there were “no excuses this time” in the build up to this year’s race?
“Of course the moment that I realised I wouldn’t be winning TCR was tough, but even then I was fine with accepting it as part of the process: I gave it my best shot at the time.
“I sometimes like to think, that these low moments are actually my strongest ones. They remind me of the fact that everything which brought me there is due to my own decision making and there’s no reason to blame anything or anyone but myself. It’s this degree of accepting responsibility that I am probably most proud of.
“And actually, this year was almost a completely clean run in terms of issues while riding.”
When asked whether he would have changed anything about the way he raced this year, Robin remained stoic about his choices: “Of course I will continue to work on all the details but in general I like the way I race: I am happy with my attitude before the race and I think I live up to it in a respectable way without being too stubborn.
“Of course there’s always the will to improve quality in training but with the load of my everyday life I don’t know how realistic that is. So let’s not be too harsh and focus on improving my nutrition as a next step.”
Despite travelling to some of the most beautiful parts of the world by bike this year, Robin has still enjoyed his adventures close to home.
“Some of the best places I’ve been on the bike this year have been close to home as well as far away – but especially the fountain in front of my apartment, after a short spin around the block with my friends waiting to open a can of sardines and throw down some baguettes.”
“I can’t say I’ve completely reached every sporting goal this year, but in a general sense I am definitely at a place where I am feeling very well. I don’t feel like it’s the time to cry about some lost battles but be very content with the following reality: this year cycling has become a major part of my identity again and it feels oh so right.”