"For me it’s about the reassurance that if you’re at the bottom, it's good news because it’s going to get better from there."
Embarking on ultra-distance rides can be an intimidating prospect for many. Imagine consecutive days on the bike, battling sleep deprivation, experiencing both solitude and joy, and enduring discomfort in unexpected places. Ultra riding is a challenge reserved for the truly resilient. In this month's athlete spotlight, we turn our attention to Alex McCormack, a seasoned ultra-distance rider from the UK. Alex, no novice to packing bags and conquering towering mountains, and technical terrain, shares insights from his remarkable season of covering extensive distances across diverse landscapes. Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to catch up with Alex and delve into his experiences navigating mammoth rides all over the place!
What have been your favourite ultra races this year?
Since shifting from competitive sailing to bike racing in 2021 I haven’t had the chance to fully explore all the races on offer. However growing up a mountain biker and thriving on solo mountain missions for me the feeling of being out there alone is what I’ve been chasing and to date Further Perseverance ticked all the boxes: Big mountain passes, technical descents, long hike-a-bikes, remote paths and a selective fields made it a good mixture of racing and remote.
Why ultra distance, what keeps you coming back for more?
For me the rise in popularity of the ultra distance has come at the right time. After a season of racing National series XC the idea of travelling 10+ hours a weekend for a 90 minute race just didn’t seem to sit right with me, especially when something as simple as a slipped pedal off the start meant the result wasn’t there and I wasn’t enjoying the racing. The ultra distance is a great race scene to get involved in, a friendly atmosphere around the races and the chance to ride and visit places which wouldn’t usually get a visit is a big part of the enjoyment as well as just enjoying time in the chamois. The longer I can spend on the bike the happier I am - so it’s a perfect fit.
How do you deal with the low moments, if you have any at all?
Anyone who says they don’t have low moments in an ultra race is either lying or not trying haha. For me it’s about the reassurance that if you’re at the bottom, it's good news because it’s going to get better from there. This also works the other way and when it’s all going well and you’re having the best time - unfortunately it’s going to get worse. Knowing that the ups and downs are part of it keeps me moving whatever the mood. And again it sounds cliche but a bad day in the saddle is still better than a good day in the office, so I’m always grateful to be riding my bike.
How do you fuel your ultra races?
It’s hard to summarise this as every race is different depending on the amount of refuel options and the length of the race. However, using Further Perseverance as an example even though there were plenty of shops I decided to fill every spare bit of space with the STYRKR nitro gels, Bar50’s, SLT07 and a ton of mix60’s. Taking a big supply off the start was a different approach