In the first of what will be a regular feature, we’ve been and caught up with Janos Kohler; an Irish rider who races in the Red Bull Road Rage series. If you haven’t heard about the Red Bull Road Rage it’s quite a unique event! They go around the world racing down some of the fastest and most technical road descents hitting speeds of over 100 km/h on normally public roads. Last years racing included hair-raising alpine descents and a phenomenally quick descent off the steepest road in Israel where, as if there wasn’t enough consequence already, any forays off the road might end up in a field of land mines. That would certainly focus the mind…
For an idea of what these events are like, check out the video above.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Janos! Firstly, for those who aren’t familiar with your achievements and career to date, how did you get to where you are now?
My roots lie in mountain biking, first having started in cross-country racing in ’93 and then downhill in ‘94. Some early promising downhill results as a junior rider gave me encouragement but some serious injuries, including a broken back, put my racing career on hold before it ever had a chance to gain real traction. It was not until last year that I came across the Red Bull Road Rage races and thought it would be fun and gave it a shot. After a sixth place in France, I firmly set my sights on a podium place for the following race in Switzerland. The focus paid off and was rewarded with a second place. On the back of these results I was approached by Trajectoires Cycles from Nantes, France, with a sponsorship offer for 2010. They joined my original 2009 Irish sponsor, The Cycle Inn from Dublin. I paid them back with a win at the season Road Rage opener in Belgium and was unlucky not to repeat this result in Israel eventually finishing a disappointing fourth place.
The Red Bull Road Rage sounds amazing, what was it about riding down some of the worlds steepest roads at up to 100km/h that seemed like a good idea?
It just looked like great fun to be honest and then the intense rush of adrenaline only served as encouragement. It’s not every day one gets the opportunity to race down a closed public road without the worry of on-coming traffic or having to stick to the speed limits. When you throw in the added opportunity of not only meeting some of the worlds top pros and ex-pros, but being able to race against them, it sounded too good to be passed up on.
You’ve travelled to some fairly amazing places in the 2010 season, Israel springs to mind, what was it like racing in a place where the pre-ride briefing warns you about land mines?!
Israel stands out as a really special event. I had experienced some great events already, but Red Bull Israel really raised the bar with their edition. From the course quality, to the organisation and the whole running of the event it was what I would like to see right across the board in terms of standards. The landmine dangers only added to the enigmatic charm of the event. The people were all really nice too and I look forward to going there again for the next edition.
Where would be your ultimate race?
It’s hard to say really as there are so many places around the world that have potential. I would like to race on the original Road Rage course down Tuna Canyon near Malibu and hope Red Bull organise one there again in the near future.
Now the all important question… what’s your fastest recorded speed?
I managed to clock 115km/h (71.5mph) back in 2008 during the Oetztaler cycle marathon race descending the east side of Kühtai into Innsbruck, Austria. I don’t plan on stopping there though, as I heard my childhood idol and fellow countryman, racing legend Sean Kelly topped 124km/h descending Joux-Plane into Morzine during his racing days. I hope to go at least one better.
Not really many more than the average cyclist can boast about. A few spills here and there, but nothing too spectacular. The trick is not to crash at all if you want to succeed.
With people racing on both road and mountain bikes in the Road Rage, what equipment do you use and why?
I use two pretty standard titanium racers, one with road and the other with criterium geometry. When it comes to all out speed on asphalt, nothing beats the aerodynamics, gearing, wheel size advantage and low rolling resistance tires of a road bike. That is what they are built for – all out speed!
How do you train for the events?
Speed and strength workouts are the staple training diet. While they aren’t the longest training sessions, because of the intensity, they are incredibly tough, both mentally and physically. Racing down hills and regular mountain biking to keep my reaction speeds and bike handling skills up also gets mixed in. It makes it more interesting, instead of purely focusing on the scientific training approach.
What are your plans and hopes for the 2011 season?
I hope to have an injury free season and go for more wins. I’m incredibly motivated to take it up another level. Hopefully I can add some new sponsors and continue to enjoy the great racing.
Go mountain biking – technical bike handling skills are a huge advantage and mountain biking helps enormously.
Learn how to corner at high speed – approach, apex, exit. Master these and half the battle is won.
Just let go – technique and athleticism can only get you so far, but probably the most important component is just being able to relax. This will take the pressure off and help give you the psychological edge.
What’s your favourite trick on the bike?
Anything spectacular, like some of the mind blowing stunts riders have pulled in Red Bull Rampage or slope style competitions.
Any favourite little anecdotes from the Road Rage events?
There have been many memorable moments and I have been lucky to meet and race against some of the biggest stars in cycling, including the likes of DH/Freeride legend Cédric Gracia, Tour de France double stage winner and yellow jersey wearer Frédéric Moncassin, three time Dakar Rally motorbike winner Cyril Dépres, former bike world speed record on snow holder Christian Taillefer (212.139 km/h), 2005 MTB Marathon World Cup Champion Mauro Bettin, multi-Olympian and 2008 Team Pursuit World Champion Christian Lademann as well as many other national champions from many different countries across a variety of disciplines. For me, the nicest thing that has evolved out of racing Road Rage is some of the friendships I have forged with fellow competitors, in particular with my team mate and sponsor François-Xavier Plaçais of Trajectoires Cycles as well as three of my closest rivals, all from Cantal Team Road.
You’re wearing your dancing shoes and the karaoke machine is hot, what song do you sing?
Karaoke??? Sorry I can’t… I have cycling in the morning!
More about Red Bull Road Rage races including race diaries can be found on Janos’ blog
Check out Janos’ winning ride in Belgium on the infamous ‘Cote de la Redoute’ descent from the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race.