Time to introduce the unstoppable Jean: an endurance athlete who rides long-distance races on the MTB. We got the chance to talk to Jean about his MTB achievements and cycling goals.
Jean Biermans is a passionate mountain biker who rides long-distance races. You might know him as former World Champion 24hr, or as the two-time winner of 36ONE in South-Africa. This year, his goal is to finish The Munga, a 1080km race in South-Africa.
He rides around 500 to 700 km each week besides working a fulltime job. In 2020, Jean managed to ride 31.000km! Combining his training with working fulltime is a challenge. During the current pandemic, Jean works from home which enables him to live like a professional athlete. On his Instagram, he does not only share his rides, he also gives his followers insights in the life of an endurance athlete.
Having a leg handicap doesn’t stop Jean. When he was 17, he had to prepare himself for the amputation of his leg after an accident. Luckily for him, the doctors managed to repair his leg, but Jean had to learn to walk again. When Jean initially started mountain biking a few years after his accident just for fun, it didn’t take long before his friends motivated him to start racing.
Cycling, especially mountain biking, has become a lifestyle for Jean. In his active cycling years, Jean participated in 35 to 40 races each year in different disciplines. During his career he has finished twelve 24hr races and has won eight of them. Some of them solo, some in a team and in 2010 he became a world champion in this discipline racing in a duo. Now he chooses 5 to 10 remarkable long-distance events each year.
His secret to perform so well on the long-distance races is to work closely together with a trainer. For a big event, Jean follows the plan very strictly and listens to his body. In his many years of experience, Jean has prepared his body for the extreme effort it takes to finish the race.
When we ask Jean about his best cycling memory, he immediately mentions the 36ONE race in South-Africa. It was his first race in South-Africa back in 2014 and he fell in love with the race, the country, and its people. The concept of the endurance race is to cycle 361km through the night and finish in the early morning.
Jean describes 36ONE as more than just a race, it’s one of his favorite experiences. He participated 5 times in total of which he has won 2 editions. When in 2020 the race was cancelled, he found a MTB route in his area and finished the 361km on a track of 40km.
Jean’s most precious memory of 36ONE is the first edition he participated in, back in 2014. In South-Africa, MTB racing is as popular as the World Tour on the road in Europe. This means the event got covered on tv and many people look up to the winners of the races. When Jean won the 2014 edition, he immediately got accepted by the people as a hero. And when he came back in 2015 to successfully defend his title, Jean proved again his talent. In the race, you can race solo like Jean did, or as a relay-race in a duo or team of 4. In his second edition, Jean didn’t only win the solo race, he even completed the course faster than all duos and teams.
Jean hopes to compete again in 2022.
2021 cycling goals
In 2021, Jean hopes to compete in 2 large events: the Saimaa Cyclo Tour and The Munga. During the Saimaa Cyclo Tour, Jean will ride 285km across Finland on his road bike. It’s his first time to visit Finland.
The large goal of 2021 is The Munga in South-Africa. This is a 1080km endurance race on the MTB which Jean has completed in 2019. It’s a solo race with day temperatures above 40 °C and cold nights. When Jean started the challenge for the first time in 2017, he had to quit after 580km due to the high temperatures his body couldn’t handle and pressure to win. His preparation was a winter of training in Belgium with for example training weekends of 2 times 250km. The expectation of winning the race gave a lot of pressure to perform well, which made Jean stop the races after his body couldn’t handle the extreme efforts in high temperatures.
In 2019, the goal was to finish the race. He finished 13th after a completely different race strategy. Jean rode during the nights and spent one day sleeping at a checkpoint to be able to race during the nights. This year, Jean hopes to finish The Munga for the second time. His goal is to finish, and he hopes for a higher ranking.
Jean’s bike care tips
With as many hours on the bike, taking good care of the bikes becomes an important part of the preparation towards the events. He sees his bikes as tools that make reaching his goals possible. It’s evenly important to take good care of your bike as you do with your body.
When he was young, his father taught him the basics of car maintenance, which has become a useful skill when it comes to bike maintenance. A few times a year, Jean takes apart the carbon parts and cleans his bottom bracket. By keeping these parts clean and greased, the lifespan is extended, and it reduces cracking noises caused by mud and sand.
A lot of rides means a lot of bike cleaning for Jean, especially in the winter when the road bike and MTB are cleaned after every ride. A clean bike rides and looks better. His tip is to clean the chain and cassette after the rides and make sure they are dry before re-lubrication. A frequent check of the brake pads and length of the chain so he can replace them before they are worn out helps as well to keep the bikes in excellent condition.
His favorite lubricant is the Speed Potion Wax, because of its long-lasting performance. Jean uses it on both his road bike and MTB.
Follow Jean Biermans on Instagram to get your daily dose of endurance inspiration.
Photo’s via Jean Biermans, 36ONE en Bruno Bobbink (@fietsbenen).