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Mieke Kröger’s Grand Tour of self-discovery: 1,347 kilometres, 5 countries, no power meter

Robyn Davidson
17 May 2022

Human Powered Health rider Mieke Kröger talks mental health, cycling through Slovenia and *that* meme

Tonight, Mieke Kröger will touch down in Spain, ready for the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas.

Her preparation for it has certainly been unique.

Last week, the 28-year-old embarked on a training block traversing the five countries of Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

‘My first plan was to go to Girona and cross the Alps,’ Kröger says before laughing, ‘and wherever there are no climbs!

‘I enjoy the calm and the quiet that is on top of such a climb but the weather forecast said rain, rain, rain.

‘I checked Eastern Europe and it said there would be some sunshine.’

It wouldn’t be plain sailing from the get-go. Kröger’s heart rate monitor died and her power meter began to show strange numbers after three days of riding.

‘In the end, it failed completely. But actually that was great.

‘I ride off feeling quite a lot. [The hardest part] was the sleep climbs.

‘I should have brought more gears because I was grinding uphill. I didn't bring a lot of luggage, but it piled up and I had to carry enough water too.

‘Otherwise, the hardest was also dealing with me and my thoughts.’

I asked the Olympic and former national champion whether the concept of introspection and reflection was purely beneficial or slightly daunting.

‘I kind of know myself, but it gives you a lot of time to think about things.

‘You have new experiences, you meet people from different cultures, you meet different lifestyles.

‘It brings you back because you're reflecting on yourself again, which you usually don't do when you're in your routine and rushing through life.’

Ultimately, the experience allowed Kröger to learn that she needs to approach others less anxiously, to not overthink how others see her and be able to walk around ‘less concerned.’

‘It’s something I need to learn. It really brought this to my mind that I should practice it.

‘You know, you always think everybody's watching and you're always concerned about what people might think about you.

‘But 19 out of 20 people don't care about you when they see you.’

Anxiety is something Kröger believes she deals with, along with other riders in the peloton affected by mental health issues.

‘If you Google anxiety and try to find a German translation, I didn't really get the true meaning of anxiety, but I always hear it and in my understanding of what it is, I think I do deal with anxiety.

‘[Mental health] is important. If you're not doing well, you can't really take care of others either. Not just repeating phrases too.’

Kröger rode on her Felt AR complete with gold handlebar tape. Photo: Human Powered Health.

Throughout her 1,347km bike ride, Kröger was treated to plenty of stunning scenery.

She recalled one moment near the Dolomites, between video calling parents to get through it (‘I knew the Dolomites were there, but I didn’t know I was passing them’ she admits), where she rode along a river.

‘It was beautiful… I was always in awe about the beauty and clearness of the water. Then there was an opportunity to just go down a gravel road.’

Out of the five countries, Slovenia was the most beautiful.

‘I could have skipped it, but I knew that it is a beautiful country. So I also ticked off Slovenia for a day which was really nice.

‘From a cycling perspective, it's calm, it's not super busy. There's a lot of nature that seems to be untouched. It's beautiful.

‘And Slovenia has such friendly people and respectful car drivers.’

It feels like, upon reflection, Kröger’s Grand Tour can serve as a reminder to slow down sometimes. To cycle for enjoyment as opposed to just work or a means to get from A to B.

A bike is a wonderful opportunity to explore and see more of the world.

But naturally, it would not be a Kröger interview without a final comment on her name becoming a meme.

The meme entails simply posting ‘Mieke Kröger’ in response to something Mieke Kröger related, like a tweet or image or probably this article, and like all good memes has no deeper meaning other than being fun.

‘It's really funny,’ she says, laughing, ‘it’s such a good topic to talk about.’

Mieke Kröger.

Main image credit: Pool via Getty Images

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