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Natt Williams completes the Hope 1000 Natt Williams completes the Hope 1000
2021-08-12 08:27:00

Rab athlete Natt Williams took part in the gruelling Hope 1000 race in June 2021.

Being his first race, we were keen to catch up with him and see how it went.

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Hey Natt, could you tell us a little about yourself and the Hope 1000 race?

Hi, I am Natt Williams, a London-based exploration / adventurer cyclist who’s journey into cycling began around 2012. I relish long days in the saddle, making memories in new places on my bike, the more remote the better, and would pick 4-season insulation over 4-star accommodation every time.

The Hope 1000 is a self-supported mountain bike race that begins in Romanshorn on Lake Constance and ends at the statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux on Lake Geneva. It spans 1,000 kilometers across Switzerland with nearly 31,000 meters of climbing. The race mostly follows singletracks through meadows, crystal clear lakes, and abbeys, with courtyards, and of course, some stunning views. This event was on my radar for a while, and I challenged myself to complete it three years ago. It’s the deepest I have ever gone on my bike.

What trips have you done before?

I have completed a few trips now. London to Paris, The Desert of Wales, Brussels to London, London to Amsterdam, London to Bristol, Tour of the West Cape in South Africa, The Iceland Divide, a Coast to Coast (Plymouth to Minehead) and most recently, The Hope 1000, in Switzerland.

That’s quite a varied list there. Do you prefer travelling solo, or with someone else?

Good question. I would say 70-30% in favour of solo, because it is more of a challenge that way. But it's also great traveling with others.

I think facing challenges on the road alone have made me a more rounded person for sure. For me, when the unforeseen happens on the road I must be prepared to fix it right away. The longer I leave it, the worst the outcome. I have learnt a lot from experience, like compartmentalising an issue, addressing each problem individually, finding a solution and fixing it. It’s these experiences that keep me thinking on my toes, and ultimately that I take back to the real-world, where I can deploy the same methodology to problem solving that may arise in my personal or professional life.

What's the motivation behind your trips?

There are a couple of reasons really. To challenge myself in extreme locations, meet new people, and a change of atmosphere which often helps reinvigorate my thinking. But the main reason is to help inspire people from all demographics to embrace and love the outdoors. All whilst having fun riding my bike exploring local forests or remote plains around the world while making new memories along the way.

The Hope 1000 was your first race. Did this change how you approached it?

Yes 100%.

I went back to the drawing board with this one, as this was my very first race. I did a lot of online reading into race preparation, weather predictions, checking out the terrain throughout the course, and the type of kit that I would need to take. I also spoke to a few friends who have a-lot of race experience between them about their approach and mindset to racing. This was invaluable knowledge and helped settle some nerves, for sure. I am still learning how to approach these events, finding out what works for me. And also what does not!

What troubles did you come across on your journey?

One particular story comes to mind.

The biggest challenge other than the climbing were the storms at altitude. It was the worst I had mentally felt during the race, but also the most electric, excited, and fulfilled when I completed this specific section and continued to push onwards. It was an incredibly hard climb up another mountain. The weather took a turn for the worst and my emotions were all over the place, again. Cold started to set in as I pushed my bike through the rain. Hail stones the size of golf balls hitting me all over. I wanted to stop but I kept thinking to myself, just keep going. Pain may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and if I quit, it will last forever.

Unknowingly after a 3-hour hike-a-bike, my efforts were rewarded in the form of a bunk house (or bothy) in the middle of nowhere equipped with running water, a firepit, gas stove, and electricity. Result! Survival mode kicked in and I began removing my wet outer layer kit and set to making a fire and bring the finest pack of shop bought noodles to a boil to eat and warm myself up. Then, my mind was completely blown.

I actually couldn’t believe it for a moment. I opened a carboard to my left to find a box of celebrations and a bar of Lindt milk chocolate with nuts. My spirits were truly lifted. It reminded me of home, the people rooting for me. And encouraged me to give it my all and finish my first ultra-endurance mountain bike race.

Wow. That’s a pretty sweet find. Especially after such a hard leg. Apart from surprise chocolate, what can't you travel without?

There are a couple of things. My Bialetti Moka Pot (as I love a coffee first thing), Leatherman Wave Multitool, Rab Kaon Jacket and Rab Mythic 180 Sleeping Bag, Anker PowerPort Solar charger are always in my pack. But the first things in my packs are a medical kit and dog dazer, which is a deterrent to dogs. You wouldn’t believe it, but I’ve been chased a few times so never travel without it now!

That’s surprising. Where’s your favourite place you’ve cycled so far?

It must be Iceland, the land of fire and ice. It’s the most remote and desolate, yet beautiful place I have ever been on my bike so far. Once you leave civilisation you find yourself quickly cycling across the sections of lava fields, singletracks into wondrously wild landscapes that are truly a magnificent sight to behold.

So, we've got to ask, what’s next for you? Any more races on the horizon?

I have a few more mountain bike races coming on this year, and I cannot wait to get going. The first is Grinduro Wales, a single day gravel bike stage race event. For the second, I’ll be heading to Kyrgyzstan to take part in the 3rd edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race. And for the third, I’ll be pedalling my bike in Marrakech for the 2nd edition of the Atlas Mountain Bike Race.

Natt, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us. We’re stoked to be supporting you and help inspire others to go out and explore!

If you’d like to follow Natt, then check out his Instagram account @natt.ewill []

Natt, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us. We’re stoked to be supporting you and help inspire others to go out and explore!

If you’d like to follow Natt, then check out his Instagram account

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Words & Images by | Natt Williams

Natt Williams is a London-based adventurer cyclist. He loves exploring at his own pace and seeing what the road brings. And has recently started doing races as well, though ultimately, it's not really about the numbers.

Read more about Natt Williams here