As many as 124 mountain passes in 26 days. One passionate cyclist and one ŠKODA ENYAQ iV. A sporting challenge that took place in the Swiss mountains at the end of this summer. How did the two participants fare?
Monika Sattler, a Goals Achievement Coach from the Swiss town of Bern, is a passionate cyclist and athlete who loves to create and take on challenges that take her out of her comfort zone. Her latest achievement sounds impressive in numbers: 124 mountain road passes in Switzerland, 1,368 kilometres pedalled, 56,260 vertical metres climbed. All this in 26 days. “What I would love, though, is to be able to get energy back to the system as ENYAQ iV does when recuperating during descents,” she said after finishing the challenge.
The fully electric ŠKODA ENYAQ iV support and service vehicle - which was quickly nicknamed “Škody” after a couple of days - was a partner to the extraordinary sporting performance throughout. It carried two bicycles at the back: one was Sattler’s spare bike in case of technical issues that couldn’t be solved right away. In addition, the car carried all the crew’s gear, the rider’s equipment for all possible weather conditions as well as technical equipment for maintenance like the pump, spare tubes or chain lube. And there was one gadget in the trunk that the team sang the praises of – an electric-powered cooling box. It kept food and beverages cold that Sattler could enjoy during a quick break or after the ride on the way to the next stop.
“And I always had my laptop on my lap to start writing the daily news and articles or do some social media work anytime I wanted. We also had the photographer’s cameras on board as well as walkie-talkies to communicate with Monika,” adds Julia Heckmann, the team’s communications manager.
During the ride, the car drove behind, in front and sometimes at the side of the cyclist, providing safety and security. She would also receive a new bottle of water on the go, or sunscreen, mosquito spray or a snack directly from the car without having to stop. On hot days, they even sprayed water on her from the car with a spray bottle.
Monika Sattler is at home in sports. Born in Germany, now living in Switzerland, moved to the USA in 2005 on a volleyball scholarship. There she discovered road cycling on her own a few years later. In 2018, Monika Sattler set herself the goal of becoming the first woman to complete the 3,000-kilometre Vuelta a España, one of the most important stage races in the world and one of cycling's three Grand Tours. In doing so, she rode the same stage on the same day as the male professionals – just a few hours earlier. Her mission was to inspire other people, in this case especially women, to believe in themselves and take on big challenges.
“We also handed her or took away the clothing that she might need in bad weather, such as a wind vest or rain jacket. Of course, it was also important to entertain her along the way. Telling stories, playing a little quiz if necessary and so on. We really had to be creative to keep her happy,” smiles Julia, who was the only one on the team who stayed with Monika for all stages of the challenge. “But that worked out really well and a lot of things needed no words!”
How did Monika feel about having a fully electric car as her support vehicle? “Riding in such a beautiful landscape and having a car with me all the time made me think about its possible impact on the environment. It feels so much better to have a ‘greener’ car with me that not only is more sustainable but also definitely very quiet. It actually does not feel like a ‘troublemaker’ in nature whatsoever, especially when going up passes or being on the side of roads. So yes, this is definitely an essential part of the overall story of my challenge,” she explains.
Monika admits she hasn’t had much experience with e-mobility so she was extremely curious how this type of car would work – taking the requirements and demands of the challenge into consideration. And so were the other members of the crew – the drivers actually say that during the first two days they were a bit scared that the car wouldn’t make it. But they admit it was because it took some time to get used to the range indicator, the capacity of the battery, capabilities of the car and the effect of recuperation.“ But after the first experiences – in terms of consumption of energy and (re)charging – we had a partner at our side we could trust. And also, when it came to quick manoeuvres that also included going over the roadside slightly or on some rather bumpy gravel roads. Despite its size, the ENYAQ iV was quite agile, and its acceleration was surprising. It is certainly a car that takes on adventures and is a lot of fun to drive,” says Björn Sum, one of the drivers.
He points out one of the car’s advantages: it is a part of the landscape. Due to the fact that it is extremely quiet it felt as if they didn’t disturb the environment, animals at the side of the road like cows or marmots were not hiding right away. Last but not least, it’s so much better to drive in front of cyclists or pass them – no exhaust fumes. Michael Daiger, the other driver, describes the team’s daily routine regarding the car’s juice: “We charged during the night to make sure we were fully loaded for the next stage. We only had to do in-between charging twice during the challenge just to make sure to get to the next stop safely. For that we looked for a super-fast charging option on the way which did not take longer than an extended coffee break or a short stop for grocery shopping. You must keep in mind that we always had to keep Monika in sight and stay in close reach. So, taking an unplanned break would have had an impact on the overall project – and we did not want that.”
Julia the communications manager points out that “Škody” was a great fit for this event. “ŠKODA has had cycling genes for a very long time and the focus on an environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to nature also fits into the story very well. It just matches what Monika stands for. We move in nature and must appreciate and protect it so that we can have such beautiful experiences in the future. So going all-electric with the ENYAQ iV was a perfect choice. And we are extremely glad and thankful that we found such a perfect fit.”
Monika Sattler started her journey in Nyon on 12 August and reached the finish in Bern last week. Looking back at the past month, what has been the biggest challenge for her?
“The whole trip was one big experience. We had the chance to see so many different regions of the country. It was simply amazing to be able to ride through different landscapes. We were so lucky with the weather, there were only two days of pouring rain. Those are moments when it is harder to stay motivated and are the toughest mentally. Other challenging moments came on days when we had more than 10 passes on the list – some of which were actually difficult to identify and find. But in order to prove I reached the pass we always had to take a picture of myself with the road sign or other landmark for the record. Physically, the long and steep climbs were the most demanding and challenging. But since I always aim for my own rhythm and pace when riding, I could cope with it quite well. What I would love, though, is to be able to get energy back to the system as ENYAQ iV does when recuperating during descents,” she laughs. “But seriously, one should never eat or drink on the bike when going downhill due to safety reasons, you should always keep both hands on the handlebar. But once I’m in the car, I use the chance to get some food or drink and start the recovery phase as soon as possible after the stage is done.”
Looking back at the past weeks, Monika admits with relief she is really happy to have accomplished the challenge. “I am looking forward to inspiring more people and especially women with this story and example. To inspire and motivate people to take on their own challenges – which does not have to be a record at all – but something that demands leaving their own comfort zone for a bit. I think that this expresses exactly what I did this and what the key message of this challenge actually was all about.”