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Interview: How keeps Nas-Radinne Touhami himself motivated when he has to train inside or ride alone?

How are the #ShimanoRider around Europe keeping motivated when they have to train inside or ride alone? French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish cyclists are dealing with particularly strict lockdowns. How are they coping with the situation? What are they looking forward to? And how are they staying fit and positive?

Nas-Raddine Touhami is good at managing change. During the day, he works with healthcare organisations and government agencies to help their professionals face new challenges and continue to learn, so they can do their jobs better. Evenings and weekends, he’s on his bike, always keen to try out new disciplines and test the latest tech. He’ll take a gravel bike down the roughest descents, find climbs in the backwoods of the Ardennes that no one else knows, and encourage others to join him on day-long expeditions. It’s all about having a positive attitude. So, Belgium’s coronavirus regulations have hardly caused him to miss a pedal stroke.

“I cannot complain,” Nas-Raddine says. “We can still ride outside. We live in an exceptionally nice environment, and I am just staying close to home.”

Home for Nas-Raddine is Eben-Emael, a tiny Belgian village just across the border from the Dutch city of Maastricht, where he works. Usually, he commutes to his office by e-bike; however, the border is now closed to non-essential traffic, so he is working from home: logging in to meetings from his garden full of sunshine and chirping birds.

“Working online for me is practically the same, so it really doesn’t bother me that I can’t go to the office,” he says. “I want to contribute my part to society by staying home as much as possible… I don’t go anywhere, except on my bike. That’s it.” After work, Nas-Raddine has been exploring the mountain-bike trails that run through the forest near his house. Drawn to the challenge of racing long distances through the wilderness, he used to race marathons, but soon realised that there was more to life than training and competing.

“I quickly decided to just have as much fun as possible on the bike,” he says.

Fun now involves mountain bikes, road bikes, gravel bikes, electric bikes… Despite the coronavirus restrictions, he feels lucky that he is still able to ride them, especially when he has time for a longer jaunt into the Ardennes.

“We’re fortunate, living here,” he says. “Magnificent landscapes, solitude. We don’t have to bother about a lot of traffic. In the Ardennes, you can still find roads that are extremely quiet and areas that give you the impression that time has stood still.” That impression soon fades though. There is no escaping the present, and Nas-Raddine misses riding with his buddies who live on the other side of the border.

“I am so used to riding in groups with friends, doing some epic rides,” he says. “But that doesn’t really work at the moment. Going out with friends, exploring new grounds, having a coffee!

Competition is a different game, but for us normal human beings the social aspect is what really matters.” For now, it’s out of the question. Still, Nas-Raddine is keeping in a good mood, working hard, mountain biking close to home, and going for three- or four-hour rides on the road. His girlfriend keeps him motivated. She works in home care, looking after elderly patients on the Dutch side of the border. “She is an inspiration in terms of keeping positive,” he says. “She isn’t afraid. She is doing the best she can for her team. That’s something I admire. I admire everyone who is doing their best to keep society going, to keep the economy going, to adapt themselves to the new situation. All the new initiatives that are going on now, people changing their business models. Standing still is not bringing any good for the future.”

Rest assured; Nas-Raddine won’t be standing still when this is all over. As a matter of fact, he’s looking forward to an epic ride that he had planned with his friends, but had to postpone. It will be a homage to the spring classics, combing five of them, with a start in Maastricht and finish on the velodrome in Roubaix.

“Doing some meaningful, crazy rides. That’s something I’m really looking forward to in the future,” he says.

Still, he thinks that there is a lot to learn from this experience. “I would encourage people to explore closer to home,” he says. “All that crazy stuff—taking the plane for a weekend’s ride in Spain or some other place in the world—it doesn’t really make sense, especially not in the climate we’re living in now…. Many people don’t even know all of the roads around their houses. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing routes with people with all of the small backroads, unknown climbs. They are out there. They are waiting for you. Stay close to home. Rediscover your grounds. Go on Komoot and inspire yourself with all of the routes that people have done.”