Sven’s New Year’s Musings
We caught up with Hotchillee Head Honcho Sven Thiele to get his thoughts on the year gone by and to give us some sneak peeks into his and Hotchillee’s plans for 2023.
Q: 2022 returned to more of a semblance of normality and Hotchillee could go back to actually putting on events – what did it feel like to be back at Imber Court in July for the start of the LONDON-PARIS?
I think most people would agree that since March 2020, life has been an extreme rollercoaster. The rhythm and cadence we achieved in terms of hosting our community digitally with loads of virtual events was awesome and this online existence almost became a “new norm”.
Then we all had to get used to being “unlocked” again, back into reality but without a doubt the way in which we all live and work had changed profoundly and I’m extremely proud of how Hotchillee had emerged into this IRL/Digital hybrid world.
Much as this might be tough, there’s no replacing human to human contact and, seeing everyone at the start line, it really brought home what we’d missed and lost in the previous years, the true value of friendship, health and community and yes, I got pretty emotional
Q: You were also on the first gravel LONDON-PARIS – what was that like?
The LONDON-PARIS is an event that’s really close to my heart and I’ve had so many truly magical experiences riding it on the road, that, much as I’m a self confessed “gravel nut”, I genuinely didn’t know how it’d stack up.
Rolling out from Imber Court, with all of the road groups setting off too, it felt reassuringly familiar but, once we’d left the buzz of the start and the tarmac, our own very special journey to Paris began.
On the road, the thrills are the big groups, the pro-feel with the moto outriders and lead cars and the daily big roll-outs and Stage finishes – it’s a three day adrenaline buzz.
The gravel was much more intimate, relaxed and delivered a real sense of pioneering adventure. The route and trails were simply stunning, it was so cool riding onto and off the ferry and to and from the hotel doorstep every day and we had a fantastic group of riders and Ride Captains.
And of course, meeting up with the road riders at Menucourt, we still got the high of the final big group roll-in to Paris – even if we were a bit dirtier than the roadies!
I may be a bit biassed but, out of 10, I’d definitely give it a solid 10!
Q: What were your other highlights of 2022?
So many, it’s been a bit of a blur really but the common themes have been meeting old friends again after too long, making new ones and forging a new and exciting way ahead for Hotchillee.
Q: What events have Hotchillee got lined up for 2023?
It’s definitely looking more and more like a regular Hotchillee year and I’m going to try and be on as many of the events as possible.
Things kick off at the end of April with the Girona-Rendezvous and, with some of the most iconic road and gravel riding in the world, I can’t wait to go back.
We’ve then got our first ever one day mass participation gravel event – The Ekoi Stone Circle, at the end of June.
Then of course, it’s the LONDON-PARIS and, in 2023, I’ll be taking the knobbly tyre route to Paris again.
We then round the year off with the two “mountain goat” events, the Suisse Gravel Explorer and a really amazing looking Alpine Challenge in the Italian Dolomites – I might be plugging in the e-Bike for these!
Q: As you mentioned, there’s also a new one-day gravel event – The Ekoi Stone Circle, this sort of mass participation event is a change in direction for Hotchillee – what’s the thinking behind it?
Hotchillee have been onboard gravel before it even became a thing. We pioneered in Europe with the first event in 2015, have put on groundbreaking gravel events in South Africa, the Atlas Mountains, Switzerland and Catalonia and now it’s time to put that off-road experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to deliver an amazing event.
Gravel is going to outgrow the road in the next five years and now’s the right time to deliver an event like this.
We’ll be taking advantage of the longest day, some of the best trails for gravel bikes that the UK has to offer and an incredibly accessible location in southern England just outside Salisbury to create something truly special.
Q: Any New Year’s resolutions?
Well, reading all of this back, I really need to start training in earnest again!
Q: Final words?
Obviously a huge thank-you to anyone who’s ridden or been involved with one of our events. There’s a massive amount of work that goes on behind the scenes on a day to day basis to make Hotchillee happen and the dedication, drive and passion of those involved never fails to make me proud. I love what I do and I love all of those that help me do it!