For the majority of top-level professional bike riders, cycling is the cornerstone to which they shape their lives. Training, racing, recovering and more training are all part of the pursuit of athletic perfection. But for Elena Hartmann, there is a part of her professional life which does not revolve around the bike.
Whilst she is a professional athlete at the moment, Hartmann knows it will not be forever, so wished to find something she could do after she retired. Despite having other jobs, she found herself becoming bored and lacking motivation, so on the advice of her father, she sought a new career to become a policewoman.
“My dad was a police officer for forty years and he always told me that there was no single day where he didn’t like going to work. When I was bored with my previous occupation, I remembered his words and decided to become a policewoman as well.”
Having just completed the Tour de France Femmes, and shifting focus to the World Championships Road Race and Time Trial happening this month, Hartmann needs to achieve peak physical form to be able to compete with the best riders in the world. And whilst most other athletes are able to spend all their time focussing on their training, her split professional life creates a somewhat unique situation, having to balance the needs of her cycling as well as that of the Swiss Police. But Hartmann revels in this challenge, using it to her advantage.
“I like to work in shifts. For me, it makes life less structured, and that’s what I need to keep motivated,” she explains. “The police are very generous with me. I tell them one month in advance which days I can work for the next four weeks, and then they plan my schedule according to their needs, so it’s quite flexible.”
In this sense, the structured life of professional cycling, as well as the more flexible shift work, help to provide motivation through variety. Indeed, even when it comes to training, whilst it requires careful planning, Hartmann has worked out how her body works, and what she can cope with in terms of work and training.
“Because of my limited availability due to racing, the police schedule my work hours, and that means I also work nightshifts sometimes. When that happens training is a bit more difficult because there are two days where I need to train light. Before the shift, I need to sleep to be rested, and the day after work I feel a bit like a zombie! But as long as I rest it’s absolutely no problem for me to balance my training with my work.”
And surprisingly, Hartmann even sees parallels in her working and racing lives, using the adaptability being a policewoman requires to help her cope with often volatile and unpredictable race situations.
“When I’m at work and I’m being called by the population for help, I never know what to expect at the location. And it’s often the same for riding in a road race. Many things can happen during the race; attacks, crashes, technical problems and more. It’s necessary to adapt to those new situations.” Says Hartmann.
But in terms of being a policewoman physically helping her in cycling, there is little crossover.
“I’m very fit, so that’s a big plus, but other than that there isn’t much help in being a cyclist to being a policewoman. I sometimes give speeding tickets to other cyclists in races,” she laughs, “but really, it’s not much help!”
But it is the variety in her work which keeps her motivated, not just for the cycling season, but also for her daily life, and this is why she will continue to be a policewoman for the foreseeable future after she has stopped racing her bike.
“I will for sure stay as a policewoman. I love this job as you never know what you will do during the day. It was never actually my dream, but I have to say that my dad was right about being a police officer!”
You can see Elena Hartmann in action at the World Championships in Glasgow at the Time Trial on August 10th, and at the Road Race on August 13th, representing Switzerland.