The Ironbike Bicycle Marathon takes place on 5 August in Paznaun. What motivates someone to take on a challenge like this? To torture themselves and their bikes? Answers from Silke Ulrich, who won the 2016 Ironbike Bicycle Marathon – and is of course taking part again this weekend.

The Ironbike Marathon is not only 79 kilometres long, it also goes up to an altitude of over 3, 280 metres. Why do that to yourself?
I just really like riding my bike in the mountains­; it’s the landscape which makes it particularly appealing. I love the mountains, I also like hiking.

Do you really have time to enjoy the landscape during the race?
I let myself look at the view once or twice. Absolutely.

Last year you won the Ironbike Marathon in Ischgl. What is the deciding factor in how well you perform in this particular race?
Your form, obviously, and if you had enough time to prepare yourself. And then it’s all about lots of little strokes of luck: are there any incidents? Is there a fault somewhere? Those issues are what makes the difference.

How often do you train?
Three times during the week and at the weekend, too – I can’t do anymore along with my job.

And are you fit for the next Ischgl Ironbike?
I’ve just done the Trans Alp Marathon with my team partner, which we also won. But right now I’m sick, unfortunately, and I hope I can recover properly in time.

What makes this race so special for you?
The route is really demanding with many very steep sections, that’s one thing. The other is the atmosphere. I rode the race for the first time last year and found it amazing how you’re cheered on by hikers all along the route. Even though the weather was bad – there was even snow on the ground.

Silke Ulrich is 29, comes from Saarland and lives in Munich. She’s ridden bikes for ages, has taken part in marathons for the past seven years, and her favourite place to ride is in the Alps. She works as a lawyer in public administration in Upper Bavaria.

Silke Ulrich won the 79 km Marathon and the Alpenhaus Trophy in the 2017 Ironbike Marathon