Timo Pritzel Interview
O: So how did you start your career?
TIMO: I started BMX in 1984, when the movie E.T. came out.
O: Seriously? So the BMX scene with E.T. was the inspiration?
TIMO: Yeah. I grew up in Berlin, and after seeing the movie all the kids wanted a BMX bike. Then I made my dream come true step by step: The first Bunny Hop, the first picture in the newspaper, becoming the German Champion in BMX Racing. Later I went to the U.S. to keep racing. I changed to Dirt, became World Champion. In 2001 I changed over to mountain biking, and since I had the BMX background I could go big immediately.
O: So you still ride MTB?
TIMO: Yeah, still. I’m 35 years old and relatively old in this sport, kind of… (grins) But I’m still going for it, taking photos and doing video. I’m also a team manager now and I really I’m also a team manager, and I really enjoy that role. I’ve been doing contests for more than 15 years, and now I can share with younger riders the things I’ve learned during that time…
O: Such as…
TIMO: Simple things. Nutrition for example. The guys often just a slice of white bread with Nutella for breakfast before a big contest – but what they would need is a lot of energy and good food. Or I tell them to see a physiotherapist. Because these kids are pros, and they have to learn to deal with their injuries. Many are scared of doctors. So I keep saying: Don’t always throw in painkillers, first go and see your physiotherapist. Maybe a vertebra is twisted, and that’s why you’re in pain. We have a lot of injuries, that’s the price to pay for our job. What we do is not normal, and if you continue doing it for many years, it’s quite hard on your body. In 15 years I had every year 5 concussions, plus every year or half year one major injury plus I don’t know how many bruises… I always had a guardian angel and got somehow away with it, but still…
O: So you do yoga to strengthen your core?
TIMO: Exactly. It’s crazy what the body can put up with. But in the long run you pay the price if you have these big crashes and don’t heal, or if you don’t train up and prepare professionally. There are some pros who take things for serious, and really train, but many of the kids crash, drink a beer and smoke a joint to forget about the pain and that’s it. They’re not doing any other sports, don’t do physiotherapy. And if you’re not careful, things get seriously hard when you’re 30.
O: Is that your experience?
TIMO: For sure. I had constantly back pain that didn’t go away any more at all. So doctors started to give me cortisone injections, nothing worked.
O: Sounds as if you really thought a lot about the physical side of the sports. What about the mental side? What advice you give to your riders?
TIMO: I’m actually very protective of them, because they are really left alone with their stress. I know exactly how it is: You go from contest to contest, you get injured and continue anyway straight away to the next event. You have to deal with contracts, organize your travel and things – you are under constant pressure. Your parents ask you: What do you really want to do? What about your education? And then you have friends that end up in a wheelchair or worse. That’s a lot of mental pressure.
O: So how do the guys take that from you?
TIMO: Well, I have to be careful not to come across as their daddy, but they also see: That guy is 35 years old and still jumps higher than me. I’m known for really high airs. And so they are like: Man, that guy’s still riding, still fit – and they respect that. We just made a MTB team video that started with yoga, that was fun. And during the filming I took them to an osteopath, and they were like: Man, I’m OK, nothing wrong with me. And after the session they were like: Wow, my back feels straight again, and I can move my neck! So they learn to take care of their body. You only have one.
O: So you had the revelation travelling in Asia?
TIMO: Yes, I had broken my foot, it was off-season, I had time, my relationship was finished, and the doctors diagnosed some serious health problems. So I was forced to try to find myself, and to find what would help me. I started travelling by myself in Asia. I had tried yoga a little bit before, but I had the typical prejudices that a guy might have: Yoga is for women and hippies. But I learned how to calm down with yoga. Before I was only able to be happy when I did fat stunts over 20m kickers. That’s when I felt free. When I was riding, I was able to be in the moment and be happy. Now I’ve learned that you can reach the same with yoga, by breathing right, doing an intense yoga session, and afterwards you are totally relaxed.
O: What are your plans for the future?
TIMO: Photos and video, taking care of my team. And I’m a yoga teacher and teach in Berlin. And we just started mountain bike camps in combination with yoga.
O: Like surf & yoga camps…
TIMO: Yes, exactly. And I love being in the mountains. Living in Berlin in the city, where you have 15 wireless networks overlapping in your apartment and tons of noise from the streets – that’s not really good for you. So sometimes I have to grab my road bike and go out of the city, to have an open view, see the horizon, and be in nature. I often try to find water, sit under a tree, and then I feel better instantly.
O: How come that you have such a close and long-standing connection with Oakley?
TIMO: When I was 6 years old and started riding BMX I always had English BMX mags – which I couldn’t even read yet in English – and I always saw Oakley. So the first glasses that I wanted to have were Oakleys. Later I always had really good team managers, which is super important if you’re a rider. To have someone who’s on the same wavelength and truly cares.
O: And finally, what’s your motto?
TIMO: Enjoy life and evolve. Also face your problems. As my yoga teacher always said: Never waste a trigger. Which mean, if people bug you or hurt you, or you feel that you have problems in a certain situation, work on it. For example, I’m scared out of my pants to sing – and last time I had a workshop where I had to sing in front of 40 people! So that’s what I mean: Face your fears and keep learning…