Belgian Mountain Biker Frans Claes competes nationally and
internationally, and is established as a leading biker in his sport.
He has been Belgian Champion twice (2015 and 2016) and was the overall winner at the UCI World Series Marathon in 2017.
- Won two national Belgian titles
- Overall winner, World Series Marathon 2017
- Multiple appearances at World Championships including a top ten finish.
He has also won eight stage races between 2008 and 2019 and is a member of the Square Group Mountain Bike team. Frans’ achievements are even more impressive given that he only started competing at age 25.
“The two Belgian titles (2015, 2016) and the 2 UCI World Series Marathons (Spain 2017, Portugal 2019) I won are my most memorable moments so far in my career” he says. “My most favourite races although are the Ischgl Iron Bike (Austria) and the Breck Epic (Colorado, USA), both stage races in the high mountains.”
In 2020 Frans raced in the Belgian nationals again, taking third (read more here). Weeks later he competed again in the World Championships and achieved his ambition of a top ten finish, taking eighth (more here). In 2021 he took tenth at the European World Championships (more here).
Frans has been vegan since 2009, which he maintains no matter where he travels. “I eat 100% plant based, no exceptions” he tells Great Vegan Athletes. “I always order before I go somewhere where I don’t know it, or check out what I can find where I am travelling to.”
Like many people, Frans was motivated by more than one issue to make the change – and animals and environment are part of this.
“My main reason was for the climate and the effects meat production has on the climate, the nature and its ecosystems. Second, for the animals that have to suffer and to die for the human need for animal products. Third, because we save a lot of energy and can feed more people in this world if we want to.”
“My results and my performance progression shows that eating vegan is very beneficial for the health on the long term.”
Fuelling the wheels
As a long distance racer with a demanding training regime, a
healthy diet is crucial, which is not something that is difficult for Frans.
“In the morning I like to eat all different kinds of cereals with plant-based milk. I mix this with a banana, apple, nuts and/or maple syrup.
“As lunch and dinner I try to vary with cooked and raw vegetables and eat as much as possible seasonable and organic vegetables, fruits and nuts. Next to this I try to eat whole grains and to avoid the fast food.
“The exception are pancakes with dark chocolate and this is definitely one of my favourites after a long training in cold Belgian winter weather.”
Training is demanding, including riding on and off road, as
well as working in the gym.
“On my mountain bike I train my technical skills and I do my specific workouts” he says. “The road bike I use more for my endurance and steady rides or to get some speed in my legs when I ride behind the motorcycle. In the gym I strengthen my whole body with specific exercises for my legs, back, arms and core. As an average I train 20 hours per week depending on the time of the year. In the preparation I put more hours in, in periods with a lot of competition I train less and more specific to be fresh for the upcoming races.”
Frans was unusual as a vegan in 2009 when he first made the change, and there was some doubt from others over whether he had made a good choice.
“Since health was never a motivation for me I didn’t care about it and tried to have my answers ready for the same protein related questions that I have got over and over again. It pleased me that I could inspire more athletes and friends to go vegan after I answered all their questions. Or at least to eat more plant based foods instead of eating meat, fish and dairy products.
“Also now there are still (the same) people who are cynical about my choice, although my results and my performance progression shows that eating vegan is very beneficial for the health on the long term.”
At 36 (in 2019) Frans still has more goals to achieve – both
in terms of competition and promoting veganism.
“I hope more athletes will follow me in my choice and experience the benefits of a vegan lifestyle” he says. “Besides this, I hope that health isn’t the only reason that other people go vegan. This world and all the beings on this planet deserve a life in acceptable circumstances.
“Racing wise my personal goal is to win a 3rd national title and be at my best in the international races such as the Cape Epic and the World Championship where I hope to get a step onto the podium.”
He also wants people converting to vegan to do it
“If you decide to go 100% vegan please inform yourself first. A plant based diet has a lot of positive effects, but like with everything you do you have to do it right. So read a few cookbooks, watch some videos, install yourself and go for it!”