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How to prepare the race season of 2020 during the coronavirus restrictions?

Cyclists from different competition levels are facing a very strange and new situation this year: certainly no any races or sports events before 1 June 2020.

Luckily, Hungary and Belgium are countries where you can do outdoor sports alone and you are not forced to spend all your ride hours on an indoor trainer.

But still, how can we jump into the very first races (let’s hope in June) without any races this springtime? Without any intense group trainings?

Bikemag had the chance to talk to one of the most respected cycling coaches in Belgium.
Sander Cordeel competed 7 seasons as a professional cyclist.
Since 2018 he is a specialized cycling coach and he works at Vitori sport medical center.
Vitori is one of the most well known sports-science laboratories in Belgium, testing many professional and amateur riders.

Bikemag:
Hi Sander, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. How do you see the situation of professional cycling in 2020?

Sander Cordeel:
These are challenging times for everyone, so also for cycling. Not only riders but teams, race organizers, staff,… Sport in general always depends a lot on sponsors. So for sure some sponsors will have to cut their budget. So let’s hope we can race more sooner than later!

Photo: Pascal Vande Putte

Bikemag:
The possible race calendar is changing nearly day by day. How do you work with your athletes at this moment?

Sander:
Luckily most of my riders can still continue training outside, which is a big advantage. So most of them are capable to continue the normal training programme. Depending on their motivation, they are following a plan that looks like a training schedule they do some weeks before the season starts. There is also more space to work on weak spots or improving the strong points.

Bikemag:
It is a quite common knowledge, that practicing outdoor sports alone is very good for your body and mind. However, some riders suffer to stay motivated and with all the insecureness, negative news, they have a bad feeling to train harder on the bike. Can you give them any advice?

Sander:
It’s normal some riders have motivation problems, which I understand. You work for a goal and suddenly the goal is gone and there are no specific dates for new goals.
So it’s not easy to stay motivated, but topsport will never be easy. You always have options: you can sit down and complain. Or you can try to make the best out of it and work with what you have. The champions of our sport always choose the second option. They became a professional because they have a strong ability to keep focusing. The advice I can give is to set goals for yourself and to keep pushing once in a while. Try to beat a record on a climb, try to improve your power profile, win a race on Zwift,…
As a coach I can follow the evolution of the shape truly by the power outputs, which is a good thing. Of course – because we don’t know how long this period will last – it’s important to give yourself some small breaks in between training blocks. To recover mentally and physically.

Bikemag:
Is it possible to build up a peak condition for the first races (for the season start) in June, with only trainings on the road, alone?

Sander:
There are a lot of nice examples of riders doing great races without any competition. Rohan Dennis won the Time Trial World Championships without any competition for a long time. So it’s possible! Pure theoretically it’s even better, because in training you can control much more parameters compared to a race, where you never know what you will get. But on the other hand you need to suffer to get yourself to a higher level. Some athletes can suffer harder in the races then on a training. These riders in general need some competition to get to their best shape. But if you can make yourself suffer hard on training it’s perfectly possible to be good in your first race.

Photo: Sander Van Nieuwenhuyse

Bikemag:
Is it possible to build up a peak condition with only indoor trainings?

Sander:
Training on the rollers are always good. Even when you can go outside some training are better done indoor instead of outdoor. Roller training can be excellent for a high intensity training.
The big difference is the mental aspect: To get in a good shape you would have to spend a lot of time on the rollers which is mentally hard, especially if you have to stay inside for a long time. A cyclist needs a good endurance, so you need some long training sessions. Those ones are the hardest mentally on the rollers. Nowadays the smart rollers make it already much more attractive compared to the possibilities from 10 years ago.

Bikemag:
Do you make a big difference at this moment in the training plan of a Master / Senior rider, women and men athletes, Under age riders?

Sander:
It’s important that every rider has a specific planning, each athlete is different. Not only the gender, age or level. Some of my athletes are doing more alternative training like running or other cardio trainings. Because they need it mentally. Other cyclists love to ride their bike so much and they can go out every day for 6-hours-long now. Then there are athletes with difficulties to go out even for 2 hours in these times. So I don’t put athletes in a certain category but see it case by case what’s the best option is for them.

Bikemag:
What do you think will happen in the first one-day World Tour races of this season?

Sander:
I think it will be a race like every other race. Maybe more intense because everybody is fresh and even more motivated. There will be less races and some riders don’t have a contract from their team for the next year. So more riders will feel they need to show themselves. The pressure will be higher on them.
Also the teams adapts race selections. There are less races for the same number of riders so within teams there can be a fight to get in a selection.

Bikemag:
What do you expect in the Tour de France of 2020 (or in the first Grand Tour race they organize in 2020)?

Sander:
At this time you have 2 groups: the riders who can train outside and the riders who must to stay inside. Obviously the first group has an advantage. Teams will select their riders based on the preparation they had. Also riders who had the Giro as a goal will now be in the Tour. So the teams will come with there biggest names. I’m expecting good Colombian riders who are now all on altitude training. They will have probably a better preparation than most of the French riders. I really hope there will be a Tour de France in 2020. I consider as the most important race on the road season calendar. But only if it’s safe of course.

Bikemag:
How important are the side trainings (like core stability) next to riding the bike at these days in our preparation?

Sander:
Core training is always important. A lot of riders start working hard on there core during the winter but during the season they pay less and less attention to it.
So in these times it’s important to keep training your core stability and even take it to a higher level! The same is true for power training.

Bikemag:
Most riders who know well their body, they know what they need to reach their best shape. What was your key work-schema to reach your top condition in the right time?

Sander:
I was always highly interested in training and I never had a trainer until my first professional contract. So I knew my body very well. And I knew what to do to get in my best shape. Philipe Gilbert once said to be at your a peak condition is the opposite of being sick. You feel it coming and you feel when you are in top shape.
As a rider it’s important to have a coach but it’s even more important not to follow everything blindly. To listen to your body and to recognize certain signals.

Bikemag:
Which is your favorite race? Have you ever raced in Hungary?

Sander:
I like cobbles a lot so all the races with cobbles. If I have to choose one, my favourite is Paris – Roubaix. Once I saw a race in Hungary but I never raced myself.

Bikemag:
Which is your favorite bike destination to do hard trainings?

Sander:
In Belgium I like to train in the Flemish Ardennes.
To escape from the bad weather, I went to Valencia.

Bikemag:
What is your usual daily routine during the corona virus danger?

Sander:
My routine didn’t change a lot now. I’m spending a lot of time on Trainingpeaks. It is the software I use to plan and analyse the trainings. I try to stay in shape myself. I do some sport activities every day.
I like to read about training and the human body. The science around training is constantly developing so it’s important to keep myself up to date.

Sander Cordeel, thank you very much to share your knowledge and advice with the readers of Bikemag.hu!

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