We interviewed team Sunweb’s coach Luke Roberts about how the team is dealing with worldwide lockdowns. We talked about what home trainers and virtual platforms they use and how the pandemic is affecting their training and nutrition strategies.

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Training indoors is a lot different

The main goal with all of these changes and races being delayed or cancelled was to evaluate where each rider is in their periodization and build them up again for the new start of the season. This was different for each rider based on their location. Some had very strict lockdowns and could only train on their home trainers. Others, based in Germany and the Netherlands, were allowed to train outdoors even though they had to do it alone or with only one training partner.

Team Sunweb’s coach Luke Roberts. © John MACDOUGALL / AFP / Profimedia

For most riders, the lockdowns meant going back to base endurance training. This would mean 5 hour-long rides outdoors. “To do that indoors on a home-trainer is very difficult. There’s no freewheeling to give legs a brief rest now and then. And also, the mental strain is much higher when you have to sit in one place looking at a screen or out the window,” explained Luke Roberts. Some riders were still able to train 4 hours a day at home at a base endurance level but they would be splitting it into 2 blocks of 2 hours.

Home trainers and virtual platforms are a must

Team Sunweb uses fully interactive home trainers Drivo II, which are the flagship trainers from Elite. The trainer can automatically regulate resistance based on the route selected, which provides a very realistic feeling.

“Almost all of our riders are using a digital platform to create some excitement in their home training. They find it quite exciting to use FulGaz. Right now, we are not in the phase where we would encourage high-intensity riding. Riders are doing general base kilometres so it’s really nice to have the real-life video footage that FulGaz offers,” said Luke Roberts.

Elite Drivo II

Pros have to have a pain cave

Riders that already had some experience with indoor training would know how important the setup is so they would share important lessons learned among each other.

“They would make sure they have a fan set up for ventilation and have their trainer set up next to a window or even on a balcony if possible. They would have the fluids and a towel handy. They would also try to cover the stem and the handlebars with something, bikes are not too happy about a lot of salty sweat dripping over them,” described Luke Roberts.

There’s not much different for coaches

Coaches on the team still have a similar job to when the pros are riding outdoors. That’s because riders would always upload data files from their training, which shows the power output and the workload they have done. Coaches would go through that file each day regardless of where the ride took place.

Tiesj Benoot wearing the points leader’s green jersey rides in the final sprint in last stage of Paris – Nice on March 14, 2020. © Alain JOCARD / AFP / Profimedia

The pros have to change what they eat too

Riders who know they would be riding fewer hours or different sessions at home than they would outdoors have to take into account food too. Thankfully, the team has them covered.

“All of our riders have regular calls with a nutritionist. There the riders would talk about their specific needs in regards to their situation. And they would adjust their diet accordingly,” explained Luke Roberts.

The nutritionist for the team uses an app where the riders report their intake during the whole day. The nutritionist can then create profiles for each rider based on their needs. They also regularly speak with riders to discuss where improvements can be made.

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