Since I moved here to Oakland, I’ve gotten into the habit of running. I bought some lycra running pants, some decent exercise shirts, the full package. There is this lake here close to my home that is a nice 5k run for me, so an ideal distance for someone like me who is trying to prevent the ‘American Twenty’ from happening. For those of you wondering, the American Twenty is just like the Freshman Fifteen but for people who move to the US, you need to really watch out because of all that high fructose corn syrup and overall deliciousness of the food.
Now, let’s be honest, I didn’t get into the habit of running every day before work as I had imagined myself doing and I also didn’t happen to prevent the American Twenty from happening. But now and then on a weekend day when I don’t have anything planned, I do go out for a run. Today was one of those days, and whilst running, I was thinking of two things. First; why on earth is it raining here, this is not what I signed up for when I moved to California from Amsterdam. Second; I’m the crazy one out here running in the rain right now, but pro cyclists have to get out there no matter what the conditions are. Not training is not an option.
Of course every team has its major training camps in the winter, some even throughout the season if they are preparing for major races such as the Tour de France, but a big part of the offseason and during the season most pros have to fend for themselves. Riders from countries where there is a colder winter climate have it particularly hard. I myself always sought out the warmth of the track during the winter, unfortunately the track in Amsterdam didn’t have heating for the first few years but that changed right as I got more serious with my cycling. Another popular option in The Netherlands was cyclocross in the winter, but that wasn’t for me, I just didn’t like it.
While track cycling and cyclocross are some fun competitive exercises, for the big road pros it simply isn’t enough; they need to go out there and get the training kilometers in. So, a lot of the pros move to places with warmer climates if they aren’t lucky enough to be born there. For riders from the Low Countries this has an added bonus of being able to move to an area with serious mountains, which we simply don’t have. An added bonus might be different rates of income tax, but that’s a story for another time. Looking at you Tom Boonen.
Climate is just one part of the equation, and moving to a different place can get you a much better deal on that front. Road safety is of course another big issue for the riders with training. A little bit too often we hear awful stories of riders having been involved in serious accidents during training rides. The big crash earlier this year of Giant-Alpecin is one we all remember. Luckily, no one was killed during that crash; they were in a group and one rider that wasn’t hit was able to get emergency services out there as soon as he could. Others have not been so lucky in the past while riding alone.
And I get it right, cyclist are vulnerable in traffic, especially compared to senior citizens driving on the wrong side of the road, so we all have to be careful and not act like dicks on our training rides. Still, it is a professional risk that cyclists take on a daily base. Let’s not assume the worst right away, but even a minor injury like a broken bone can have serious consequences. One could of course argue for alternatives to train indoors, but it’s simply not the same. I simply can’t think of another sport where in order to train the athletes have to be part of traffic like cyclists do. Sure, runners have to deal with traffic too, but in most places they will have dedicated footpaths they can use to avoid the most immediate danger.
I don’t really see a solution for the issues cyclists have with training. It would be really hard to get a training facility with all the features you’d want as a team. Sure you can get yourself a piece of land and put a gym and some asphalt down and create yourself a nice complex to train on away from traffic. But do you get cobbles too, to train for the cobbled classics? Do you get an Alp on that piece of land to do some serious altitude training? Do you also put up housing for your riders and their families? It’s simply not feasible, well not with the budgets we have in cycling.
For now I can just say, be careful out there when you get on your bike!