Eight weeks of quarantine have been as physically draining as they have been mentally. In contrast to other riders with a house, a pool, kids and dogs, the only thing I had to keep me going in my apartment in Monaco was the Elite cycling trainer and TV boxsets. I have done my best to stick to my normal training routine in spite of the really strict lockdown measures. Luckily enough, E-races have been a really good excuse to keep me focused, despite not being a big fan of the indoor trainer before the crisis. I had spent a total of 140 hours on the ergo by the end of lockdown, just 17 hours less on the bike than in the same time period last year.
It would have been a lot harder to maintain my physical shape indoors without these races. I took them quite seriously. I have heard some people compare them to time trials, but they are not. It’s a completely different sport. It’s not comparable to anything we do on the road. There are a lot of different techniques involved and there is a significant process of muscular adaptation in order to get used to the brutal changes in cadence. It takes time and work.
As for tactics, you are not only managing your own effort, unlike time trials, you have all the information of what the others are doing too, so you must decide when to accelerate and when to hold something back for later on. At times you will be racing side-by-side another avatar which really brings out your competitive edge. In that sense it’s a bit like playing a racing video game where you are chasing the ghost representing your fastest lap. It simply makes you go deeper.
Following the Digital Swiss 5 I was empty for a week. It was hard for me to spend more time on the Elite trainer. All our guys put a lot of energy and mental preparation into it. We really wanted to commit and do well for the team.
Soon after the new calendar came up and it was announced that restrictions on riding outside were starting to ease. Instead of riding around in circles in Monaco, I thought I would train online with my brother who still couldn’t go outside as he lives in France. I had already done six weeks so I knew I could do another two. The most important thing during this period was keeping social interactions. The racing was great for the motivation to keep fit, but what really kept me going every day was training with friends. My brother, Laurent, ‘Bling’ and I had this routine of meeting up online at 10:30 in the morning, setting up a video call and doing three or four hours of training. It was such a good laugh! In the evenings I would spend some time on social media and would often video call my friends and family so in spite of being physically alone, I never felt alone.
Given the shocking weather forecast for the first few weeks of de-escalation, I went to visit my family in Antibes. It was the first time I managed to see everyone in a single day since my sister’s wedding in 2015, which was really great. The miserable weather did not stop me from going out on the bike.
It was so strange being outside again; having to focus on descending, watching out for cars, stopping at traffic lights. Information that you do not take in on the trainer.
My eyes were so exhausted. These rides in the rain and cold took more morale than my eight weeks on the ergo!