Cycle racing seems to be going in a one way direction with teams and riders adopting more and more sports science. But a few riders still buck the trend against power meters. Are their days coming to an end?
FDJ held their team launch this week with a video vaunting their technological approach to the sport. As well as sports science they other logistical support like a dedicated server to upload data. It’s not in the clip but the team is also building up a video archive of race footage, not so Marc Madiot can relive his glory days but so they can review past races to gauge performance and look for clues from their rivals. The French team now have three full-time coaching staff on the roster and hired help from others, for example a mental coach. If their budget doesn’t match Team Sky they’re doing their best to get close. But it’s not for everyone…
“I took up the challenge with Bretagne-Séché because I needed to ride less scientifically, more like the old school. I needed training methods that suited me. I want to do what I’ve always known how to do. When I’m out training, I do it by feeling”.
That’s Pierrick Fédrigo speaking to L’Equipe (€) at the Bretagne-Séché team presentation on Wednesday, he’s joined the team after several years with FDJ. He’s not the only one who doesn’t like being a slave to the strain gauge. Here’s Sandy Casar speaking to Vélo Magazine late in 2013 before he too left FDJ.
“When you’re told “today you’re doing 200W at 90prm for three hours“, well you’re really talking about work, you lose the pleasure. I’ve got to look at the countryside and enjoy nature.”
It’s easy to understand what Casar and Fédrigo are saying but all the same, we’re talking about a professional cyclist rather than a wandering cycle tourist. Teams pay good money in wages and the old habit of hoping their riders showing up in shape for a race is being replaced by coaching and remote monitoring.
Things were different when the likes of Casar and Fédrigo turned pro at the turn of the century. Modern training methods were present but a lot of work was still accomplished with a heart rate monitor and many, if not most cyclists were left to themselves for training. Besides, it worked as Casar and Fédrigo have a rich palmarès with several Tour de France stage wins. When it mattered they delivered even getting the better of those with pharmaceutical assistance.
Only a few years ago that Fédrigo showed up to a team training camp without knowing basics metrics like how many hours in the saddle or kilometres he’d done. Compare this to current FDJ captain Thibaut Pinot who might seem anarchic at times but even as a junior scraped together his prize money to drive to Switzerland and buy a used SRM power meter. Pinot is part of a generation used to this technology, there’s no requirement to buy-in to it.
Will Fédrigo’s retrenchment work? His results haven’t been so good of late and this might not be down to frustration with training, he’s 36 years old too. Ironically to tell if the sans science experiment works we’d need a science experiment to see if it works, to have 10 or 100 Fédrigos and train half with a brainy coach and let the other half ride to the tune of birdsong and see if the results were different.
Is it possible for a neo-pro today to train on the basis of feeling and past personal experience, especially if they belong to a team that supplies the machines for measurement and coaching capabilities? Fédrigo might not be the last of the Mohicans but he and others are getting rare. Maybe the results will improve, maybe they won’t, but at least he’ll enjoy the ride.
Pictures: Bretagne-Séché Facebook