Surviving Winter

Frozen skies

It’s been an exceptional winter in many European countries with December being one of the coldest months on record in several countries. There’s been an uncommon amount of snow in Britain and the thermometer has been stuck below freezing from Belgium to Italy.

Will this have an effect on the training of some riders? Partially. I bumped into a prominent rider on the roads the other day and brought up the topic of the weather. His response was simply “I try to compensate, to make more intense efforts on the home trainer“. In other words the humble indoor bike replaces the climbs. Marco Pinotti said yesterday on Twitter that “apparently,training in cold temperature is a bit like altitude. For different reasons, it’s just harder to perform like in “ideal” condition“.

Physiologically there are several aspects at work here. First there is the sheer bulk of the clothing required, cycling generates permanent wind-chill and so you need to keep wrapped up yet mobile. Modern clothing is great but still, I was out the other day and sported 25 pieces of clothing, compared to under 10 for a summer ride. It slows you, it can constrict the lungs a bit. Then there’s the cold itself, more calories are required just to maintain body heat and blood flow is different if the body is cold. Plus icy air can constrict the lungs.

Cold weather isn’t new and many pros have long made a point of visiting warmer climates. Some French riders move south for the winter… or even permanently. For a while the Feillu brothers rented a trailer home in the South of France to escape the cold near Paris, a nifty low-budget solution. Others like BMC Racing’s Amael Moinard have moved permanently to Nice in order to benefit from the more gentle Mediterranean climates plus the local airport is handy for flying to races across Europe.

Others travel further, heading to places like Tenerife and the Canary Islands in order to flee the European winter. Majorca has been  popular too. A quick flight and many a pro can ride for five or six hours untroubled by snow and ice.

But some opt to work with what they’ve got, donning thermals and just getting on with it. Some try cross-country skiing, the action is similar to cycling since it requires a large effort with the quads and glutes and it is very aerobic work. Several Saur-Sojasun riders have done this, for example Jérémie Galland. But if it’s fun, it’s not ideal since it is requires a big effort with the arms as well and muscles on the arms are often seen as deadweight for cycling.

Others adopt more sophisticated means to combat the winter. In a country that borders the Arctic circle (as well as the Gulf Stream), Team Sky’s Edwald Boasson Hagen and Lars Petter Nordhaug make use of Norways’s olympic training centre in order to work hard indoors:

The oversized treadmill allows a big indoor workout and if you fast-forward to 1.40, you will see it can replicate some big hills. Note the facility is designed primarily for nordic skiers, look closely at the background and you’ll see ski poles and rollerskis racked on the wall for visitors.

Photo: TheDangerousOfficial

6 thoughts on “Surviving Winter”

  1. I live in London and am thinking about starting my season later than usual thanks to the winter we have had. It's been the coldest since records began.

  2. I saw that treadmill being used for physiological testing in an old Gerolsteiner Youtube documentary clip. Stellar, wish I could afford one of those for myself too.

  3. Cold air is denser.

    Air at -10 (celcius) is about 15% denser than +20 (celcius)

    So you are pushing against 15% more stuff to move, add wind and you are definitely working.

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