The off season

Fedrigo vin chaud

A professional cyclist’s work is seasonal and from now until early 2012, the rhythm of work changes given that the racing season is over. What happens in the off-season?

Aussies call it the offy, the French say it’s intersaison. Right now many opt to go away on vacation, a chance to take a break from riding the bike. Those that stay at home will also leave the bike alone for a little bit. This period of time varies, in years past it could last months but now we are already seeing riders tweet about resuming training in preparation for 2012.

John Gadret cyclocross
Off road season

For some it’s a change of season more than an off-season, with cyclo-cross and six day racing. Take John Gadret, fourth overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia. You’ll find him lapping muddy fields and parks across France most weekends. Indeed cyclo-cross began as an activity for road cyclists to keep them fit, the short intense effort being suitable no matter what the weather. But it has become a specialist competition where some earn their living in the winter months. Six day racing is similar although the scene has diminished in the past decade. The format of nightly track racing for six days is similar to road racing and event promoters put on a show with a range of entertainment in the centre of the track. But there are few riders who spend winter “on the boards” as preparation for the road season, again this has become something for specialists.

For most it’s a chance to spend plenty of time at home with friends and family. The season can see riders at home for but this time they can have three months. There’s a lot of free time if a rider gets their daily ride done by lunchtime then the rest of the day is free. DIY projects take shape, some take over the household jobs like delivering the children to school. Others have time for other activities, for example FDJ’s Pierrick Fédrigo enjoys hunting although this activity saw him contract a parasitic disease last year which ruined most of his season; Saur-Sojasun’s Jérôme Coppel goes cross-country skiing.

There’s also the chance to do nothing, to sit back and relax. Large parts of the year are spent idling but in 2-star hotel rooms and airport lounges, sitting still isn’t always the same as relaxing. Plus there’s food, it’s the chance to add a few kilos back and some of this comes via food and drink that would often be off limits during the season.

Contractually riders are linked to their 2011 teams but those changing for next year are already working for their new teams. For example BMC Racing have already held their first camp and in time we’ll have images of riders assembling to ride together and you should spot people in their 2011 kit. I find this a bit daft because if you are attending a team camp arranged by a particular team then you are at work for them, even if you salary is paid by the former team. But it is because contracts run during the course of a calendar year so until 1 January 2012 we won’t see Philippe Gilbert in BMC colours or Mark Cavendish in Sky kit.

Talking of team training camps, these are important events. Some squads will meet several times before the end of the year. Often the first meeting is administrative and logistical. Riders are measured for their bikes and new kit, they assemble to get instructions on the working practices of the team. It’s like many a first day with a new employer. But there are other sides. First comes the lab test where a rider’s fitness is measured. If there’s been too much off in the off season then it doesn’t look good to the employers and younger less established riders don’t want to get off to a bad start with disappointing figures. For some teams there’s team building work. In years past this was a skiing trip and we still see Liquigas wearing their cycling gear on the ski slopes; but Bjarne Riis started using military survival courses for his CSC team. I suspect BMC Racing will be planning ways to make Cadel Evans and Greg Van Avermaet feel at ease with Gilbert and Thor Hushovd.

There can be other work too. Some might have promotional work and photo sessions to complete, interviews to conduct and more.

Andy Schleck Alberto Contador dolphins
Contador et son dauhpin

But there is one race left, the Amstel Curaçao Race. A criterium in the Caribbean island, several top riders are flown in by the Dutch brewer for an exhibition race around the island and it’s the moment when fans get horrendous images of riders in beachwear and not much more. It is not on the UCI calendar.

The backdrop to all of this is the training. For Europeans it means cold weather. If there’s glory and glamour in the spring and summer, the foundations get built now. Rides can end with fingers too cold to open the door back home. Bikes are splattered in mud and gone is the bling of white shoes and carbon rims. Some train on snow-covered roads, for example Liquigas’s Pole Sylwester Szmyd was fined by police after a snowstorm last year prompted him to ride on highway forbidden to bikes in order to find a ridable route home. If the snow is too much then some even train indoors. Edwald Boasson Hagen uses studded tyres for snow and ice but he’ll also use the Norwegian Olympic training facilities:

Until then there’s 85 days to go until the Tour Down Under begins.

63 thoughts on “The off season”

  1. INRNG,

    I must admit that upon first reflection the term “offy” was not one I thought is used by Aussies, since I’m an Australian with some association in cycling and have never heard the term used to describe the off season for pro cyclists, nor have I read it in any of the available literature. Nevertheless, it does have a similar ring to the late Australian cyclist Hubert Opperman’s nickname “Oppy” — which would be suitably honorific if it was formed through this inspiration.

    Might I ask where you have come across this term?

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  2. ” It is not on the UCI calendar.”

    Well, Amstel Curacao is barely a race (Andy Schleck vs Cav for the given win this year I reckon). Although I think it must be nice for the amateurs to get to ride with the pros, it is just an all expenses paid holiday and in that context, a little hard to get excited about the racing (“racing”) aspect.
    That said, I thoroughly enjoy all the terrible fashion, the dolphins and the group activities the cyclists take part in that make it seem like a giant school trip 🙂

  3. mk, you are mistaken if you think I am seeking to be convinced. Since you have obviously overlooked my request to be informed of the origin of the term, please don’t trouble yourself with seeking to think you can educate me.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  4. RM: good point. Some roads will be closed in winter and some unrideable but it could be a chance to visit and take notes. This year’s Tour will feature many new roads but I suspect most visits will be in the spring or summer. Note the Tour of Flanders has changed route too and many local Belgians will be thinking of the new roads.

    natalie: yes, the “not on the UCI calendar” point was meant in sarcasm, it’s very much an exhibition race and publicity exercise for beer and a warm island.

    I’ve heard several riders talk of the offy. It’s not in the dictionary or an official phrase, just a term used by some riders.

  5. To build foundations for the next season, fans could also afford a similar regime. For people in Australia can get good night sleep and those in US don’t have to wake up early on the weekends to catch the race. People in the middle of these different time zones can now go out in the evening to enjoy less important things like beer and food with the friends.

    I’m going to follow the cross-season closely to keep myself sharp. And watch the highlights of 2011 to keep me on the dope. As a football fan, I know how cruel is the summer but cycling helped me got through and now it’s time for football to take over. Irrespective of this consolation, I hate offy.

  6. Apparently, “offy” isn’t even anywhere on the internet. Really doesn’t sound like a word a real Aussie would use, but more a word someone who thinks it’s a word an Aussie would use, would use.

    TotheBillyoh, might agree with me here when I say that Australian slang is born from the need for speech economy in the hot Australian conditions, to not waste energy, nor allow flies from entering the mouth with long words and phrases. This supports the case for a shortened form for the word off season, however “offy” sounds a tad gay, and a loss of this kind of masculinity in speech economy doesn’t make for a widely-used word, and therefore one which holds up to scrutiny.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  7. inrng: “I’ve heard several riders talk of the offy. It’s not in the dictionary or an official phrase, just a term used by some riders.” Fair enough! This is the exact way new uses for words are found, The online
    urban dictionary lists about 9 unique meanings to ‘offy’. Now it should add another.

  8. Daniel. Yep I agree with what you say. Is it only in Australia that people would not use a word because it sounds ‘gay’? Some speculate that this homophobia arose from the days of first settlement when men greatly outnumbered women and expression of your hetrosexuality became important in ways other than the most obvious. Offy is fey sounding to an Aussie ear where, (spits on the ground), we are all so not gay. (Have you ever been in a bar crowded with Australians and a few non-Australians and someone shouts out “Only pooftahs can’t tap dance!” and the entire crowd starts stupidly and maniacally tap dancing, except for the poor foreigners?. Funny and pathetic at the same time.)

  9. Ankush, bingo! Sleep is great!

    Do HTC boys have to keep wearing their team kit until Jan 1st? Guess I’ll find out soon one way or another, as Leigh Howard is back home and likely going to about the roads soon.

  10. TotheBillyoh, if it is just the case in Australia than that would certainly support the speculation you mention concerning the First Fleet. However, I think it goes deeper than that as the Yanks would resist using a word if it was ‘fruity’ or ‘corny’, both of which can be argued to have gay connotations, which in this case you rightly infer may be stemming from a homophobic impulse. My timid nature prevents me from frequenting bars or pubs, let alone crowded ones, however I take your meaning that such a crowd would enthusiastically prove their tap-dancing ability in order to prove the other, when really someone who is confident in their own sexuality would resist the need to have to prove it so publicly, but of course in this case it’s an Aussie pub we’re raising.

    Daniel Moszkowic (TKofC)

  11. I always thought the UCI should run a calendar year from Dec 1.
    Contracts are usually all sorted out and training camps start to get into full swing.
    Definitely seems silly to wear your old team kits, when there is nothing to show off at during the holiday month.

  12. Bhatmamnet, yep I know cricket, and would accept the word is used to describe an off-spin bowler – as it almost sounds derogatory if Ginger Meggs were to say it on the oval. Nice one, mate.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  13. I don’t know this Daniel fellow, and I’ve only seen a couple of comments on this blog from him, in the last day or two, but already I’m finding his “contribution” annoying – if he’s not assuming the author og the blog to be under-educated, it’s almost as if he’s trying to derail a discussion through his pedantry.

    If I were Innrng I’d start moderating the comments, and not bother approving any which attept to troll or derail, and add zero value.

  14. Drew Childers, nice one mate, found it in the final paragraph, first sentence, and clearly it’s in context, and therefore its origin is likely to be Australian. As I said, never heard of it before and now I know so thanks to INRNG and your good self for the education.

    Ginger, nothing you can offer anyone in terms of commentary will ever have any validity, because you are openly admitting that you are ignorant person, since you are willing to judge someone on flimsy or incomplete evidence. I’m glad you find me “annoying” – it means my form of working is being properly aimed at those such as you, and eventually your kind on the internet will be defeated, and evicted to form a new internet for dunces and dullards.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  15. #Daniel – you are being ironic, right? You tell me I’m wrong to judge you on several of your comments over several days, then from just one comment from me you’re in a position to summarize me as ignorant, invalid, a dunce and a dullard.

    Anyway, I’m quite sure the other readers of this great site don’t need me to highlight the worth of your contributions, or want to see you sniping at anything you don’t agree with.

    So, I’m out of the discussion – thanks for the laughs.

  16. @Ginger …umm yeah, I’m being ironic to the person who complains about my derailing focus yet cannot escape from drawing attention to it. How clever you are to draw everyone’s attention to what I’m doing in the short time you’ve known me, whilst feeding me more kindling for burning. Ha-ha! You are a special and dear fellow to assist the community so well, where would this place be without your committed efforts, I wonder? Is it ironic that your comments on this post have only been about me or the subject of my behaviour, when the discussion has been about the off season in pro cycling?
    Ha-ha! That’s why you are what you are, and why you will have your special little internet one day. Ha-ha!

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  17. I agree with Ginger, i used to read the forums on cyclingnews but got bored with people slagging each other off all the time. I don’t know a huge amount about professional cycling, i’ve travelled to france many times to see the tour and am a member of ‘Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux’ but gain more and more knowledge from reading Inrng and the comments. Daniels comments and replys aren’t needed on here. The article is very interesting but if ‘offy’ is Austrialian or Austrian i don’t care.

  18. Ginger – I am discussing the off season in pro cycling, or more accurately a digression of it — but if you want to talk about me than might I suggest you create a fan page devoted to my capital-T brand of Trolling and I will fill you in by way of a guest appearance. Ha-ha! In any case, I thought I reworked the cache of my work on “” to bring up a more suitable results page of that mammoth Introductory thread and the fun I had there, for such dear “google” researchers as you. Nevertheless, read on my dear friend, you may learn a thing or two, and keep lobbying INRNG for my banishment, I welcome your committed efforts, always.

    Oh! and Maddave, you must be mad and a Dave, clealry you are also deranged, so give yourself an upper cut in advance!

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  19. I agree with karsten as to the “slagging off” as he describes it. There’s enough of that on, especially when there’s any talk of doping or BigTex. It would be nice to have informative, interesting discussion and posts here rather than “you suck” “no, you suck!” grade-school baloney. I will take a pledge (and sorry to anyone if I’ve posted anything obnoxious in the past) to keep things civil and the Inner Ring maestro should feel free to block anyone or anything he feels detracts from civility and interesting interactions.

  20. karsten, is it too difficult for you to not read comments which aren’t addressed to you, or which don’t contain a flavour you find rewarding? I know that if I’m watching a program I find objectional I just change the channel, easy.

    Interesting to notice that you have joined this discussion to agree with Ginger about something you have no interest in, even though the comments have been about something involved with the post. Just because you have no interest if “offy” is Australian or something sounding similar, doesn’t mean I have to share your disinterest.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  21. Larry T. – I challenge you to show me where I have used the words “you suck”, or “no, you suck!”? Sounds as though with your apology you dabbled in such ways, and now hope to blanket the matter with one sentence of; btw I’m sorry? Makes me think that if anything you are coming across as a bit of hypocrite. It was okay when you told be people; “you suck” — but now that you have changed your ways, you expect that this is the new way of performing which should be adopted by this type of forum. Your aspirational perspective for forum decorum is refreshing in its musty, coiling stink.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  22. Dude, stop typing and go do some pushups. Or get your own blog.

    I had no idea ‘rollers’ like those existed. Really cool! I’ve been killing my fat, old self on my old 2 1/2″ kreitlers.

  23. Godsight – I understand that it offers more punctuation or structure on the period in which there is no racing, suitably the ‘between season’ instead of the ‘inter season’ which may also mean the ‘among season’, but I am not French so will stand corrected by a Frenchmen, if I am wrong in this case.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  24. Patrick, I only ride a fixed-gear bicycle in the City, and so I ride on a different circuit (cycle) and thus it is one which you cannot fully appreciate at the moment with your limited understanding of such deep things as understanding the present from a cycling perspective, for instance. If you are a committed researcher, or even a helpful domestique (for where would the peloton be without such hard workers) you would go back down the climb to realize you have overlooked an interesting piece of underground cycling culture in Sydney, pamphlets, written by a friend of mine under the title of the Hungry Mile Messenger, addressing such things as comraderie and good-spirit amongst the bunch, whether it be competitive or social or part of a commute to work.

    So, I reject your assertion that no one would be coming back for me should I have been in the position you think I was in on that particular climb, I know for a fact that a team-mate or even a fellow commuter, would come back to urge me along and get me over the climb, knowing that since it is important for him/her to get back home safely to the family, it might also be important for me also, and so by fostering comraderie we get to do things together and are richer for the experience, because instead of a selfish need, there is that things which binds humanity.

    Sorry, you lose, my dear inexperienced friend. I am in society, on my bicycle, not alone, and happy; and you are on the way out, and alone, leading your figurative race to a deathly hallow of selfishness and ignorance.

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  25. It’s not the one who strives the most, who comes about the winner.
    The fattest boarders’ not the one who eats the biggest dinner.
    And so the man who blows a lot about his own fast riding,
    Is always found, when ends the race, among the stragglers hiding.

  26. Bruno, umm… okay thanks for the reminder, but err… which ones do you think I should take since you are so familiar with my supposed pill-taking habits?

    Daniel Moszkowicz (TKofC)

  27. Dear Inrng
    Please can Daniel’s comments only appear in white text, then if anyone here wants to read his comments then they can just scroll over with the mouse and everyone else can just ignore him and carry on this fantastic site.

  28. Anyway, I’m surprised no one has mentioned cyclo-cross in the offy – as it offers some of the tough men a chance to stay strong and ready for the start of the new season, whilst others are softening-up with extra drinks and inactivity. I think I remember reading something about Lars Boom, that he actually finds that it somehow freshens him up for the road – or would that have been tongue-in-cheek?

    I presume that for some riders staying on the bike works, whilst for others it’s important to get off the saddle. There are not only physical considerations, but also mental, with the view that it’s important for some riders to do some regular things.

    Daniel M.

  29. I think during the TdF this year Sean Kelly was saying that Gilbert goes beating on an estate in the off-season. “Beating” as in: running around in the woods scaring up birds etc for other people to shoot. Apparently its hugely difficult, so keeps fitness up.

  30. Inrng,

    Please communicate with Daniel and try to get him to relax or stop posting. As was pointed out, this site was a nice respite from the hives of negativity that are many cycling commentary sections. We don’t need his kind.

    Thank you

  31. I always referred to the off license as the Offy, and as there are one or two riders who tend to make frequent trips to said place during the off season, *cough*ChrisSutton*cough*, I’d assume it to be coincidence, surely? ahaha…

  32. Daniel: feel free to ask questions and educate yourself on pro cycling but if it gets too personal with readers, it’s not on. You might style yourself as a “Troll King” but nobody’s coming here to get provocative comments and argument, there are better corners of the internet for that.

    I don’t want to delete any comments. But there are no rules and if I feel pressing delete, I will.

  33. The Cross Season remark above suddenly reminded me of another blog from the past few days related to crashes in the peloton! All road racers should do some cross in the off-season, and maybe they’ll be able to handle road furniture and all the rest of the obstacles (such as other riders) a lot more confidently and comfortably!!!

    Personally, the off-season is neeeded! Always around this time of the year I start to feel tired and lose power on the bike! Take time-out from the bike for about a month with only one or two short rides (otherwise I get cranky), take the bike to my mech for a service/parts upgrade, and let the body do something different, such as swimming or weight training! Basically having rationed myself from the bike for a while I am hungry in mid- to -late January to get back on the bike and throw all the words in the book at the Belgian coastal wind and rain in bone-chilling temperature…great way to get back in shape for a new season of whizzing past the scenery!!! Wind and rain of 50km per hour or more cannot drain my ability to shout “fuck you” endlessly! Man, I do enjoy those conditioinng rides!!!

    Thanks, inrng for ending the woeful string of comments above in this blog! Was becoming nauseating!!!

  34. Yet another great post. Then I quickly scanned the comments as usual and started giggling after maybe the eight or tenth one. Now my face hurts a bit from too much laughter. I deplore censorship and I want inrng to spend time adding to the debate not policing it but sometimes you have to wave the stick to make the donkey eat the carrot. Bravo et chapeau.

  35. In Melbourne, you’ll occasionally see a couple of the (normally) European-based pros turn up to the local crits. Generally, they’ll just sit in. Robbie McEwen apparently races to win up on the Gold Coast 🙂

  36. It does seem crazy to effectively start working for a new employer whilst still being paid, and wearing the uniform, of the last. Why not have contracts run until 15th November, roughly half way between Il Lombardia and the Tour Down Under? But I guess with teams folding so much at the moment (and rumors of more) at least those riders and staff currently with teams will be paid until the end of December.

    Unfortunately my offy is a little more regular than once a year, although it’s spelt with an ‘ie’ rather than ‘y’ and sells an excellent selection of Belgian beers to get me in the mood for the classics season:

    @Inrng: Thanks for the excellent & informative blog.

  37. I’m Aussie. Have always been. Have been in cycling for many years including a few good seasons at a good level in the heartland.

    Offy may or may not originate in Australia, but it sure as hell is part of cycling culture over here and frequently used to describe the off season.

    See McEwen’s book, Rory’s, Goss, Gates, Porte’s recent tweets need any more evidence??

  38. INRNG;

    Most website Admins would have just banned me by now, even though it’s plainly obvious that some people just enjoy to burden themselves with carrying and distributing kindling for masters. It is a credit to you that you have saught to see past these obvious bonfire celebrants — as I have no intention to hijack or ruin your website. I think for those that might leave because of my presence on the stage with such obvious flair and aplomb, there will be others who will join just to balance the discord. Nevertheless, you have the power and you will do whatever you feel you must to retain a level of control. Might I suggest though, that deleting is not ever the answer, it’s becoming very difficult to do nowadays, and you will do your site a severe disservice, I should warrant.

    Anyway; offy, or perhaps more accurately; the offy, is already part of my lexicon. I should like to think that – especially since society needs and indeed craves its mythology – that this term was born out of an association with Oppy in Australia or made by an Australian initially, and therefore is another celebration of the respect for those whom have come before us. Clearly, this will be how I think of it now, since no one has laid claim to something more authoritative.

    Daniel Moszkowicz

  39. Rather than post them in white, I would like a click-through link to Daniel’s comments. They don’t have to lead anywhere, no one’s going to click it anyway.
    My 2 cents.

  40. One of the great thrills as a c-grade club hack, is the Australian offy (ha!) when some of the Aussie ProTour riders turn up to race at their local club’s crit races…

    That’s one of the great benefits of being in the southern hemisphere. While the Euro pros are hiding from the sleet and snow – we in Australia are bathed in warm summer sunshine.

    Robbie McEwen is always good for turning p to local races. His ex-team mate at Lotto, Nick Gates, used to as well. My local club saw Michael Hepburn racing on the weekend… Their is another crit coming up with Michael Matthews racing. As a fan, its terrific to see.

    Not many other sports where you are lucky enough to see your favourite top-flite players turn up and compete in a local comp…!!

  41. I note the mention of “goodbye to white shoes”, but on a white-related theme: does the world champion train in the rainbow jersey over the off-season, or do they tend to reserve wearing it for races?

  42. ‘Offy’ means off-licence ie. uk shop selling alcohol to take away . Stop making things up Mr Inner Ring you little tinker ! Winding up our Aussie mates

  43. Reading this it is obvious that the “offy” season has come early and far too many of us are either suffering from being over tired after a long and grueling season, or madly trying to count down / fill the time until the new season begins.

    Agree with the thoughts of training camps and disparate kits, good time for new squads to get some simple publicity and fill the down time but remember how I think it was Trent Lowe who was pinged by (an apparently vindictive) Vaughters this time last year for attending a Pegasus training camp and being photographed (allegedly unauthorised) not wearing his (nominal) employers kit. Never heard how that was resolved despite lawyers getting involved and trash talk through the press… usual divorce story, his story; her story; truth somehwere in the middle, but no one ever gets to hear it, but the lawyers get another beach house.

    Racing with the Dolphins … priceless!

  44. On the subject of training in white jerseys, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pictures of Helen Wyman training in Kona kit instead of her British champ kit, although I’d hazard a guess this relates more to economics then personal choice.

  45. New Garmin signing and Aussie national road series winner Nathan Haas has been tweeting about the offy all week. There really is no question in my mind now that, once again, inrng is right.

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