Sestriere, Italy, July 2018, Altitude Training Camp UAE Team Emirates
Like every July, all the riders that weren’t battling it out at the Tour de France, would go in altitude to escape from the heat and to get ready for the second half of the season. A bunch of riders, a bunch of friends, always ready to laugh and joke with each other (in between smashing ourselves on training rides).
My room was a “family” room, one with Simone Consonni and Aleksandr Riabushenko and in the other was me and one spare bed ready for a 19 year-old guy coming for training after a couple of weeks off. He had been signed by my team for the following season. We hadn’t met him before, but he had to be ready for a race in August, so he came along to train with us.
I was a normal rider strong enough for what the team needed me to do but in the last 10 years cycling has changed a lot, investing in young and enthusiastic riders, full of energy and ready to prove themselves. When I started, there were a real mix of riders that collectively made for a strong team, but now, the new guys are all strong.
And then there is “another” category. There is none of this taking time to find your place in the team; when they arrive, they arrive. Winning races, smashing records and earning status with outstanding performances. The kind of riders that don’t need to shatter themselves with weeks and weeks of training to get results; they jump on the bike after a few weeks off and in 15-20 days they are ready to win.
Yep, I saw riders with 15 days of training after months off doing 6.5/6.6 w/kg on a 10-12 minute climb, pushing an average of 650w in 4 minutes, sprinting like a joke passing the 1800w. Shocking and disheartening for riders like me that needed months of hard training to reach a good level of performance.
And so, that bloody 19 year-old guy that arrived in my room…he trained by himself for 3 days and then he started with us. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, and he did it effortlessly. Long story short, after 20 days he won the GC at Tour de l’Avenir and last year he took home the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
This is what it means to be “another category.”