An unprecedented 2020 season sets off an equally unusual off-season for Trek-Segafredo riders
Against tough odds, pro cycling made it through an extraordinary 2020 season. Champions were eventually crowned during a truncated schedule that extended into November and crammed a year’s worth of emotion into a few months.
Traditionally, riders unwind during the last weeks of the year, allowing their body bodies time to recover from a demanding season. It’s a time to reunite with family and friends and experience a brief period of “normalcy” without the rigors of training and racing.
But just as the COVID-19 pandemic threw a mighty curveball into the race season, riders must now shape their off-seasons within the boundaries of this “new norm” that has no confirmed end.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw a mighty curveball into the race season, and now riders are re-shaping their off-seasons within the boundaries of this “new norm” with no confirmed end.
Read the stories of Trek-Segafredo riders’ unusual year in their own words, and how they’re planning for a hopefully less muddled 2021 season.
Koen de Kort – Andorra
In a normal year, I would travel to Australia soon after my last race and spend my off-season there. I have many friends ‘Down Under’, so I would typically start riding my bike around November to catch up with them. The weather is nice, and it’s a great place to just do your easy rides and have a nice coffee stop. This year because of the Covid situation, I’ll be staying in Andorra, which in one way is exciting, but it’s going to be completely different from any off-season I’ve done before in my career.
I typically resume training mid-November, but we’re already there and I barely had an off-season as I was still racing into November at the Vuelta. The fact that the Tour Down Under has been canceled actually gives me a bit of breathing space; otherwise, my off-season would be incredibly short. You cannot start training mid-December if you want to be good at TDU. But now, I can take my two to three weeks off proper training and still have 10 weeks before starting my first races in 2021.
This off-season I’ve been doing some hikes to keep active and tried my hand at some climbing as well. Otherwise, I spend quite a bit of time in my restaurant here in Andorra. There are always many things to organize, even if with the lockdown measures it’s a tough time for a restaurant owner in Andorra. These past weeks I’ve been trying to leave my car at home and walk to and back from the restaurant, which is about 8 kilometers. I’m also keeping busy with my studies as I’m close to completing my Sports Management master’s degree.
When I was young, I used to ski quite a bit, but as I haven’t been spending my winters in Andorra, it’s been a while since I tried it. Many of my friends that spend their winters or off-season here like to do a bit of ski touring, which essentially involves walking up the mountain on your skis and then skiing down. It’s a bit of cross-training, and it sounds like something I would be keen to try.
Toms Skujins – Latvia
In the off-season, I usually go to Boulder, Colorado right after the last race, or head to Latvia for a bit and then to the US. But this year because of Covid-related travel restrictions, and since I’m not a US resident, I was unable to go.
After the last race of the season, I take at least three weeks off the bike before I start building back up. During that period, I usually just hang out with friends and not much else, but things have been different this year. With the lockdown restrictions, you cannot go out for dinner, so social gatherings have changed a lot. There were no parties and no big gatherings of any kind, particularly indoors.
My fiancé Abby and I traveled to Latvia since I hadn’t seen my family this year, and we’ve been staying here. At some point, we’re looking to go back to Girona. For the moment, I’m taking this opportunity to explore Latvia and show Abby a bit more of the country.
We’ve done some hikes and gone to the beach, which is not so far from my home, to take in nice walks and sunsets.
I’m really keen on some winter sports like ice hockey and cross-country skiing, but I haven’t had the chance to do either this off-season. The arenas are closed, and it’s not cold enough just yet for any snow for skiing.
This season, for the reason we’re all aware of, was unique and unprecedented. The races extended into November, but I finished my season at a similar date, only seven days later than in 2019. The season may have been shortened, but it was intense. You never really knew when you could take some time off and relax.
My approach to next season will be very similar, maybe just pushing back the training re-start by a week. My training will change a bit in the buildup because I really want to target the Giro in 2021. I’ve never done that race and want to try something different and finish all three Grand Tours in my career. Obviously, I don’t have a race schedule yet, but I really want to aim for that if it’s a possibility. As a rider chasing stages, the Giro, in theory, could suit me well as it’s more unpredictable, and that’s something I excel at.
Ruth Winder – Colorado, USA
This off-season has been strange in many ways. Normally at the end of the season, my fiancé would come over to Europe and we would do a holiday after the World Championships. But this year it was completely different as 1) the World Championships wasn’t the last race, and 2) he couldn’t fly over due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Last year we went to Scotland, which was really nice, but this time I just flew straight home to Boulder, Colorado. There was no typical end-of-the-season European holiday that we like.
We decided we would enjoy the off-season at home and do things around here within the “new norm” regulations. Unfortunately, we had horrible wildfires here, some of them quite close to home, so the air quality was super bad, and we just couldn’t go outside for a while. The fires got extinguished because we got a foot of snow, and the temperatures really plummeted, so we ended up staying in our apartment for a holiday. When you travel so much for a living, as I do as a professional cyclist, you sometimes just enjoy staying put for a while.
We were always on and off the gas, not knowing when we would be racing... That whole unknown was pretty hard for me emotionally.
We did go to Moab (Utah), which is about six hours drive, camped outside in the desert, and had some nice mountain bike rides. No off-season parties with friends, no weddings, nothing of that sort. Since the start of the pandemic, we were very careful in keeping our bubble as small as possible and limiting our social interactions.
I’ve taken five weeks completely off the bike, and I can now rebuild whereas, in the summer, it was this seesaw. We were always on and off the gas, not knowing when we would be racing, and I never had a clear picture of what I was training for, so it never felt like a real break. That whole unknown was pretty hard for me emotionally.
The season did happen to a certain extent, maybe not how we fully pictured it, but once it started, it proceeded more or less as we expected. Because we had a summer filled with uncertainty, I feel more prepared to go into the new year after that experience.
I live right at the base of a mountain, and I’ve done some 1.5hrs hikes. When I came home after the season, my fiancé had bought me ski equipment and a ski pass as a present, so I was like, ‘I guess I’m going to learn to ski this off-season!’ I feel both excited and a bit intimidated because I’ve never skied before.
Winning Tour Down Under this year was special for me, and it’s a pity the race won’t take place next season. But if I’m honest, I did feel a bit of internal pressure to go back and defend that title. With the season overrunning a bit and then taking time off the bike, I felt panicky about cramping training into January, which doesn’t set you up well for the rest of the season. I’ll miss going to Australia terribly, but when the race was called off, I was relieved because now I can take my time and build up my fitness and not panic about racing in just a few weeks.
Kiel Reijnen – Washington State, USA
This is a unique off-season in the sense that as an athlete, you typically work very hard towards goals, but this year those goals kept shifting. So it was really hard to get momentum and commit yourself 100% to a goal without being 100% sure if it would be there when the day arrived.
At the end of this season, I didn’t have that same satisfying feeling of being physically exhausted and ready for a mental break. It was such a “start-stop” type of season I didn’t feel I earned my off-season, which doesn’t change the fact that I still needed to give my body recovery because I still raced hard until the end of October.
Now I get to have a nice chunk of time here with my family with fewer commitments than you would normally have in the off-season to try and juggle, so that is a silver lining to the coronavirus. There’s not a lot of rhythm in an athlete’s lifestyle, so having a bit of a routine at home is a nice change.
We’re an adventurous family, so we like to spend a lot of time outdoors. With the lockdown measures, many things are shut down in our area, and there are strict rules on what we can do. Fortunately, we can still go hiking, bike riding, sailing, and fishing – I’m really thankful for this family time.
In the past few off-seasons, I was busy building my house, and during the lockdown back in the spring this year, I finished mostly everything, but I always like to start new projects. Once the season was done, I went on my friend’s tractor and did a bit of landscaping around the house, re-creating the yard and planting some seeds.
Now that the weather is starting to turn, I’ll work on chopping firewood and help out clearing the trails around the island of fallen trees and branches.
Without the Australian races, there is no reason to start the year flying. We have an extended Team camp planned for the beginning of January all the way to the end of the month, and I want to use that to make my final preparations.
My first big goal will be the Classics, and presumably, those races will take place around the usual dates; I want to be in top form there. The big question mark as the pandemic situation continues to develop is scheduling the season and knowing if my family will be able to travel to Europe or if I have to go it alone.