At a team training camp in Spain, the Giant-Alpecin rider sat down with Cyclingnews to discuss the areas of his training and racing that he is working on in order to become a major Grand Tour contender in 2017.
Weight and nutrition
I think that nutrition for me is the main part. I'm still learning what to eat and when. It's quite a puzzle. It's not like I can just put together some carbs and some proteins and that's it. Sometimes it's not that easy and there are times in a Grand Tour when you have a bad day simply because you didn't eat well. If I look back to some of my bad days it's often down to nutrition on the day or nutrition from two days before because my supplies have gone down. It's a really important part of cycling and something that we're really working hard on.
Keeping my time trial powers
It's December so I can be little lighter than now but at the Vuelta in 2015 I was around 69 kilograms. I'm not sure that I can get down to 68 but we might give it a go and see what happens. Losing weight and climbing will naturally affect my time trialing at some point. So far it's not been a problem and I won the time trial at the Vuelta and I've worked on my weight for a while. It's maybe affected my prologue success but over the longer distances I can still do well. You've seen it with guys like Froome and Wiggins, who have both done exceptional time trials when at top condition at the Tour de France, so we just have to find out the line for me. At some point we might go too far but I hope it's not next year.
Extra altitude camps
Next year I'll spend more time at altitude and I go to South Africa in February.
I'm really looking forward to that because normally we'd just spend more time here in Spain. We'd have a camp here in January and then come back a few weeks later. By the fourth camp it really feels like one camp too many so I'm really happy to be going somewhere like South Africa. It's something completely different for me and the weather is going to be completely different. There are good roads and it’s quiet.
The other option is Tenerife but it can still be quite cold there at that time of year. I'll spend two weeks in South Africa and then we'll another altitude camp a little bit later.
The main reason I'm doing the altitude camp is because it means I'm climbing more. It's that simple. People often think about blood values and produce more EPO naturally but I don't really see such a big difference in that sense. For me the big difference is that you're training hard and in a solitary way. The climbing give you specific work out because that's where you can win or lose a Grand Tour.
I don't need to change my style. I just need to learn to climb a lot more. It means that your body is going to maintain a lot more power while training in specific zones. That's different to what I'm used to when I'm training in the Ardennes, where the climbs are shorter and the efforts are more explosive. That's important for me so I can work on pushing out X number of watts for half an hour, three times a day.
The marginal gains
We're always looking at the small details, so the places where I can make little advantages, not just for the Grand Tours but also as a general rider. So, for example, we're going back to my position on the road bike and the time trial bike to see if we can tweak things a little bit there. In the last five years I've been doing good time trials but there are still really small places to gain more time.