Ahead of their altitude training camp at the Val di Fassa ski resort in the Italian Dolomites, the Deceuninck-QuickStep riders have been undergoing medical tests at the Bakala Academy in Leuven, Belgium, to gauge their levels of fitness in order to know what they need to work on at the training camp. The whole Deceuninck-QuickStep sqaud will gather in Italy from July 6 to July 23, with a squad of riders then kicking-off the postponed season at the Vuelta a Burgos on July 28.
The riders underwent a series of physical tests, which included a Dexa scan to determine body composition – the amount of muscle mass and their fat percentage – and an exercise stress test.
"We wanted to check how deep our riders could dig, and infer whether they are well rested," said team coach Koen Pelgrim, who oversaw the testing.
"We also wanted to test how their physical condition compared to January and February, when we ran the same tests.
"You would expect them to be able to perform better now, which was also the case, according to the tests. Everyone who was tested is well rested, and performed better compared to their January levels," he said.
An unprecedented season
The enforced period without competition has nevertheless put riders at differing levels of fitness, Pelgrim admitted, but it's hoped that those differences can be ironed out in most cases during the training camp.
"It won't be like a normal start of the season, like in Australia or Argentina [in January], where you can still make adjustments towards March and April if things don't go well," explained Pelgrim. "We won't have time for that now, so we have to make sure that our riders don't enter this period with a disadvantage.
"That's no problem for most riders, but it's perhaps harder for those who had to stay at home in their country because of the lockdown," he added of riders who were based in countries such as France, Spain and Italy during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
"They were set back and forced to maintain their fitness on the rollers. They'll have some catching-up to do, but in time should be fine."
Pelgrim said that the team's riders have ramped up their training load since last month, whereas during April and May they had been more concerned with maintaining fitness.
"We monitored the team to ensure they kept up well, and at the same time didn't waste too much energy," he said.
"We want to prevent them from reaching their fitness peak too early. In Val di Fassa, there will be some more fine-tuning towards August. The races are fast approaching. Everyone will immediately have to reach a good level. There are a few exceptions, but for most, those first races will already be a big deal."
'We can't just let them race each other uphill'
Pelgrim explained that the riders will be grouped according to their disciplines – climbers, sprinters and lead-out riders – allowing for more individualised training programmes at altitude.
"Occasionally, we'll also let the specialists train on their time trial bikes," he said. "At that altitude, it's key to keep a close eye on the training load.
"Kaster [in Belgium] was a good incentive, with three tough recons of the Classics," Pelgrim said of the team's first training camp last month, "but in Val di Fassa, we can't just let them race each other uphill. That wouldn't have the desired effect. We'll closely monitor the training load and offer them structured sessions on the bike and exercises."
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