With the coronavirus pandemic rumbling on into a third year of misery, the usual habits of professional cycling also continues to be disrupted, with early season races cancelled once more and riders' off-season plans complicated again by travel restrictions and the risk of infection.
For Lotto-Soudal's Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts, Paris-Roubaix runner-up Florian Vermeersch and exciting upstart Brent Van Moer, an altitude camp in Rwanda had been scheduled.
"We don't want to take any risks. Certainly not now that we are in wave 26," Campenaerts told Sporza of the decision to cancel the trip and seemingly never-ending disruption to normal life.
Instead, they will be simulating the benefits of being at altitude, albeit at 83m above sea level.
Syncrosfera is a hotel on Spain's Costa Blanca where a button can be pushed to simulate an altitude of 4,500m inside the rooms. The hotel was set up by former professional cyclist Alexandr Kolobnev, the Russian who rode for Rabobank and Katusha during his career.
Each rider has their own room booked plus an extra fourth to use as a living room to eat and socialise in, "to live at maximum height" Campenaerts said, the riders training at sea level during the day, like many pros who decamp to Spain's Meditterean coastline during the winter, before producing more red blood cells at night while they sleep at altitude.
“We have all the facilities to meet the needs of top athletes and recreational athletes," the hotel's commercial director Juan Balerdi told Het Nieuwsblad, with UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin-Fenix and Groupama-FDJ also all having stayed at the Syncrosfera. "For an extra €50 you can stay in one of the fifteen rooms equipped with a generator, which can simulate an altitude of up to 4,500 meters above sea level. You can't hear the generator in the room. You don't even feel the wind blowing to get the oxygen level to the desired level.”
Campenaerts says an extra advantage of the special rooms, compared to just staying at real altitude, is he can alter how high up he sleeps, lowering the setting to 1,500m if he wants to let his body recover after a tough day's training. "On Teide you can't say after training: tonight I'm going to sleep halfway up the mountain," he explained.
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