How the pros use indoor training to boost their riding

Former pro Greg Henderson explains how Zwift has revolutionised the way pros, and everyone, train indoors

Promotional feature with Zwift

It doesn’t matter if you were one of - if not the - most trusted and talented lead-out men in the WorldTour peloton, if the weather’s grim, the prospect of a five hour training ride outside or inside is hardly enticing.

But then came along Zwift, the virtual training program that has transformed training for professional and amateur cyclists around the globe since its launch in 2014.

The software - which has elevated three amateurs into the professional ranks as a result of its own competitions - works by linking up a computer to the rider’s turbo and they’re able to race, ride in groups or do individual, tailored workouts.

The recently-retired Greg Henderson, André Greipel’s right-hand man at Lotto-Soudal for five years from 2012 and a stage winner of the Vuelta a España, explains how Zwift impacted on his training.

“Pros and amateurs can see the benefits. If you’re in Europe or North America, you have rough days where you don’t want to go out. Now it’s easy to do a three hours on the turbo as it’s enjoyable,” the 41-year-old said.

Greg Henderson at the Tour de France during his pro career (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

“I come from a track background so have always done ergo work and enjoyed it because I could see the gains. Zwift, though, is different in that it’s always fun.

“As soon as I started using it, I really enjoyed it. Straight away I realised there were workouts I could follow and I could create my own, too.”

One of Zwift’s features is the option to race. Henderson’s debut in the world of virtual racing didn’t go smoothly, however. The Kiwi recalls: “The first time I raced I got dropped after 10 minutes!

“I really enjoyed it straight away and what I enjoyed was that I could do a four of five hour ride that was structured and not dull.

“I explored more and the major game changer for me was that I could just get on the turbo, log into Zwift and just ride and enjoy the environment.”

It was the racing that Henderson used most to positively impact on his real-world racing, and he feels races and workouts from coaches like himself are how riders can best use the software.

“The races are pretty short, usually around an hour. It was an hour of intensity and fun,” Henderson, who is now performance manager for USA Cycling and leads Zwift’s Workout Wednesdays, said.

“They’re a bit like cyclocross races in that it’s explosive for three or four minutes from the start until you get into the front group, and then you have to be at the front on the climbs too.

“The group workouts are incredible. There can be 300 people riding at the same time and the coach explains what you’re working on, which could be your V02 max or threshold.

“There are explanations along the way of what you’re doing, what you’re going to gain and no one gets dropped. It’s really good immersive interval training.”

Originally a track rider before spending his years on the road, Henderson admits that turbo training wasn’t a pain for him pre-Zwift. But he acknowledges it was for others and credits Zwift with changing the mentality of turbo training.

“People used to dread going on the turbo, even just for 30 minutes,” he reflected. “Now, most of the pros are on there, they can see the benefit of it and enjoy it because you an see the gains you’re making and the benefits.

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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).