‘The fans need to see the riders race, not in altitude camps’

After early season races were described as "too easy" for Chris Froome, riders discuss whether altitude camps are a better way to train than racing

Chris Froome training in Mallorca (Waugh)
(Image credit: waughphotos.com)

Team Sky's Chris Froome and other Grand Tours stars skip races to train at altitude for the three-week races, but the Tirreno-Adriatico organiser say that the fans lose out.

Froome is the only big Grand Tour star not racing this week in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.

>>> Early season races are ‘too easy’ for Chris Froome’s Tour de France preparations

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has been racing in Spain, the UAE and Italy. Tomorrow, he starts Tirreno-Adriatico with several Giro d'Italia and Tour de France favourites. In Paris-Nice, another group of stars race like Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).

"Clearly, once a rider does a certain type of training and finalises it with a win, it's difficult that he'll change ideas," Mauro Vegni, director of RCS Sports races including Tirreno-Adriatico, told Cycling Weekly.

"Lance Armstrong was that way, he won the Tour seven times racing and approaching it the same every year. So, it's hard that someone changes their mind.

"It's not a great thing for those who are benefiting from these races, the public. We should consider how cyclists are approaching their season if we want to see confrontations throughout the year."

Froome is honing his form with a long altitude camp in South Africa. He spent around three weeks at 1700 metres and returned recently. He will return to racing in the Volta a Catalunya, nearly two months from his start in Australia with the Herald Sun Tour.

Cyclists say altitude camps – and time away from races – are needed in a specialised and compartmentalised sport.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is racing Tirreno-Adriatico as he builds towards the Giro d'Italia. However, he was able to squeeze in racing in Argentina and in the Abu Dhabi Tour around a training camp.

"Those small races give you condition quickly in that moment, but altitude gives you much more base, a gradual rise to condition," he told CW. "You are getting to the goal in a different way.

"For a climber for me, like many others, like Chris Froome, it's helpful to train in altitude because in this season in Europe you can come across a week of bad weather and you can't even train. You can go to the races and find bad weather.

"I was speaking with Peter Sagan, who was sick after Belgium with a cough and other problem, so you can get sick. So to stay in good weather gives you a better way to train for your goal."

Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) trained at Sierra Nevada for around two-and-a-half weeks. It worked well, he came back and won the GP Lanciano on Sunday.

"It's individual to everyone, to the person," Yates said. "Tirreno-Adriatico is usually the first big race for me after altitude. I always seem to go well, not top top, but I seem to come out pretty good."

Sky's Geraint Thomas trained with Froome for two weeks to help him build for the Giro d'Italia. However, he is already back to start in Tirreno-Adriatico.

"It's trial and error really," Thomas added. "I've never done an altitude camp in February. I think doing that work early on, and getting that base in will stand me in good stead.

"I'm down to do the Giro and Tour so I don't want race too much and be empty when I get to the Tour. That's part of the thinking as well. Time will tell if it works, I guess."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.