Chris Froome and his team-mates are “fully focussed on the training” during their intensive altitude camp on Tenerife, according to their coach.
Froome, four-time winner of the Tour de France, is training with three of his Israel Start-Up Nation companions on the slopes of Teide, a famous volcano in the Canary Islands, as he prepares for his goals later in the season.
The riders are undergoing a tough regime of strength sessions off the bike combined with long rides up to six hours, at 2,000 metres above sea level, in the hopes of improving on the roads when they return to racing in the coming weeks.
Israel Start-Up Nation coach Xabier Zabalo, who is working with the riders on Teide, explained the benefits of training where the oxygen is thinner: “Training at altitude, compared to at sea level, allows your body to adapt to carrying and delivering oxygen to the muscles much better. Up here on the volcano, there is less pressure in the oxygen, which makes it harder for the body to distribute it to the muscles. With this training camp, we want to help create that adaptation in order to boost the oxygen supply for when riding at sea level.”
The team are staying in mountain cottages high up on the volcano, which removes them from other people during the coronavirus pandemic and also isolates them from any potential distractions.
As Froome pointed out in his latest YouTube video, the cottages are less luxurious than a hotel as they run exclusively on solar power, are much colder than a hotel and for the first few days the team had to live without hot water.
But the isolation is also one of the most important advantages to an altitude camp.
Zabolo said: “Another crucial point of why altitude training is so effective is the fact that the riders are fully focused on the training. There are no distractions. All they are doing is training and relaxing. They don’t have to focus on anything else. We even have a support car with them here, so if they should have a mechanical problem, we can quickly assist and continue the training. It’s really like ‘training deluxe’ for the riders.”
The riders – Froome, Daryl Impey, Ben Hermans, and Alexander Cataford – start each day at 8.30am to have their oxygen saturation levels checked, as well as their heart-rate and weight, which are all important for deciding the intensity of their upcoming training.
After breakfast they then head out to ride from 10.30am for anywhere between four to six hours, with varying levels of intensity.
They then return to the cottages for a recovery meal, before having a massage and then eating dinner, and relaxing before heading to bed to repeat the process.
Froome said: “It’s good to be back up here, it feels like my second home.
“This is going to be a big block for us, getting some big miles in here. We’ve been getting some good rides in. There’s not really much to do up here other than ride your bike. We’re doing strength sessions in the morning off the bike, on the bike during the day, get back, have a meal, have a massage, have dinner, then go to bed and rinse and repeat. That’s pretty much the life of a pro cyclist, it’s pretty boring to be honest.”
After making his 2021 debut in Israel Start-Up Nation colours in the UAE Tour last month, Froome will rejoin the peloton at the Volta a Catalunya on March 22, as he continues to build up to the Tour de France in June.
Following the Spanish stage race, Froome will be racing the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The 35-year-old spent the winter training in California and working with experts from the Red Bull High Performance Centre, focussing on off-the-bike exercises to address the power imbalance in his legs after his awful crash in the 2019 Dauphiné
Froome said: “I had a big training block over in California during the winter. I’d never really done that much off-bike work through the winter before, obviously to correct some of the issues I’ve been having from the accident a couple of years ago.
“I’ve been working on them now and I feel as If I’m in a much better place and ready to start focussing much more on the bike side of things, which is one of the main reasons I’m up here in Tenerife now.”