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"During the hiking trips, the finish is on the top of the mountain. During bike races, the last day of a Tour is the ultimate finish. This adventure gives me the required energy to try to finish all the Grand Tours again next year.”

Photo: Lotto Soudal




22.11.2015 @ 09:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The riders and staff of Lotto Soudal have started their preparation for 2016. The first training kilometres are ridden and plans are being made. Not every rider prepares the season in the same way; some of them do other sports.


During the season, everything is clear; the riders race, train and rest. But what does a rider do after the season? What does he do during this time of the year? And the sports directors, how do they prepare themselves for the coming season? Lotto Soudal asked Mario Aerts, Stig Broeckx, Adam Hansen and Tim Wellens.


The off-season of Stig Broeckx

“After a couple of weeks of holiday, I started with my training again. Everything still goes very relaxed and easy. In the first weeks it’s a matter of “waking up” the body and systematically increasing the training load. In reality, we do this with training rides in the ‘long distance zone’. I really like mountain biking, running and swimming, they are also part of my training week. I try to do as many different types of sports, but cycling remains the essential. Next to that, I regularly go for a walk or do some squashing. In the first weeks of my preparation towards the season, I take advantage of the easy training pace to train together with my friends. For the moment, everything goes very relaxed because the real intensive training days are only planned in a couple of weeks.


“During the hiking, I prefer to have a goal. Just making a walk in the neighbourhood isn’t what I like, therefore I do Geocaching. Geocaching is an application on your smartphone which shows you where the “caches” or “treasures” are hidden. These treasures are put there by other users of the Geocache App. I think that the kid in me rises above when geocaching, because I really like it. The application is known worldwide and everywhere you go, they use it. It’s a nice way to discover new spots during your walk, it takes you to places you would never go.


“Mid-October is traditionally the month where the corn is harvested. My parents have a farm and the workload during these weeks is so big that everyone in the family comes together to help. Given that my season is over, I also help them. During the cycling season, I’m less active on the farm and because of that I really enjoy to put on my boots.”


The off-season of Mario Aerts

“Also for the sports directors, the off-season was welcome. After a busy season and spending many nights at hotels, you really look forward to sleeping in your own bed. It was a very good season for the team, therefore you can start the rest period carefree. Last winter, we did everything we could to be as good as possible for the 2015 season; and we succeeded. With the winter period coming up, we know what we have to do. In the past season, we saw that our approach worked and that motivates. Because of that, everyone is very motivated and enthusiastic to give everything they have to be successful next season.


“As of the 1st of November, most riders started training again. Also the sports directors started with the preparations for next season. Every sports director is the contact person for five to six riders of the team. The riders who I assist are Bart De Clercq, Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Tomasz Marczynski and Jelle Wallays. Last week I spoke with them for the first time since the team day – which took place the day after Putte-Kappellen. During these conversations, we listen to the riders in the first place and find out how their holiday was and if everything is fine. Most of the meetings with riders and sports directors are held during the training camp in December.


“In between the holiday and the training camp in December, the sports directors gather a few times to discuss things. For example, we make the race program for next year and evaluate which races we will re-attend and which will be skipped. Also the schedule for the training camp in December is one of the agenda points and the individual race programs of the riders will be discussed for the first time with the other sports directors. During the training camp, there will be time to talk to the riders about how they see their program and afterwards, we try to make up a race program until the end of the Classics.


“My first race in 2016 will be the Tour Down Under. I participated five times in my cycling career but the next edition will be my first as sports director. Last season went well. It won’t be easy to equal the results from last year, but we can look forward to 2016 with a healthy dose of ambition. Our young riders are a year older now and have gained some strength, if they can pick up where they left last season, great results will follow. I’m refererring to Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot. Also the more experienced riders like Tony Gallopin and André Greipel are in the bumper years of their career and can shine again next season. Tony showed that he’s capable of winning stages at stage races and André still belongs to the list of the world’s best sprinters. With the current riders and staff, I’m really confident that 2016 will once again be a great season.”


The off-season of Tim Wellens

“After Lombardia, I kept training for a week because I wanted to race the Roc d’Azur. The Roc d’Azur is a well-known mountain bike race in the South of France with more than 4000 participants. The course goes through the hilly Nature Base in Fréjus. Given that this race was held the week after the Giro di Lombardia, it was the ideal way to finish my season. Together with my girlfriend, I went to Fréjus for a week to enjoy a holiday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the race due to two flat tires. I could repair he first flat but when I had a puncture again shortly after the first flat tire, it was over and out. The Côte d’Azur is a very beautiful region to ride your bike. I will definitely go back, but it’s not decided yet if I’ll do a second Roc d’Azur next year.


“During my rest period, I was still very busy; I’m in my senior year to become a professional bachelor in Energy Technology at the University College UC Leuven-Limburg. To receive my diploma, I have to do an internship in a company. The company where I do this internship is Ridley Bikes. During the three-week rest period after the season, I started the internship. The plan is to finish all 56 internship days before February. My job function with Ridley is to help develop the wind tunnel. I’m helping to determine the thickness of the supply cable and the security of it. Ridley is building their own full electric wind tunnel. As a cyclist, it’s nice to be part of the development process and to know how such a tunnel works.


“During the first weeks of my preparation towards the 2016 season, I try to avoid riding my road bike. Therefore, I try to vary my training program by introducing running, swimming and mountain biking. The nice weather from the past weeks made it hard to leave the road bike in the garage, but I try to wait as long as possible to ride it. The reason behind this is that I want to have enough motivation to train on the road bike when the real training months approach. This week I go to Spain for a first training camp. Together with the ‘Jonge Benen’ (Jasper Stuyven, Sean De Bie and Louis Vervaeke) we rent a house near Malaga. The weather forecast seems to be good for the next days so I really look forward to spending some time together with the four of us. The preparation for the 2016 season has begun!”


The off-season of Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen is the current world record holder when it comes to completing consecutive Grand Tours. In the past years, he has finished thirteen Grand Tours; an extraordinary performance. Every other athlete would use the winter period to reload the batteries and to recover from the cycling season but not Hansen. Next to the cycling part, Hansen runs a company that produces clothes, named Hanseeno. Because of that, he travels around the world to meet potential buyers. Furthermore, he’s also active as a computer program developer. He developed Logiscycle which is a cycling management logistics program that’s also used by Lotto Soudal. But there’s more. Besides being a cyclist, product developer and computer specialist, above all Hansen is an adventurer.


"In the past twelve days I was in Nepal. I did some long hiking tours from four to eight hours a day. I climbed four mountain passes in the Himalaya. First Gokyo, a mountain top at 5357 metres above sea level. Secondly, I climbed the 5420 metres high Cho La Pass and to finish I went to the Mount Everest Base Camp. The following two days, a hiking tour to Lukla is planned. It is located 2860 metres above sea level in the northeast of Nepal.”Adam said in-between two tours. “These tours are a real adventure. You’re one with the surroundings and also for the body it’s a hard job. This trip to the Himalaya will boost my form. The long hiking tours are ideal to sharpen the form; physically it’s pretty demanding.


“I will start the training camp in December with a better form than in the past years. Even though I haven’t ridden my bike since the last race, I feel that my form comes back. Just before we travel to Majorca, I will start riding my bike. The hiking in the Himalaya is comparable with a Grand Tour; you physically suffer multiple days to get to the finish. During the hiking trips, the finish is on the top of the mountain. During bike races, the last day of a Tour is the ultimate finish. This adventure gives me the required energy to try to finish all the Grand Tours again next year.”



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