Culture

Day in the life: Alex Howes

Nine questions with the EF Pro Cycling rider who is sheltering in place at his home, 8,228 feet above sea level.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.

EF Pro Cycling teammates Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes have become as well known for their adventures on dirt as their prowess on the road. In early March, the duo flew to South Africa for one of mountain bike stage racing’s most storied events – the Absa Cape Epic. The team got to spin out their jet lag with some of the other pros at the Champion’s Race, a short track event the Wednesday before the stage race was to begin on Sunday.

On Friday, event organizers announced that they would be canceling the race due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. Along with the hundreds of other participants scrambling to get out of the country, Morton and Howes quickly booked flights back to the US. Once in air, there was plenty of time for reality to sink in.

“It’s an 18 hour flight,” says Howes, “and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘I hope I don’t get sick.'”

Location: Nederland, Colorado

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
We are allowed outside, but it’s just for gathering the essentials, getting a little exercise, taking the pets out, really, just sorta supposed to hang around the homestead more than anything. If you do go outside, you’re really supposed to be safe about it.

Alex Howes fat bike
Howes on fat biking: “the world’s slowest and perhaps safest form of cycling.”

What races were you planning to do that have been canceled or postponed?
We were planning on racing Cape Epic, and we had to hit the eject button on that two days before the race. We were down in South Africa, so that was a bit of a circus getting out of there.

I should be racing in Sicily right now at the Giro di Sicilia. Was planning on doing the Ardennes. There’s a lot that we don’t know what’s canceled and what’s not. I was planning on Dirty Kanza, they’re supposed to announce that one soon.

What are you doing today?
I’m gonna go outside and take the dog for a little walk. Might hit the Zwift up, I gotta upgrade my helmet on Zwift cause I still look like a newbie dork with the orange and white one. Big objective for the day.

We also have a Q&A on YouTube, Rapha’s channel, as part of the EF Gone Racing series — we’re calling it the Race that Never Was cause the Cape Epic never happened.

Alex Howes dog Reina
Howes’ dog Reina has been getting extra snuggles during stay at home life.

Are you doing a workout? If so, what specifically?
I wouldn’t say I’m doing a workout today. I’m trying to stay active but without any clear goals coming up here, it’s hard to have a focused workout. Really any exercise is really more for my mind than my body.

Alex Howes using a grinder to cut rebar
Howes has been working on house and truck projects to clear his mind.

What indoor gear are you using?
Most important gear is my computer and my TV. I’ve got the Tacx NEO trainer with the fancy lights on it all fired up and running. Very importantly I have my Cannondale aero bike so I can be super aero on my trainer.

I think I need to buy a fan. When you’re chasing other people on Zwift you tend to sweat a lot, and they don’t make an adjustment for altitude. I might need to adjust my weight to account for the fact that I’m at 8,500 feet.

Alex Howe's Cannondale and Tacx Neo trainer
Aero inside.

What is your motivation for training right now?
I think the biggest motivation is keeping a little mental clarity. My biggest motivation for getting out of the house is to give my wife some sanity, to give her some space because it’s easy to forget that she’s cooped up in here with my lame sarcasm and jokes.

As crappy as the situation is, it’s something that we have to remember is temporary. At some point they’re gonna hit the on button and tell us that we have to be pro cyclists again. When that time comes, the competition is going to be pretty fierce. A lot of competition and a lot of stress, and hopefully we’ll be ready when it happens.

How are you communicating with friends and family?
We’ve been doing a lot of FaceTime. The House Party app, we’ve been house partying. Doing a lot of 5:00 happy hours. It’s not necessarily the best thing for the liver, but we’re just trying to keep ourselves entertained up here on the hill.

Have you received any helpful advice? 
I think we’ve all gotten the same advice at this point in terms of staying away from everyone and getting mental clarity.

We’ve been trying to force ourselves to go to bed early. It’s easy to get sucked into that 12AM Netflix wormhole, so we’ve been getting up with the sun every morning and going to bed when we’re tired.

day in the life
Still life with elk chili and Clorox wipes (Howes took down the elk last November).

When do you think you’ll race again?
Speculative-wise, I think the Tour will probably happen in some capacity, and I think that will be one of the first races that the team will do. That’s just a feeling.

When do I think I’ll race again? Probably August, and if anything happens before that it’ll be a big bonus.

But who knows, maybe they’ll be some CU short tracks race before then. I hope so.