Culture

Day in the life: Guillaume Martin

11 questions for the Cofidis rider, author, and farmer, while he's at home, near Normandy.

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.

French cyclist Guillaume Martin is perhaps one of the cyclists best prepared for the current state of quarantine here in France as the country battles the COVID-19 crisis. The author of Socrates By Bike, Martin holds a masters degree in philosophy, and is actually working on a second book already. During the current lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, Martin is holed up on his family farm outside of Sainte Honorine la Chardonne in Normandy, where he is doing sundry odd jobs, not to mention taking care of some of the animals.

Location: Sainte Honorine la Chardonne, Normandy

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
Well, here in France we are in confinement and really can’t go out. But I am on my family farm in Normandy, which is a good place to be. I feel pretty lucky compared to some people, really.

But it helps that we have a real date when we will be out of confinement, as the President [Macron] gave us a clear date on May 11 when the confinement would wind down. That really helps.

What races were you planning to do that have been canceled or postponed?
Oh several. Right now I was supposed to be coming out the Tour of the Basque Country and heading into the Ardennes Classics.

What are you doing today?
I am here on the family farm. And there are just plenty of things to do around the farm. We have some donkeys, a horse, a couple of pigs, and chickens, so I like to help out with the animals. I am also doing a little masonry work. We are building a new terrace and I put some barriers into place. I just stay busy, working outside.

And then today I am speaking with a lot of journalists since the Tour de France just announced a new start date.

Guillaume Martin at home
Guillaume Martin at home. Photo: James Startt

You have already written one book, Socrates By Bike, and I know you are working on another. I imagine this would be a good time to focus on such things?
Ironically not. I was reading a fair amount in the beginning, but really I have spent a lot of time working outside around the farm. I miss it though and as soon as we get back to racing and training normally I will focus on it again. I’ve already got an outline, but I am not the most organized when it comes to writing. I’ve written some things. I’ve written a chapter that I see in the beginning of the book, and another I see somewhere in the middle of the book, but I am not very organized.

Do you have a title?
Only a very vague working title, The Society of the Peloton.

Are you doing a workout? If so, what specifically?
Well I alternate. The farm is at the end of a long dead-end road, so really we are in the middle of nowhere. We have no neighbors. I feel lucky. There is a two-kilometer path around the property and so I can go out and do laps on my mountain bike, which allows me to ride outside at least a bit. I can do up to around two around the circuit.

But we can’t really do endurance work, so I alternate the mountain biking with home trainer rides where I can really work on intensity. Three times a week I connect with my teammates for a ride. We all connect via Zoom for a video conference and ride together. We can chat a bit, but we ride with our trainer and also do specific intensity workouts. There will be five or six of us. And sometimes there are even more as the staff can join us too. What is nice, is that we ride together. Everyone can do their own workouts and yet we can still talk.

Today we did a specific strength workout, pushing a really big gear. We did a two-hour home trainer ride with three 15-minute series. In each series I did three, three-minute intervals, one-minute recuperation between each. The intervals were really designed to work on strength, turning a really big gear at about 50-55 rpm. It is hard to say what gear we were riding because it really depends on how you set your resistance on the home trainer.

Guillaume Martin on the Elite Direto X
Guillaume Martin on the Elite Direto X. Photo: James Startt

What indoor gear are you using?
Well we have Elite Direto X, but I only just set it up, and I have to admit that I haven’t totally mastered all of its functions.

What is your motivation for training right now?
Well, it hasn’t been easy, now that we know that the Tour could start in August that helps. Right now we are simply trying to maintain our fitness, but in reality I am only doing half of the training I normally do.

But we will be able to go out and train again on May 11 apparently. It has been like having a second winter in some ways. The difference is that it is nice outside and we want to be outside.

Having a date for the Tour really helps. If the Tour had just been out and out canceled it would have been a cataclysm for the sport of cycling. We still don’t know how this is going to end, so you have to be prudent, but the Tour dates at least give us hope.

Guillaume Martin at 2020 Vuelta a San Juan
Guillaume Martin at 2020 Vuelta a San Juan. Photo: James Startt

How are you communicating with friends and family?
Well were are five here with my parents, my brother and my partner, so I am not really very isolated. But that said, my telephone is working overtime these days.

Have you received any helpful advice?
Not really but I am very grateful to be out here in the country, to be outside.

When do you think you’ll race again?
Well, I hope in July. The UCI announced that there would be no racing until July 1, and the first World Tour races in August, but it is possible that we could do some smaller races already in July. That would be perfect. If we can get out and really start training in May and start racing in July, that would be plenty of time to get into peak condition for the Tour. Perhaps I can do a small altitude camp with a couple of teammates in late June, but really I’m not worried about that at all. We definitely have enough time to prepare for the Tour.