Lotto-Soudal back to isolation ‘bubbles’ approach for pre-season camps
Belgian team to send three distinct groups to different locations for January camp as COVID-19 continues to grip Europe.
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Lotto-Soudal is returning to the tried-and-trusted “bubbles” methodology for its pre-season training block.
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The Belgian squad was one of the first to segregate its team into distinct “bubbles” last season when it formed separate units that raced, trained, and traveled as an isolated group in a bid to mitigate COVID threats. With the pandemic still at a roaring boil in Europe, Lotto-Soudal is repeating the approach for its training camp starting Friday.
“We have decided to continue to maintain our different bubbles,” Maxime Monfort told La Derniere Heure. “We have evolved in this way during the 2020 season, since the arrival of the coronavirus. And given the current health situation, we are maintaining this model.”
Rather than gathering its full roster in one location for team bonding and group training, Lotto-Soudal is sending three discrete bubbles to three Spanish locations – Denia, Oliva, and Javea. Each unit will be made up of distinct types of riders, with a classics group, a sprinting group, and a climbing group.
Top pros teams are expected to continue rolling out the “bubble” concept after it was applied for the most part successfully through the restarted 2020 season.
Team BikeExchange boss Matt White told VeloNews last year that his team hoped to apply the precaution through the early season, with riders remaining in units from pre-season camps all the way through winter races in France and Spain.
The approach discussed by White and in use by Lotto-Soudal contrasts that of Israel Start-Up Nation, who confirmed it was having a full team camp in Girona later in January. Lotto-Soudal is willing to forgo team-building activities for the uncompromised security of a training bubble at its camp this month.
“It’s a shame, because we would have liked to bring everyone together, first for team-building, for the cohesion of the group,” said Lotto-Soudal director Monfort, who retired from racing in 2019. “The January camp also allows everyone to see each other, which is sometimes no longer possible during the season for some of the riders. But with this coronavirus, that won’t be possible this year.”