French riders ease back into training with eye on Tour

After nearly two months of lockdown, pros can now ride on open roads ahead of a planned August racing revival.

French pros are easing back to training on open roads after nearly two months of confinement, with an eye on the Tour de France in late August.

The prospect of a return to racing this summer is giving riders extra motivation as officials slowly begin to lift restrictions, and allow pro riders free range to train within their local regions in the wake of coronavirus restrictions.

“On my first ride, it’s as if I had forgotten what the bike feels like,” Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ) told AFP. “It’s coming back, but it’s like skiing for the first time each winter. I’m getting into the rhythm day by day.”

It’s been awhile since riders in France have been able to train on roads. Officials shut down the nation in late March, following the lead from Italy, Spain, and Andorra. Starting this week, pro riders in France are now getting reacquainted with rolling along on pavement, something taken for granted until coronavirus swept across Europe.

“What I missed most were the long outings on the bike,” said Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis). “We usually ride 2o to 25 hours a week, so I am easing back into it. We have to rebuild our endurance. I am in no hurry. There is plenty of time before we race again.”

With so many questions remaining about if and when racing might resume in cycling’s new-look calendar, at least French riders will have plenty of races on the calendar to race in August. France will see the Tour de l’Ain and an abridged version of the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the August 29 start of the Tour de France in Nice.

Riders are being careful about transitioning into longer, outdoor training rides after spending the past several weeks on the indoor trainer.

“This is a bit like coming out of the winter,” said Nans Peters (Ag2r-La Mondiale). “We cannot go too hard, too fast. I never did more than two hours per session on the trainer. The most important thing now is volume and kilometers to rebuild endurance.

“There will be a lot of intensity in August and September,” he continued. “Teams will have to race on three fronts, not just two. The whole peloton will be hungry to race, and I expect a very high level.”