Racing bikes professionally requires an itinerant lifestyle.
Wout van Aert posted some interesting data points over the weekend recapping his 2021 highlights that drive home that point.
Most top racers spend more time away from home than anywhere else. Ask a pro what they want to do in the off-season, and most reply they simply want to stay home with family and friends.
The Jumbo-Visma star revealed the numbers of what it’s like to be a top pro on the road.
Beyond the victories and the podium appearances, there are a lot of hard miles, both on and off the bike.
Here are a few key data points from the van Aert post:
Nights away from home: 205
That included 18 flights and seven road trips more than 500km, with 10 countries visited during the arc of the racing season.
That tally also included 72 nights at altitude above 2,000m, another interesting data point revealing just how much altitude training has become such an integral part of a WorldTour pro’s lifestyle.
Anyone who’s been on top of the Teide crater on Spain’s Tenerife knows how lonely that can be up there.
Number of road race days: 49
That’s also an interesting number in that it reveals how selective and focused the top pros have become.
A generation ago, riders were still posting around 75 race days a year. Two generations back, top pros would race 100 days a season, and add on some criteriums on top of that.
Today, the top pros are more selective, and in van Aert’s case, more successful.
Of those 49 road race days, he won 13 races, including the overall at the Tour of Britain. That’s a 24 percent winning average, quite spectacular by any measure.
Van Aert also mixes in cyclocross, and he raced 13 days in the mud in 2021, winning five times.
What makes van Aert’s data even more interesting for 2021 is that it came during the heat of the coronavirus pandemic.
That reveals that the pandemic did not have a major disruption to his racing or training schedule in 2021. There were some obvious tweaks, especially with Paris-Roubaix and the Tokyo Olympic Games both being rescheduled, but for the most part, van Aert’s season was more or less standard.
Number of anti-doping controls: 47
Van Aert did not reveal how many of those were out of competition, but that’s also an interesting number.
The majority of those anti-doping controls came during races, when he would be tested after winning stages or leading a race, or as part of the daily random testing pool.
Lots of time on the bike
And even more revealing, especially for anyone hoping to up their racing game, is the time commitment required to be a WorldTour pro.
Nearly 1,000 hours (996) and 31,064km on the bike, to be exact.
Of course, sitting on his bike is van Aert’s full-time job, earning him a paycheck worth millions of euros per year.
The quality and depth of that training is also key, but if you want to race like Wout, the takeaway is simple: get on the bike.