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Sagan, Valverde, Pinot among the pros tiring of indoor training

Cracks begin to show in pro peloton after six weeks in lockdown.

Become a pro, and you’ll get paid to do what you love, right? Not the case in the days of coronavirus.

As the majority of the pro peloton heads into its second month of COVID-19 quarantines and the resulting enforced indoor training, top riders including Peter Sagan, Thibaut Pinot and Alejandro Valverde are beginning to tire of the turbo trainer and TV screen.

“I’m forced to train on the rollers and miss the feel and races on the road,” triple-world-champion Peter Sagan said in an Instagram Q&A this weekend.

“We will see how long this period will be, but Zwift races, with my condition, with what I’m doing, with my preparation and stuff, I don’t think so,” Sagan said. “I’m a real rider, not a virtual one. If this is gonna be the future… I don’t think so.”

Indoor training technology is becoming more immersive and engaging, with group rides and races on smart trainers giving users an all-consuming experience. Gone are the days of staring at the garage wall, on a wobbly set of rollers. But even Zwift and a top-of-the-range trainer becomes tiresome when you have to do it for 20 or more hours per week as a pro rider.

“Training on the rollers is really not my thing, it has nothing to do with the feeling that I normally have on the bike,” Pinot told Sporza this past weekend.

While many teams have been engaging fans and testing their riders through simulated spring classics, stage races, or intra-team competitions, racing in the front room isn’t for everyone. Pinot, like all the rest living in France, has been bound to the indoor trainer for a month now, and the novelty is wearing off.

“Those virtual races, which fascinated me for two weeks, but now that’s enough. I’d rather be in lesser form when the lockdown is over, than squeeze myself mentally now.”

Movistar veteran Valverde is similar in preferring to come out of lockdown detrained rather than mentally and physically cooked from pushing too hard on his trainer at home in Spain.

“The body gets used to everything and thanks to the latest-generation applications of the rollers, everything is easier, the road is simulated very well, but some are doing outrageous things with training sessions of five or six hours in a row. This does not make sense because we do not know what the closest objectives will be… You train on the rollers, but you do it with little motivation,” Valverde told El Mundo this weekend. “The roller burns you physically and mentally.”

The likes of Valverde, Pinot and Sagan are now into their second month of indoor training. It took Elia Vivani and Mikel Landa a lot less time to express their feelings for the turbo trainer. While Landa posted a joke video of himself taking an ax to a trainer at the start of April, Viviani was a little more restrained in expressing his distaste for the mental fight and physical punishment of training in his Italian home.

“I’m not sure if anyone can stand it. It’s already hard after one month, it’s enough to drive you crazy,” the super-sprinter told El Leggo earlier this month. “You are alone, in a small space, quite the opposite of outdoor competitions and training. Sweat and fatigue on the rollers and at home are another thing.”

As Valverde alluded to, some seemingly can’t get enough of their new indoor environment and are still posting up long indoor sessions. Strava shows Robert Gesink has been putting in 20-hour weeks on the indoor trainer, while Tour de France champion Chris Froome has been punishing himself with long hours on his indoor set-up.

Whether they’re a fan of the turbo trainer or not, riders will have breathed a sigh of relief at the UCI’s update on a provisional structure for the 2020 season to come last week. With the Tour de France due to start August 29, there is a dim light at the end of the tunnel for riders who are starting to feel like they are in a turbo training groundhog day.

Though some initial race dates may now be in the diary, for many, there won’t be any relief from lockdown for some while. Some have already cracked, with Philippe Gilbert and Rohan Dennis both receiving backlash from breaking quarantine restrictions last week.

They may not be loving life on the trainer, but for as long as the European lockdowns continue, a pro’s gotta do what a pro’s gotta do.