How The Pros Make The Most of
Indoor Training and Zwift
Whether it is keeping warm and getting the miles in during winter, coming back to full fitness after injury or warming up for a stage in a grand tour, a turbo trainer is a valuable tool for pros. Now with advancements in approaches to training, many pros are incorporating Zwift into their schedules. We take a look at how some of the sport's leading athletes use a trainer and the virtual world to enhance their cycling.
When the Weather is Bad
Getting out on the bike when the wind is howling and the temperature drops is less than appealing. From a safety perspective it can be dangerous, what with everything from flooded roads to ice and snow all making riding on the road potentially treacherous. With their livelihoods at stake many pros, especially those based in the northern hemisphere, opt to do large amounts of their training indoors.
Guaranteeing consistent conditions and allowing them to concentrate on their training rather than the conditions makes a turbo trainer a valuable training aid. Pros rack up countless miles and staring at a wall hour after hour can become tiresome. It's no wonder then that the virtual world of Zwift provides the perfect training companion.
"I use Zwift quite regularly in Norway when the weather is not so great, which can be often in the winter as we get a lot of snow here. It really makes the time go by faster when you have to do your session indoors. You can still ride with other people and that really helps with your motivation."
"You can do any training session on Zwift. So if I need to do intervals or a recovery ride, then there is no problem to do it on Zwift. I guess that is evidence of how realistic Zwift can be."
- Edvald Boasson Hagen - Team Dimension Data
With Time Constraints
They might be full-time bike riders but even for some of the world's leading professional cyclists life, travel and other events can impact on training. Steve Cummings is one of the most respected riders in the peloton, with a palmares that includes grand tour stage wins as well as national titles. Whether you are a full-time athlete, like Steve, or are looking to fit your training in around family, social and work commitments, Zwift provides more than enough bang for buck.
Quality over quantity is a key selling point to using both a turbo trainer and Zwift, with no need to freewheel, stop at junctions or contend with traffic. Fitting in a focused session, before or after work can do wonders for your fitness and the interactive world Zwift provides ensures you will look forward to rather than dread climbing onto the trainer.
"I use Zwift whenever the weather is bad or it's dark outside. So before or after travel. I average one session every ten days maybe - some weeks I can use it every day. You can train as normal with the feeling of the road indoors. It's also another option to riding outdoors and keeps you interested. Sometimes I look forward to bad weather so I can have a change and ride Zwift."
- Steve Cummings - Team Dimension Data
On the Triathlon Circuit
Not just used by professional cyclists, some of triathlon's biggest names are also using a turbo trainer and Zwift to ensure they arrive on the start line in perfect condition. Lucy Charles is just one athlete that has incorporated this into her training and highlights just how easy it is to use when you live in a city and quiet training roads may not be easily accessible. A longstanding professional Ironman triathlete and runner-up at Kona in 2017 and 2018, Lucy explains how she has put her time training indoors to good effect.
"I started using Zwift towards the end of 2015. For me because I live near London most of my cycling is done on the turbo. When you cycle inside the same four walls day in day out it can be difficult, and motivation can be hard to find sometimes. This is where Zwift was a game changer for my training. It has allowed me to consistently work the bike and stay motivated, playing a huge part toward my Kona performances."
- Lucy Charles - Professional Ironman Triathlete
For the Cyclocross Course
Not just for road, Zwift is also a useful tool for many cyclocross riders who are looking to increase endurance as well as hone those snappy accelerations, whether that's on the run-up or during the season. Just one such rider is the current World Junior Cyclocross Champion Ben Tulett, who, under the guidance of Downing Cycling, uses the platform year round to ensure he hits peak form come the cross season.
"Zwift and riding indoors is a very big part of Ben's training plan each week, along with the endurance rides outdoors and the cyclocross skills sessions, we can really build a structured high-intensity session which replicates the efforts within a cyclocross race. These sessions may include working at threshold power or over threshold power intervals for example. Ben has his TrainingPeaks account connected to his Zwift account so it all syncs in and he smashes the session out. He also likes to jump on Zwift and have an easy ride around, finding time passes quickly in Watopia."
- Dean Downing - Ben Tulett's Coach at Downing Cycling
On The Road Back From Injury
From despair to the top step on the podium at Paris Roubaix. Just six weeks prior to the 2016 race Mat Hayman broke his arm at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and his dreams of competing in the 114th edition of the race were put into jeopardy. This is where his Elite Direto Direct Drive Turbo Trainer, well-respected coach, Kevin Poulton, Powerhouse Cycling Professional Coaching and Zwift came in. In the weeks following the crash Hayman put in over 1000 kilometres on Zwift, the result: Rounding the last bend of the Roubaix Velodrome, the Orica-GreenEdge rider sprinted away from Tom Boonen and Ian Stannard to take the Australian's biggest win to date.
"Mat Hayman's preparation for Paris-Roubaix was unexpectedly thrown into disarray with his crash in the opening classic of the season. Prior to this, his training had been going well and he had good form."
"He was ready for another strong classics campaign. When Mat informed me he was going to be able to return to training using the trainer, just four days after his crash I had to quickly work out how we were going to use indoor training to firstly maintain the form he had built and to secondly prepare specifically for the demands of Roubaix."
"For both of us, Zwift was an entirely new experience. The early Zwift sessions were focussed around keeping some momentum and continuity going with his training. But from these early rides, I soon realised that we were onto something good here and that we were going to be able to train specifically to meet the demands of Roubaix."
"The training was broken down into double Zwift session days. Generally, we would use the morning session to complete some race specific work and then the afternoon training was an endurance free-ride session. The interval work focused on repeating high intensity 4-6min aerobic efforts and a high volume of tempo/steady state work with a large amount of 10-20sec surges incorporated into these efforts. In terms of volume, we were completing 20 hour weeks on Zwift, which we knew was good!"
"From the Zwift workouts we knew that Mat's form was good, but without any racing, it was difficult to gauge where we stood compared to the riders who had been riding the classics season. The weekend before Roubaix Mat was able to start two low key, one-day races in Spain. The data and feelings from Mat coming out of these races was very impressive. It was this performance that earns Mat the final place in the team for Roubaix."
"Going into Roubaix, all the data we had indicated that Mat would be on a good day. We just didn't know at the time how good that day was going to be!"
- Kevin Poulton - Mat Hayman's Coach - Powerhouse Cycling Professional Coaching
At the Races
The race against the clock, the race of truth, whatever you call it a time trial is a key discipline in professional cycling and can make or break riders' grand tour hopes. Over the years many approaches have been taken when it comes to warming up for just such a race to ensure riders arrive at the start line ready to empty the tank. In 2018 Team Dimension Data used technology to good effect at the Tour de France time trials, ensuring each rider had their specific warm-ups on hand in Watopia.
"We put each rider’s warm-ups into Zwift for the time trials, we also did this for some of the other races and the team time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico. Each rider has a different warm-up for the time trial, one that they have practised and perfected over time from their experiences and the data of the coaching team."
"For them to be able to walk off the bus and jump on the trainer, with their warm-up already loaded and ready to go on Zwift, minimises time lost, stress and ultimately helps them get on with what is important. With the added benefit that the fans can follow along from wherever they are in the world, right before the riders are about to roll off the start ramp."
- Elliot Lipski - Team Coach at Team Dimension Data
Whether you're new to cycling and looking to get an immersive indoor training experience or a seasoned pro honing your form on the run-up to your next big race, a turbo trainer and Zwift are two tools proven to reap rewards.
Images copyright Leon Van Bon unless otherwise stated.