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Off-Season’s Cycling Song

September 28, 2011

Late September, Peak-to-Peak Highway, Colorado (Mary Topping)

The off-season has already begun for many pro-cyclists who race on the road. I imagine their emotional responses to this brief break fit into a broad spectrum, from relief to joy to bewilderment. I like how Alex Candelario of Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth Team describes off-season: “It’s not easy to do, you know, to take that rest you deserve. The first thing you start to think about once the season is over is the next season as contracts and new signings are taking place.” To avoid getting stuck there, Alex likes to surf. He said, “The wintertime along the Californian coast boasts some of the best surf on the planet and at about four hrs from our house, I can be getting barreled or getting pummeled any day of the week.”

Most pro-cyclists turn to other sports in the off-season to maintain fitness — cyclo-cross, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, running. Erik Slack of Team Exergy and Peter Stetina of Garmin-Cervélo have already kicked up some dirt on their mountain bikes. Here’s how Jesse Anthony, also with Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, stays fit in the off-season: “I race cyclocross until I’m completely fried and then some. Then I sleep for a few weeks and start training for the road season.” Jeremy Powers who rides for Jelly Belly presented by Kenda also hits the cyclo-cross circuit. Ben Day recommends two to four weeks off before returning to an pre-season training schedule.

Manuel Quinziato (Twitter profile photo)

With so many months away from home, these athletes welcome the gift of time with family and friends. Manuel Quinziato of BMC recently tweeted about his off-season aspirations: “spend time with my family and friends and enjoying time home! That usually makes also fun!” Michael Barry on Team Sky describes the joy of a more leisurely pace:

“A professional cyclist is rarely off of his bike in the off-season for more than a month.  Progressively, through the months of November and December I slowly ease back into the routine of training. With time, the distance and intensity of the rides increases. As the morning fog lifts with the chill of the damp night air, we meet at a café to plan a route over cortados and pastries. In the warmth of the café we linger and socialise. The races are months away, we know our fitness will come so for now we can simply enjoy the ride, the camaraderie and the environment.”

I suspect the range of emotions for pro-cycling fans occupies a singular space, and I’ll call it despondency. Bewilderment might describe how we feel too, given the time we have on our hands with fewer and soon no races to watch on TV or on-line. We just can’t get enough of road racing, and nothing fills the void.

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For more about the off-season, you can find some interesting comments in an article on the Amgen Tour of California website that features Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie.

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