Teamwork in the era of COVID-19: How Team Vorarlberg Keeps Fit and Motivated

Based in Austria and racing at the Continental level, Team Vorarlberg Santic has a performance philosophy rooted in teamwork, athlete mentoring and sportsmanship, with the riders’ priorities equally split between dramatic stage wins and the simple enjoyment of pushing themselves to the limits. During the COVID-19 crisis, the athletes are working to stay fit and focused… and maybe pick up a few new skills in the meantime. We spoke with a few of the riders to learn some of their tricks and techniques.

Argon 18:A lot of athletes have very strict training schedules with peaks and tapers, and when competition dates change (or are unknown), it throws that schedule off a lot. What are some tips for readjusting the intensity of training when there isn’t a clear goal in sight?

Max Kuen: At the moment it feels like a throwback to November, the beginning of the training season. After an already long winter, it’s like a restart, which isn’t easy. My focus is now on strength and endurance training, because too specific training would mean you peak too early, and when races start up you will be out of shape and tired again. One month before the first race is early enough to start with interval training.

Daniel Federspiel: I think it’s better to train at a lower intensity, as we probably should at this time. Because I think it’s not only hard to get motivated now for interval training, and we also should save some energy for when race season starts up again.

Roland Thalmann: Now is not the time to be at your peak, but that said, it’s not November, so you still have to do some good hours of training. Get on the bike, go to the gym if you can, out for a run, or do some core stability work. Stay focused, build the important basics and when races start up again, you only need a few weeks of intensive hard work to be on top.

Argon 18:The mental preparation needed for major races is also very intense – what advice can you give athletes who were really looking forward to a particular race, and now aren’t sure when (or if) they’ll be competing? What keeps you mentally focused and positive?

Daniel Federspiel: For me it’s very important to do a lot of different things to distract me from the current situation, and do things that make me happy. For our motivation we all should remind ourselves why we’re doing this sport, because we enjoy and love cycling. I think COVID-19 won’t change anything about that fact.

Max Kuen: Your head is the most important thing in cycling. It's essential to keep your focus and motivation high. As long as your most important competition is not cancelled, you have to keep your focus on it and train for it. It's not easy I know, but a clear target keeps you focused and motivated.

Jack Burke: Corona gave me the opportunity to focus on important things. I appreciate the opportunities that arise. I am thankful that I can train and am hidden in a small farmhouse in the mountains. So we are isolated, have a fixed daily routine and appreciate nature here. Before I start racing again, I‘m also able to concentrate on other things like writing and reading!

Alexis Guerin: In my experience, it‘s important to set new short-term and long-term goals and not lose sight of these deadlines. This period could be an opportunity to work even harder to be even stronger when things get back to normal. We have to keep our spirits high and can’t just hit the brakes while we wait for this to happen. I remain focused and positive thanks to a solid, disciplined, professional team, but also thanks to my partner who encourages me, and our pets! I take advantage of these little moments with them which are unusual at this time of the year.

Roland Thalmann: The most important trick to staying positive is simple and difficult at the same time... "Don’t think about competition!!" We all love to feel healthy, to cycle or do other sports, and as long as you enjoy it, you will be remain motivated and focused for your training.

Argon 18:This is the time of year when we’re all looking forward to getting off the trainer and back outside, often for group rides – and for most of us, that’s not happening. What are your favourite techniques to keep things interesting on the trainer, or while training solo?

Daniel Geismayr: Things are a bit easier with the new virtual options such as Zwift when training indoors. Stabilization, strength and role training are the order of the day. In addition to this, I am currently paying more attention to my diet to optimally care for my immune system. I cook a lot, bake healthy bread, etc. to strengthen the body. At the moment, I can motivate myself quite well with new challenges so that I can be fit when race season starts again!

Roland Thalmann: I can still ride outside, but I try to take care of myself. I don’t have to do really hard intervals, and have more time to search out some new roads or enjoy a nice view.

Max Kuen: I'm training most of the time alone anyway, so it's not sooo hard for me. Of course, after a long winter I wanted to race again, so that is disappointing. I keep things interesting with different training right now: I started running again, for example. Also I focus more on core and strength training which is very important as a cyclist, but the most thrilling thing for me is to race on Zwift against cyclists from all over the world. This is really hard, and you push yourself way more then you would ever do in regular training.

Daniel Federspiel: I’ll admit it’s gotten hard to be indoors all the time, so I’ve taken up my father-in-law’s hobby: being a farmer. So my daily job has turned into going for a walk with the new calf. I also learned how to milk a cow!

To read more about Team Vorarlberg Santic, click here.

Team Vorarlberg is adhering to all social distancing directives in their region. For many areas, staying indoors is the best precaution.