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A Sunday morning ride around ten o’clock is the highlight of the week for many Team Jumbo-Visma fans. How different is that for the riders of the team. These pros had to set their alarm clock to wake up in the middle of the night several times in recent weeks. Why? To work towards a spring classic that will be held at an early hour.
Being at the start at 08:30 not only sounds early, it means getting up almost in the middle of the night. At 04:30 to be exact. “It really took some getting used to. These are extremely early times”, rider Riejanne Markus says. “You’re all in preparation for these times the week before.”
Good preparation is half the battle according to Performance coach of the women's branch of Team Jumbo-Visma, Marieke van Wanroij. “During the training camps we already told our riders that the week from the Amstel Gold Race to Liège-Bastogne-Liège specifically would be different. We made a conscious decision to indicate this in time, so that they could get used to a different rhythm for a while.” It’s not that all riders of the yellow-black formation can easily cope with that. “You will always have a difference between morning and evening people. But if you trigger it and deal with it in time, it certainly contributes to the performance. We really push that on our riders as well.”
"The night before the race you do feel the pressure of having to sleep, because the alarm clock just goes off."
For Markus things actually went smoothly. “The alarm went off at 05:15 throughout the preparation week. Fortunately, I’m a morning person. When the alarm goes off, I’m almost always ‘on’.” The most important thing is, she emphasizes, that you can fall asleep nicely the night before the race. Because sleep is the best method for a good recovery. “If not, you’ll have a very bad night. Yet sometimes it also gives a strange feeling. The night before the race you do feel the pressure of having to sleep, because the alarm clock just goes off.”
Van Wanroij agrees. “The girls go to bed around nine or ten o’clock. By doing so, you shouldn’t sleep longer than you need to, but above all just get up early.”
Racing at the crack of dawn means getting up early. Getting up early also means having a very early breakfast. For the last edition of La Doyenne, the riders of Team Jumbo-Visma were present at the table at 05:30. “We also completely adapt the planning of our meals. Of course our nutritionists play a crucial role in that”, Van Wanroij further explains. After all, the meal before the race is the most important of the day. “You shouldn’t eat less or in a hurry. A good meal before an effort is important for every person and certainly for a cyclist. You have to take your time for breakfast. If you have trouble with that, it should be done in stages. Also during, and especially at the beginning of the race, additional nutrients can of course be administered. The body has to be awake when the race starts. That is why we leave for the start in time to warm up on the Tacx for about twenty minutes.”