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Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko: We won virtual Giro with our heads

27 May 2020 08:22
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Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko: We won virtual Giro with our heads

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM – Sergey Kurdyukov, the commentator of Eurosport Russia, did a live on the Instagram account of the Astana Pro Team with one of its riders and Kazakh champion Alexey Lutsenko, Kazinform has learnt from the club’s press service.

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It’s always a pleasure to open an interview with well-deserved compliments. You were apart of Astana line-up that won the Giro in style. It was a virtual Giro, and yet, thumbs up to you and the guys. What did it look like from a rider’s perspective?

- Thank you! Frankly speaking, I hadn’t expected it to be so hard. The post-race file said I rode around 44 minutes at 365 watts and 176 bpm average. By my standards, it was quite an effort. I think we won with our heads, we took the challenge seriously, there wasn’t a single stage without a podium place. The motivation was the key, and highly motivated we were, to demonstrate it to our fans and sponsors that we keep our heads up and maintain our physical and mental conditions on a high level throughout these hard times.

Since May 11, free at last!

- Yeah, it gave me wings to finally get out and ride! My wife said I looked like a schoolboy on the eve of September 1. It felt pretty strange for the first half an hour, having been glued to a fixed bike for almost two months, and then all of a sudden, I found myself sharing the road with cars, negotiating all those bumps and turns. Skills were quick to return though.

Some of your colleagues shared on their social network accounts their surprise at the effectiveness of indoor training. A few of them even reported having set their outdoor PB at certain uphill segments. How about yours?

- No, I didn’t focus on any PBs these days. For me the goal was to keep the engine revving, to keep my physics in general up to the level high enough to restart structured training on the road aimed at peaking from August on. I did a pair of two-hour sessions a day, modelled on what I normally do outdoors, all those sprints and series of various length and power. Day in day out: my balcony, my bike and the smart trainer.

I guess you got so fed up with this background after all…

- Well, my home trainer is recovering in the box at the moment, but I owe it quite a lot! It made all the difference when everybody was locked down here in the South of France. Tacx made an excellent tool for us, and the interactive aspect of it made my training much more effective and more fun.

Talking about your new bike, first chained, now unleashed, how do you find it? It’s always a stress for a pro rider to switch from brand to brand, no matter how good they are? Did it take time to get used to disc brake-only option?

- I’d put it simply: Wilier Triestina is a cool bike full stop. My only second thought was about some possible extra grams in a disc brake version, yet in fact it’s as light as it can be within the existing regulations. The factory invested a lot of time and money into this technology, it gives you a perfect ride. And I love the way it brakes on a downhill, in wet corners and in a dangerous situation in the peloton when everything happens is a matter of a split second.

Have you tried your legs in any online races on different platforms, apart from the virtual Giro?

- I liked the native software that Tacx provided the team with, from the word go. I don’t need an animated cartoon world to ride in, a virtual ride through familiar segments, say, in Sestriere, a real training simulation, is more to my liking, and I did quite a bit of it. Every man to his taste, as they say.

Most of your colleagues saw gaining weight as the biggest danger of the lockdown for a pro athlete. Looks like you haven’t spaced out too much. Apart from riding on the balcony, what did you do to stay fit?

- Normally I’m a regular visitor of the local gym, it was out of the question this time, though, so I had to think about a non-standard alternative. I stuffed my backpack with bottled water and some books, to make it weigh around 15 kilos and kind of hiked up and down the stairway. Four times up and down a 19-storey apartment block turns out to be a good alternative for weight training. I’d say I wasn’t obsessed with the idea of counting every gram of body mass, in fact, I know a week of steady riding on the road in the heat is more than enough for me to shed a couple of extra kilos. From where I stand, hunting for race weight in a period like that was a real threat to your mental health, as though you were not already stressed enough!

How did you deal with this amount of stress in terms of psychology? All of you riders are hyperactive types, and all of a sudden you found yourselves in a limited space with a few people…

- People nearby were the key! It was the first time in a while that I could stay with my family for so long. For me the time with my near and dear was flying, now I’m coming to realize how hard it will be to leave them next time for a stage race or a training camp. You imagine, it wasn’t easy for the children to stay put without a chance of even a short stroll, but we got by somehow. For me the only sort of outing was a weekly visit to a supermarket, that’s it. It came natural though to act in a responsible way as I felt the reality of COVID-19 as early as in February when we were quarantined off in a hotel at the end of the UAE Tour. By the way, as far as I know, there are very few, next to zero cases in the quarter where we live now, and it tells the story, people behave as a community.

You opened this season with a series of podium places, it was a clear indication of good form and excellent job done at the training camps. Both experts and fans see you as the number one (and realistic) hope of Kazakhstan in the Olympics. We know you always keep it in mind as a strategic goal, how did it affect your plans that the Games were postponed until 2021?

- Sure, thing it was a pity, but there was no alternative to this decision, was there? What if one more year would be a blessing in disguise for me? The more experience I gain, the more quality I put in my preparation. Yeah, there is a special place for the games both in my head and in my heart. But, after all, I’ve got a more short-time focus at the moment, as the season packed in a few months is looming on the horizon.

Has your personal calendar been revamped?

- Not much. My first race after the restart would be Strade Bianche, then Milano – Sanremo, then full has in the Tour. I think it will be a very exciting season, we expect a lot of spectacular racing, as riders will be pressed for time to show our true worth. I hope it will attract even more audience, with such big events as the Olympics and the Euro postponed until next year.

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