Matteo Cigala is a former U23 continental pro-cyclist who has won over 100 races in his career and has represented Italy at Junior level. Matteo had a vision of connecting Ireland to the Italian cycling scene by bringing us the most advanced and up-to date coaching techniques through his continuous collaboration with Italian professional cyclists and coaches. With this in mind he founded cigalacycling.com. Most recently, he coached our own Greg Swinand on his successful 46.86 kilometer Irish Elite and Masters hour record attempt in Colorado Springs on November 22nd, a wonderful achievement!
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A chat one morning with BORN nutrition products led us to Matteo. We were lamenting the days getting shorter, fresher, and darker and how it’s that time of year when we all start to dig a little deeper for motivation to get on the bike. BORN, who had worked previously with Matteo, suggested we touch base with him about how to tackle winter training.
Many of us have worked hard over the warmer months to build a great base - how do we ensure it’s not all lost come spring next year? Do our nutrition needs change with the weather patterns? Are there any training hazards that are particular to winter workouts? We go to Matteo for suggestions for these and many other winter training related questions our team was keen to have answered.
Note: This article is not intended to serve as a bespoke nutritional or wellbeing guide for individual readers. It provides general information only. Contact your coach or GP for information specific to your needs.
Motivation and Fitness
BikeExchange Ireland (BE): What are some of the biggest negatives about winter training that you think turn off a lot of people?
Matteo (M): The biggest negative impact regarding winter training for us, living in Ireland, is above all the weather. Wet, cold, wind and days with short daylight hours can have a big influence on a cyclist’s motivation.
BE: What are some of the most effective motivators that help people get out and stay active during the winter?
M: To cope with bad weather conditions, there are different systems that many cyclists adopt to stay active and that enhance their motivation. Some of them include the following:
-Interactive turbo trainers
-Get a winter bike
-Go off-road with MTB or Cyclocross
-Combine cycling with other sports such as swimming, gym, hiking, running etc.
-Commute to work.
-Explore new routes.
-Ride in a group.
-Create or join a Saturday or a Sunday group ride and make new friends.
-Create goals for the new season.
-Get a coach to help you achieve these goals.
-Join a training camp abroad for warmer weather.
-If possible, train indoor in a velodrome to also improve pedal efficiency.
BE: Obviously it's more difficult to get the km's in when the weather turns. How can we adapt training so that condition/base is not lost and fitness is maintained?
M: A great idea is a structured training plan. This should take into account training time availability, goals, weaknesses and fitness levels. It will help with the creation of training adaptations which in turn will help achieve goals. Winter training and the first training block of the season require long hours on the bike for those cyclists that do competitive racing. This mileage can be done at the weekend. Over the weekdays, when most of us have limited time, it is very important to optimise the time for training and make sure we do the appropriate training based on time of time year, training block (mesocycle) and goals. Most of the guys that I coach work full time and have only 1/1.5hrs to train during the weekdays. My task is to make sure I maximise their precious time with the appropriate training sessions.
BE: The likes of Orica-BikeExchange’s Mathew Hayman and his use of wind trainers and Zwift appear to have been very effective. Would you like to comment about the use of wind trainers over winter?
M: The different turbo trainers available in the market are a great tool to train over the winter, but to be effective it is very important to not make some common mistakes that can have a negative effect on performance. The advice that I give to my clients regarding turbo trainers is the following:
-Do not follow sessions already made that can be found online to download into the turbo.
-Make sure you stick with the plan and the training session given by the coach. The session is made on that day and on that time of the year for a specific reason.
-Make sure you have the turbo in a cool and ventilated place. Better to put the turbo outside the house in the shed or under a covered place. If that’s not possible, make sure the windows in the room are wide open. This will help you not to over-heat.
-Do not spend too long on the turbo. Turbo sessions are made to be short and sharp. 1/1.5hrs is enough.
-Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated with water or electrolytes to cope with the amount of liquids lost during the turbo sessions. During training or racing, losing a 2% of body weight in water is equivalent to up to 10% decrease in performance. My advice is to measure your weight before and after training and correcting for any fluids taken in, to get an individual rate of fluid lost. For example, a 70kg athlete who loses 200 grams during a one hour training session whilst drinking a 500 ml drink will have a gross loss of:
(Finish weight – start weight) – (weight of amount drink) or 69.8 – 70.0 – 0.5 = - 0.7kg or - 700g
This loss is equivalent to 700ml of fluid per hr (1kg of weight = 1lt of water).
Winter Training Hazards
BE: In some countries, summer training can be a serious health hazard (dehydration/ heat stroke). What are the most common health hazards when training in winter and how can they be mitigated?
M: Wet and freezing conditions combined with poor visibility are dangerous factors for cyclists that train over the winter. Hypothermia, colds, fever, flu and the higher risk of falling can be some of the issues faced. To deal with those, it is important to follow few steps:
-Dress for the weather. With the latest cycling clothing technology it’s perfectly possible to insulate and protect ourselves from cold and wet conditions. Using the appropriate gear is important. Full rain jackets, waterproof gloves, shoe covers, hats, eyewear are all must haves over the winter period. If you doing a long ride you can always come back home and change your clothes for the second part of the training, if needs be.
-One option, even if weather is bad, is to do a turbo session and then go out on the road later when the weather improves. In this way you accomplish the timing and intervals planned on the training schedule.
-Track the weather forecast and plan your training. The training program is made in a way that allows your body the right time to recover, but you can still swap days in case of bad weather.
-Use the turbo trainer when is too risky to train on the road. There is no point in getting sick by going out training in bad weather, especially if it is really cold.
-Pick a route that you know, avoid hazardous roads, lanes or highways, or flooded areas. Always have your phone and a number to call for assistance if needed.
-Check your tyres regularly. Get wide tyres (25/28mm) puncture resistant with good traction and tread.
-Use body care products with a good warming effect to keep yourself warm.
Products and Nutrition
BE: You have been connected to the BORN brand in recent years - could you recommend an application product that can be used to help winter training?
M: I have been using BORN products over the last few years and I find them excellent. Not only on the nutritional aspect but also on the vast range of body care products. I would recommend BORN Protect Extra balm, which protects body parts with poor blood circulation that need extra attention throughout the winter months to help avoid injury. It does this by giving a slightly warming effect. This balm really is a must for all Irish cyclists throughout the winter months.
BE: Could you recommend a nutritional product that is ideal for winter training?
M: As for a nutritional product, apart from the likes of the bars and gels which are all important to keep your body training at at optimal level, I recommend BORN ISO PRO+ (during) and BORN RECOVERY+. Both contain PeptoPro, a highly advanced peptide formulation containing all 20 amino acids needed for muscle protein synthesis. These molecules can be absorbed quickly by the body for instant delivery to the muscles. This will result in a better training experience.
ISO PRO+, which is tested and used by Giant-Alpecin, gives you the proper replenishment of carbohydrate and sodium which your body needs. Afterwards, RECOVERY+ can help your muscles recover quicker so you are ready for the next training or racing effort.
BE: Are there any other nutrition or supplements that are especially helpful for winter training and explain why?
M: What can be helpful for athletes over the winter are the following nutrition requirements:
-Multivitamin A-Z and a Vitamin C supplement. Those help maintain energy and strengthen the immune system to prevent seasonal illness.
-Fish oils. These are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids with many benefits, such as increasing muscle growth, improving strength and physical performance, reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness, combating negative immune effects of intensive training and strengthening bones.
-Good Fats. Athletes need fats for fuel and insulation. Essential fats are crucial for nerve transmission, anti-inflammatory, immune system and cardiovascular health. Especially over the winter, between the many miles during the base training block and the cold weather, fats are very important. Some of the good fats are salmon, mackerel, avocado, seeds, nuts, eggs and natural peanut butter.
-Protein. Proteins are needed because they help athlete’s recovery, build muscle mass and strength. They are also essential to produce metabolic enzymes, anabolic hormones, aerobic infrastructure. Over the winter months, between lots of strength and conditioning exercises and strength work on the bike, proteins are essentials. Some of the best sources of protein are steak, chicken breast fillets, turkey breast fillets, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese, milk, soya and tofu.
We really enjoyed chatting with Matteo and would like to thank him for his time. Hopefully, his brilliant advice will help you keep on training through the winter and come out stronger for a better summer cycling!
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