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'Chop some wood and drink wine': Sean Kelly's off-season advice

The Irishman is concerned about the level of the current professional peloton

Joe Robinson
20 Apr 2020

Nine-time Monument winner Sean Kelly has called for the current peloton to stop training so hard in the off-season and enjoy the time off with a beer or two. Kelly, whose immensely successful career spanned three decades, wrote a blog post addressing some of his biggest concerns around professional cycling in the modern era and what he thinks needs to change.

Chief among his worries was the fact that most riders will not take a break from riding their bikes during the off-season.  

The Irishman pointed to the high level that was seen at the beginning of the season, particularly Adam Yates's performance on Stage 3 of the UAE Tour and Nairo Quintana's early season performances at the Tour de la Provence.

Kelly said that for both Yates and Quintana 'to be able to perform as they did in February of this year, they had to have been training really hard on the bike throughout the winter. Too hard.'

He continued, 'they were close to Tour de France level fitness at that time of year, and in the long term that is not sustainable.'

Kelly compared this to his own career in which he would take up to six weeks off the bike at the end of the season in order to let his body recover. During that time he would cross-train with running and mountain biking, albeit through light sessions.

He then added that during his career, even the best riders such as Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault would enter the season 'with a hint of a belly on them' and use the first few months of racing the return to full fitness.

Starting the season out of shape using racing to find form was clearly a method that worked for Kelly considering his prolificness in the Spring Classics and early season stage races. 

The Irishman won seven consecutive Paris-Nice races from 1982 to 1988, two Milan-San Remos and two Paris-Roubaix titles, all races that take place in the first half of the season.

He then added that weight had become 'too much of a focus' and that riders were eating like sparrows and were going hungry, which he says may make them 'super bike fit but.. not a healthy fit' and could see them miss out on the natural vitamins acquired from a usual diet.

Rather than just pointing out the flaws in the current peloton, Kelly used his blog post to offer some advice to the professional peloton and amateur sportive riders who are currently in this period of enforced off-season.

'My recommendation would be to do some running once or twice per week, any more and you might pick up an injury. Lift some weights if you have them or else do exercises like push-ups and squats using your own body weight. Go chop some wood or find some other form of outdoor work that requires physical effort,' Kelly wrote.

'Eat a varied diet. Don’t worry if there is a bit of fat on your plate and don’t get carried away with any of these fancy fad diets. Drink a few beers or a glass of wine and relax.

'And my advice, especially for us sportive riders who are carrying an extra 10kg is to relax about the beer belly. A small one is a sign of health.'

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