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'I am a real cyclist, not a virtual one': Sagan and Valverde struggle with cycling during lockdown

Joe Robinson
20 Apr 2020

Both former World Champions are unable to prescribe to the world of virtual bike racing

It should come as no surprise that Peter Sagan and Alejandro Valverde are two cyclists who are struggling most with life in lockdown. Two of the biggest individuals in the sport, both have long relied on their instincts and natural racing ability to bring success which has earned a combined six-career Monuments and four World titles.

So while the majority of the professional peloton flocks to training apps like Zwift during this elongated break from racing, Sagan and Valverde are among those lacking the motivation to train at their usual intensities.

During an Instagram Q&A at the weekend, Sagan made his opinion on the increased use of virtual racing as a substitute for the real thing pretty clear.

'I am a real cyclist, not a virtual one,' Sagan put bluntly. 'If this is gonna be the future, I don’t think so. Maybe I can do some races on Zwift with an electric bike. What do you think about that? Just kidding.'

He added, 'we will see how long this period will be, but Zwift races, with my condition, with what I’m doing, with my preparation and stuff, I don’t think so.'

Sagan, who is currently residing in Monaco where recreational cycling is banned, is the most lucrative member of the professional peloton and his inclusion in a virtual race would certainly increase its value.

However, while his usual rivals Greg van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen and Zdenek Stybar battle it at the 'Virtual Tour of Flanders', Sagan has drawn a clear line to racing online. 

In fact, as he later said in his Instagram video, he is only just making friends with his indoor rollers.

Like Sagan, a rider struggling with the concept of training without any racing to aim for is Valverde. Similar to the restrictions in Monaco, Valverde is residing in his native Spain which means current lockdown measures prevent him from training outside.

The veteran Spaniard came out over the weekend to say he is unsure whether racing would return in 2020 and that this uncertainty has affected his motivation to ride.

'We want the sport to get going again but to be honest I am very pessimistic that it will happen this year. At the beginning of the quarantine, I was still hopeful but I am increasingly thinking that there will be no racing at all,' Valverde told El Mundo.

'I have little motivation because I don’t know what my next goals will be. Training on the rollers burns you out physically and mentally.'

While Sagan is shunning virtual cycling altogether, Valverde is doing his bit having taken part in a Movistar team ride on Zwift last weekend.

Other top pros have embraced virtual training and racing, with riders like Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale and Israel Start-Up Nation's Alex Dowsett now regulars on the virtual racing scene.