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Victor Campenaerts is sleeping in altitude tent at 4,700m 'to feel like a rider who took EPO'

Joe Robinson
11 Jun 2020

The Hour Record holder has set the tent to as high as possible 'before you start to die'

Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts has been sleeping in an altitude tent set to 4,700m above sea level 'to feel like a rider who took EPO'. With no racing since March, the Team NTT rider has taken advantage of this extended break to utilise an altitude tent – also known as a hyperbaric chamber – for the past three weeks in order to get him in peak condition for the season.

Altitude tents are used by some athletes to replicate the benefits of sleeping at altitude, which sees the body's production of red blood cells increase due to the reduced amount of oxygen.

Usually, riders would just attend a training camping at altitude to experience the benefits of reduced oxygen intake, however as he lives at sea level in Belgium, Campenaerts has been unable to do this.

As a replacement, Campenaerts told Belgian news outlet Sporza he has turned to using one these chambers – a technique that is permitted by the World Anti-Doping Agency – albeit to the extreme of 4,700m, 'the height at which you are just not starting to die'.

'That [4,700m] is of course extremely high. Medically, that is the height at which you are just not starting to die. If you went higher, your body would start to break down because it is too heavy,' explained Campenaerts.

'But 4,700 metres is also the height at which you extremely trigger your body to produce red blood cells and still have enough energy to do that.'

The Belgian rider added that during this period he had reduced his riding load to 'less than the average cycling tourist', riding just eight hours a week.

He then added, 'After those weeks in an altitude tent you are super strong. Because you have produced so many red blood cells, you should be able to feel like a rider who took EPO. Only I barely cycled for three weeks, while a rider who took EPO would have ridden hard for three weeks.

'I want to start the last training block towards the season with an unprecedentedly high haematocrit.'

A modern-day rider admitting he is actively seeking an 'unprecedentedly high haematocrit' and 'feeling like a rider on EPO' seems strange considering the sport's murky past.

As does a rider using an altitude tent, a practice that is actually banned in some countries, including Italy.

In fact, in 2006, WADA did come close to banning their use as being contrary to the spirit and ethics of cycling but never took the steps to officially outlaw their use.

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