In the data tracks of Victor Campenaerts is a series of articles in which Domestique follows Victor Campenaerts in his preparation towards and during the Classics season. We analyse his Strava data and have a weekly chat with Vocsnor about his training.
It’s fair to say Victor Campenaerts is pretty ambitious for the 2023 Classics season. Campenaerts immediately hopes to be among the best during the opening classic Omloop het Nieuwsblad. A few weeks later his other big goals are on the program: Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Saxo Bank Classic. When it comes to Tour of Flanders, the rider of Lotto Dstny hopes for a top 10 spot. How does a cyclist like Victor Campenaerts prepare himself to reach these goals?
An opening classic filled with bad luck
We start the series with an analysis of last year’s Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Campenaerts already punctured on Paddestraat, early on in the race. Luckily he didn’t have to waste much energy to get back into the peloton. However, on Holleweg Campenaerts punctured again and crashed heavily because of it. He started chasing once more, but his shifting system was damaged, which forced him to change bikes. After all the bad luck, you’d think his race was over, but that wasn’t the case for the former World Hour Record holder.
The way he made his return into the bunch was pretty impressive. When Wout van Aert attacked right before Bosberg, Victor Campenaerts was the only one who was brave enough to try and follow the Belgian Champion at the time, even after all the bad luck he had experienced. Sadly for him, Campenaerts blew up completely trying to counter Van Aert. Afterwards, he fully focused on his sprint, which worked out well. Victor ended the race in fifth place.
We asked Campenaerts what would’ve happened without the bad luck that day. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot”, he answered. “I think I would’ve been able to follow Wout on Bosberg, but then of course I wouldn’t have cooperated with him as I have no chance against him in a sprint and my legs would have been completely soured. Probably he would withdraw his attacking move as I would get a free ride to the line. The chasing group would have caught us, so the result would still be the same as it is now.”
One would think Omloop het Nieuwsblad was his best day on the bike that season, but nothing is less true. The best day Campenaerts had in 2022 was at Circuit Franco-Belge. According to himself, that day he had one of the best performances he ever had in a race. When Victor jumped across to Van Gestel, De Buyst and Kristoff, he pushed 750 watts for 55 seconds, which is almost 11 W/kg. Less than 4 minutes later he did 967 watts for 19 seconds trying to win the sprint by going early. In the end, he got beaten by a very strong Kristoff.
That gets us to one of Campenaerts’ most underrated skills, his sprint. Victor has done 30 seconds at 1000 watts multiple times this winter. After the 2022 GP Leuven, a lot of riders are aware how strong his sprint is. In Dwars door Vlaanderen and Omloop het Nieuwsblad he also rode two impressive sprints. At the end of that first race, Campenaerts started sprinting early and Tom Pidcock barely got his wheel in front of his. Being that explosive partly comes down to talent, but it also needs specific training. That’s something Campenaerts knows a lot about.
When I joined Team LottoNL – Jumbo, I was already training polarized, but I wasn’t allowed to continue doing so. Now the team has a totally different vision on that matter
Victor has his own trainer, who lets him train very polarized, but he also lets him train less hours than you would expect. “If I win Omloop het Nieuwsblad, other riders might think: ‘Maybe I train too much?’”, Campenaerts says. Today, polarized training is used more often, but Victor has been training that way for years. With that way of training you take things easy around 90% of the time, but for the other 10% you go all in. When he began training like that, some other teams didn’t believe in that way of training. “When I joined Team LottoNL – Jumbo, I was already training polarized, but I wasn’t allowed to continue doing so. Now they have a totally different vision on that matter. Besides that, I learnt a lot at the team. Those two years taught me a lot when it comes to time trialing."
Campenaerts adds another anecdote about his time at Team LottoNL – Jumbo. “During the first training camp, I brought a scale to the breakfast. At that time, I got a lot of criticism for that. Now, everyone uses a scale at the team.” This shows how Campenaerts is trying to get the most out of his career. Research and innovations were his biggest advantages as a time trialist, but when other teams began to copy what he was doing, his advantage was shrinking. Because of that, Campenaerts decided to become a classics rider. He obviously doesn’t regret that choice. He’s very happy it worked out that well. At the end of 2020 Victor almost retired from pro cycling to become a triathlete.
During the first training camp with Team LottoNL – Jumbo, I brought a scale to the breakfast. At that time, I got a lot of criticism for that. Now, everyone uses a scale at the team
Impressive tests after sickness
Victor Campenaerts weighs 69 kg, which really isn’t heavy for a classics rider. That’s why his W/kg are very strong. Campenaerts did one of the best tests from the whole Lotto Dstny team during the training camp in Spain. It gets even more impressive when you know he got Covid half November. He lost four training days because of it. The Covid infection caused troubles with his lungs in December. Once again three training days lost. On top of that, he also got a flu right before Christmas, which made him lose another four training days.
On the 11th of January, he still did amazing tests. He got his all time best 5 minutes power (528 watts) and one of his best 20 minutes power (424 watts). Unfortunately he underpaced his 20’ test as he pushed 440 watts for the final eight minutes. The number would’ve been even more impressive if he’d paced it the right way. Our Young Wolf Lennert Van Eetvelt also did amazing after being sick right before the tests. This proves Campenaerts’ point that a lot of riders train too much volume.
He explains his point, using an anecdote Sander Cordeel also used during the training camp. Cordeel is a trainer at Lotto Dstny. He got inspired by ‘De Drie Biggetjes’, a Belgian musical. “When the house of the piglets burns down and they don’t have the time to build a new one, they don’t have a house anymore. It’s the same with training. You have to give the body an impact (the fire), but you also have to give your body enough time to rest. You need that time to let it build a new and better house. It takes longer to build a house of stones than a house of wood.”
The mental game
Another reason why Campenaerts doesn’t train a lot of volume is the mental aspect. He can only fully focus on something for three months. If he would train too much during offseason, he would be mentally exhausted by the time the season really starts. Victor also leaves a lot of rest between intervals during training, unlike many other pros. That way he can dig deeper during every interval, causing a higher quality training in the end. Campenaerts also states that a lot of riders, not only pros, still train way too much in the tempo zone. According to the Lotto Dstny rider, only riders like Tim Declercq should train in that zone as his type of rider sets the pace at the front of the peloton for multiple hours. Other riders shouldn’t do that, because the pace in races is either really high, above threshold, or really low, below the tempo zone.
In the next article we’ll continue to analyse Campenaerts’ training. Do you have a question for Victor? Don’t hesitate to write it down in the comments. Maybe you’ll find an answer in the next article!