Has van der Poel redefined how we should train?

After watching Alaphilippe dominate this Spring and then out of nowhere get smoked by van der Poel, a cyclocrosser and mountain biker, I’m starting to wonder if road riders have been going about training all “wrong”. Roadie culture seems to place a lot of value on long road rides. The longer the better and more impressive. Van der Poel seems to call that into question.

I’m listening to the Cycling Tips podcast now and they keep saying he’s a “talent”. But all I can think is that it has everything to do with his training. If by talent they mean genetics, I can get on board. Cross races are an hour long, pretty much the same for mtb races. How can he train for those and then just go out and smash the best of the best in a 5 hour road race?

Endurance, in my experience, is easy to get. Just clock the hours in the saddle on the road, which no doubt he does. But to have that power at the end, to hold that power for so long and then sprint after. I want to say it has everything to do with his history with Cross and MTB and how you train for those events, which is to say, high power output for 1-2 hours with loads of sprints on top of it.

It was mentioned in the recent Cycling Podcast that in cyclocross you do, I don’t remember the exact number but, 100 sprints in a single race. They go on to say that if the cross season is 15 races he’s done 1,500 sprints just while racing, never mind the training. I probably haven’t done 1,500 sprints in my whole life and I’m primarily a mountain biker. Is this what elevates him above the rest? Could Nino smash a road race too? Cadel Evans is the only other guy who I can think of that went from mountain biking to road and was successful.


Peter Sagan


Can I get some of what you’re smoking?


Sagan came from MTB.


He didn’t say MVDP doesn’t do long rides - he actually said the opposite.

And he dominated. I guess that reinforces my point.

PFP, Neff are also no slouches on the road.


Annika Langvad


I think your comment captures the importance but also the trade-offs of training each of the energy systems. This is also reflected in the structure of the TR training plans. The approaches of Alaphilippe and MVDP as well as Wout Aerts, who put in some impressive power numbers at the end of races this season also, may indeed shake-up the classics preparation going forward.

The rub of course is that there are so many different races and endurance requirements that training programs and philosophies evolve and change, e.g. altitude camps seems to be in vogue but who knows in 5 years.

Regardless, MVDP’s effort and victory are indeed stories for the history books.

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…and she is known for her huge aerobic engine not her short power or sprinting strength relative to her peers. Her posts on Instagram about racing are very insightful. See the ones on this year’s Cape Epic and road racing.
Annika Langvad

Another good read


His grandfather is arguably an all time great Grand Tour Rider and his father was a very successful professional rider as well.

I have no idea if he should redefine how I train, but he definitely points out some weaknesses in my genetics.


I’m not sure his success is an indicator of a radical shift in training, but it does seem to highlight the value of high-intensity hour long workouts. Now if only there were a place I could find a bunch of those… :wink:


Perhaps I have my cynical hat on today.

  1. He won one… a big one, but count it… one road race, right?
    • The fashion was impressive, but it’s still just one win AFAIK.
  2. The minimal amount of training info mentioned here is pretty much High Intensity Intervals + Long Slow Rides?
    • I see this as right in line with most of what we already know.

So, what is new or “redefined” exactly?


He won one… a big one, but count it… one road race, right?

To be fair, he’s had a bunch of wins in the last 12 months. He won Brabantse Pijl and maybe some others this year, won the Dutch road race champs last summer, and won a bunch of stages in the Arctic Tour of Norway, just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting.


Got it. I fully admit to not following racing close. And the noise of this one is the only one that caught my attention.

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Yeah. I guess what I’m suggesting is more of a psychological shift from putting so much value on low intensity long duration rides to high intensity shorter duration rides in the road bike community. From clocking hours and miles to pushing high power. This would ultimately lead to a shift in real world training and riding.
For example, for what it’s worth, on strava you can only organize your ‘calendar’ to show hours or miles ridden. It’s the only option because that’s what we value the most. As opposed to TR, which graphs your TSS independent of hours and miles. But you can still boost TSS with long duration low power road rides.

I think most top pro cyclist, whether cx, mountain etc…log a sh!t ton of time on a road bike.


Do you think that’s what most road racers do? Just long days in the saddle? There’s a healthy mix like @mcneese.chad said . Yeah, pros or top amateurs are logging 30+ hours a week. But it’s not all just z2. There are days of vo2, sprints, threshold. Hell, I’m bout to do my 8x4@110% then go ride for 3 hours after.

As for CX and MTB - you think they’re just doing 60 min workouts? Like, the only workout. Totally skipping base and building any sort of aerobic engine? As an xc and marathon guy, that’s just silly. I would be getting waxed if I all did were 60 min workouts.

Agreed @KorbenDallas. Top cx and mtb and your local pros are doing lots and lots of work in the saddle.


Fully agree. No doubt they log hours. Van der Poel, I’m wondering, is stacking hours and more value on high power short duration training. It has paid off.
No doubt the pros try to train everything but I doubt most put as much emphasis on short high power output as mvdp unless they are a sprinter. And they need to be dragged to the line where mvdp clearly does not. He must be doing something right or he’s just a genetic freak.
I’m more focused on the mentality of the ‘prosumer’ average to above average rider.