Feature Interview: Alex Richardson

Former Lincoln GP winner Alex Richardson who rides for Alpecin-Fenix will be racing in August and says the summer break from racing has helped him immensely

Feature Interview: Alex Richardson

Former Lincoln GP winner Alex Richardson who rides for Alpecin-Fenix will be racing in August and says the summer break from racing has helped him immensely.

Looking back at the summer of no bike racing, Alex explained “I think I have learnt a lot about myself and in training I have tried so many different things. I am doing the best numbers I have ever done by as much as 20 watts I guess. Over the months of this lockdown period, I have improved as much as I have in the last two years. Before, I was getting away with a lot of aero stuff but this summer, I really worked on physical strength and put the focus there.”

Alex explained “for four years, it has been full gas with everything going on and I never let myself come up for a breather, even in the off season, so I think I am in a much better place now having had this racing break. Fundamentally, I have worked out I was doing a few things that were a waste of time. No one is going to convince me that riding around on the tops for four or five hours is doing me good.”

That’s not to say that Alex doesn’t do long rides because he says he does do six hour rides and during a given week, he’ll do around 20 hours with quality built into all of the training and that includes the recovery.

“I am doing a lot of strength work off the bike, not excessively but every other day at home. I am also riding the turbo a lot more doing Vo2 max work and have stopped riding flat routes now too. If I go out on my bike, I make sure there is at least a thousand metres of elevation as that places a lot more stress on the body”.

His work also includes strength work on the bike with a series of 30 second over geared efforts at threshold. “I find that beneficial” says Alex “and I have also lowered my cadence quite a lot as I don’t think I was getting as much bang for my bucks as I could have pedaling quicker”.

Tour of Reservoir back when he was racing for himself

“I hardly do any threshold work as I am either doing Vo2 work or sweetspot drills but even that, not a massive amount. The Vo2 is what lifts the ceiling and all the papers suggest if you can uptake more oxygen, what ever pace you ride at, you’re riding at a lower percentage of your capacity so everything rises. And that is what I have found.”

Alex has gone into this lockdown period in history to make the most of the time away from racing and that includes as he says above, raising the ceiling of his numbers on the bike. “I feel that for so many of us, we are way off what is possible and I’m all for pushing it further forward. I have enough convincing data to motivate me to keep driving forward in that direction.”

“I respond very well to training by myself and I quite like that aspect of the sport. I am quite interested in turbo training too. I have always focused on myself and myself only in training. So I take positives from that and when others may be struggling with lockdown and their training, I am making the most of it.

“I am enjoying the training, love it, absolutely love it and this is the first time that I have been able to work on ‘my project’ without feeling guilty that I’m going to have to go to a race on the weekend. It is really nice to have the luxury of saying to myself, I’m getting a bit tired here, I need an extra day or I won’t get the session done I need to do in two days time.”

“I am a lot calmer and with that, you plan better. I have worked out lot of different things in my training. I always trained hard but I have learnt a lot about what actually works.”

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Racing on the horizon
It’s been three months since lockdown began but having made the most of that time, Alex is now really looking forward to the coming months when from August onwards, he’ll have approximately 30 days or so of racing.

“I’m really excited now to have a race programme. I have a three day course recon of the classics at the end of the month and then I go to altitude in Italy for two weeks before returning home for a few weeks before racing starts. I start in Belgium with a 1.1 and then a 2.1 (Czech Tour) which is a good one and then another 1.1 followed by the Tour of Wallonie and some other major races like Coppi e Bartali and Paris Tours.”

Talking about racing and his role in the team, Alex explains “they are very relaxed and not putting much pressure on me. They just want me to develop as a rider and I do feel I have a really good relationship with the team.”

“They are understanding people who are riders or have been riders and the people in the team get it. It goes without saying, if you have people who are better than you in a race and have a better opportunity of the win, you are going to look after them. There is an understanding there. As a rider, you know if your teammate has a good chance of delivering or not.”

“At the level I am racing at now, we have guys in the team who can genuinely win these races so I am not going to sacrifice their chances because I think I might come fifth in a break. Not a chance.”

Winning the Holland Cup racing for Canyon DHB in 2019, a stepping stone to ProConti

Back in May…
But lockdown has not just been about the training and raising his level as he explains. “Lockdown has been good for lots of reasons like spending more time with the family. We’ve had loads time of together which is nice and having a lot more time with the kids and wife has re-vitalised the family relationship which is a massive positive and I have a happier head as a result of that.”

Going back even further and talking about getting the nod to join this talented team Alpecin-Fenix, Alex says “teams do a lot of home work into that side of things (signing riders). There is more to riding at this level than just being a great athlete and you have to put yourself on the map and while I know how hard it is in the UK to win a prem (Alex won the Lincoln GP), you are just not on the map for these teams winning those kind of races.”

That said, talking about his Lincoln win, Alex replied “That was one of the best days ever with a lot of self satisfaction and joy. The ride made me believe that something was possible and was not just a dream. It was a massive stepping stone for me and it came in a great race with a great atmosphere. I will always try and go back there as long as I can whilst I am racing. It’s a phenomenal race that has massive recognition in Europe. The guys in my team know about it as it gets a lot of publicity and so it should, it’s a great race”.

Solo win in Lincoln in 2018

“But for me in 2019 (Canyon DHB), I wasn’t targeting the British prems as it was more important to get exposure abroad and get on the map for the bigger teams. After I won what turned out to be one of three kermesses, it just so happened that Matheiu van der Poel was there and the team was there and I rode off from quite a way out and they started looking at me.”

“Then I won the Holland cup. They liked my attitude and the fact that I hadn’t been doing it as long as some others. The team is fantastic. It is so good once you are in that team. They are so concerned about athlete well being, and everything they do is the right way.”

“It is completely different from the inside. From the outside, it looks like this formal organisation where everyone is in this empire of buses but once you are in them, they are normal guys who quite enjoy riding their bikes and do it the best way they can. We are all on the same page.”

Asked for his impression of Van der Poel, Alex replies “scary. His ability and elasticity is out of this world! Like his ability to recover and do short efforts. I remember one of the first camps we did, he did this full gas never ending sprint and shot up this climb for a minute but accelerating for the whole minute. He looked like a motorbike accelerating and was doing 30mph up this climb for a minute.”

eRacing – a great training tool
During lockdown, Alex has also made the most of Zwift. “I do think it’s really good” he says. “Those who turn their nose up at it, are missing a massively beneficial training tool. You can’t go that hard in normal racing because in normal racing you can hide better, you are more cautious and calculated in what you do.

ERacing is so intense, I think you have to be careful how much you do race on it because in my opinion, it can be a bit samey and it’s hard to do high Vo2 in those races as it’s more high threshold work (one speed).

Alex explained he’s been on Zwift for three years. “I used it a lot with Steve Benton back when I was doing the winter at One Pro and he would set me workouts with back to back races followed by a training session. He wouldn’t just set one race.”

Has Zwift changed since those early days I asked? “Not really although participation is higher of course and the races are always hard because you have people who maybe inaccurately reporting things or not. That doesn’t bother me because as long as I am getting the work out that I need to get from Zwift, then it’s serving its purpose.”

Alex also added that he can ride harder on Zwift than he does on the road. “I certainly can’t go that hard on the road because I’m worried about traffic or something else going on. On the road you have to keep some level of coordination and focus where as on the turbo you are only applying the power”.

During a high profile Zwift race where Alex did well, the performance certainly impressed his team. “They were pulling apart my file and saw the attack I did before I backed off before the climb. Then during the last ten minutes of the race, I had to close down some gaps for Mathieu. It was good going and they were impressed”.

Pretty soon though, the efforts that will count will be on the roads of Europe as all eyes from the fans starved of racing out on the roads will be watching their favourites going into battle. That will include this British rider who has many an impressive performance in his palmares already. We wish Alex well in Europe and hope that he gets an opportunity to win as well as play his role in the team…

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