Interview with Louis Delahaije, trainer of Lotto Jumbo Professional Cycling Team. Louis Delahaije, the motor behind the development of Robert Gesink, believes more in a glance than in wattages. And also the factor of luck is important
July 25, 2015
Louis Delahaije a cheerful Dutchman with a profession that he typifies as a lucky charm. “When people ask me what I do, I say I’ll keep them happy. Sometimes it’s an ice cream. Sometimes a rest day with the family. To the movies or to the Zoo? Fine, if that makes them happy. “Officially, the 49-year-old Delahaije is high performance manager, at least in his position with the cycling team Lotto-Jumbo. That does not exactly sound to Zoo or ice creams. But he is not the man to present his work more difficult than it is.
Eventually, says Delahaije the wellbeing of the sportsman that is essential in delivering performance. “The human side of performing, the story behind it, which I like most.”
Delahaije itself is rooted in the triathlon. He practiced the sport and rolled through the guidance of triathletes. But he is best known for guiding cyclists.
THE RABO CYCLING PLAN
In the mid nineties he became involved in what was then called the Rabo Cycling Plan. He was responsible for the youth. The professionals were assisted by the Belgian team doctor Geert Leinders. That was, as you know, not always following the rules. After his departure Delahaije rose in the hierarchy.
He collaborated with Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker. His role became decisive in the cooperation with Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema. The name of Louis Delahaije is synonymous with the development in the training and guidance of cyclists. Its status is similar to that of the team leaders. He is an integral part of the coaching staff, as now in the Tour de France.
It has also helped himself forward, says Delahaije. “I was very lucky that I could work from the start with top cyclists and they had bad luck that they had to cooperate with me. Consequently doors will open for you. Everything is almost possible. For the rest it’s mainly a matter of hard work and looking around very good. My eyes doing the work. Then you see how it works, you see the basic patterns. That teamwork is the most interesting about this work. That is not about 400 Watts or 405 Watts. Believe me that is less important for performing than inner peace and contentment”
The latter, Wattage, has become a core concept in the Tour de France. So far, the average fan did it with vague notions as “morality” of a racer. Today, power is measured by oxygen consumption, heart rate and pedal revolutions. The cyclist as a human machine.
In this context, this Tour also questions were asked by the performance of Christopher Froome. Figures about impossible wattages flew around and all the self-appointed experts came from every nook and cranny.
To relativize such overreactions a conversation with Louis Delahaije really helps you. He is the specialist who knows his profession into perspective. If Delahaije has learned anything, it is the relative value of those figures.
Input does not equal output, fortunately.
“For a long time, we investigated absolutely everything”. The results often yielded totally nothing. But after a few days rest they flew forward again. Inexplicable. “
What he’s doing now, during altitude training is appear a bit earlier at breakfast. “I’m there around one minute before eight and watch their faces before they go to table for breakfast. Ultimately, it comes to the eye, so what you see. What you produce in numbers of Watts is secondary. “The key according to Delahaije is optimizing the science for the individual.
With all that is now claimed about Froome, Louis Delahaije knows one thing for sure: the real revolution took place a long time ago. That was the altitude training, achieving the same effect as EPO 20 years ago on an illegal way.
Delahaije was a predecessor and saw it’s getting busier and busier above the tree line. Froome, Contador, Nibali and their entourage are usually found in the Canary Islands. Others, like Valverde and Mollema, look for the sun in the Sierra Nevada. Delahaije: ‘If you don’t do it, you cannot play a role in a large round. “
“He also met there the leaders of Sky. And yes, sometimes we discussed about their approach. Whether he talks to Paolo Slongo, the trainer of Vincenzo Nibali. For what it’s worth, he never showed a troubling trend. “We ourselves had two years the Norwegian Lars Petter Nordhaug in our team. He came from Sky. I’ve seen his training program. There are no big surprises. I do not think they are there. “
The conclusion of this Tour is simple; Froome is blessed with an exceptional body. That’s all. “In today’s cycling only one acceleration can be decisive. One breakaway to get rid of your opponents and then maintain that speed for a short time. Froome can do this like no other in this Tour.
Froome can also make a staggeringly high number of revolutions per minute, almost one hundred per minute, especially uphill. “Robert told me in that particular climb in the Pyrenees he had to return to eighty revolutions to keep his speed. Robert had to go back to the emergency position, Froome not. That’s the difference. “
No cyclist with whom Delahaye has worked as long as Robert Gesink. “For ten years already.” Almost as long as he has been praised the capacities of Gesink that are larger than those of any other of his pupils.
For him Gesink is “a physical phenomenon, but all top riders are like that. “What makes him so special is how he deals with disappointment. If you see what has happened with his heart and also private. And he always comes back to cycling. There are not many riders who can do that. Robert is a good athlete and a fine human being. I think that’s a good combination. “