Campenaerts and Vermeersch check in at the Kolobnev altitude hotel
On Thursday, Victor Campenaerts and Florian Vermeersch checked into a hotel in a sleepy corner of southeastern Spain and took the lift to the summit of Everest.
In a variation of altitude training, the Lotto Soudal pair stay in special atmosphere-controlled rooms, where they can flick – at the touch of a pad – between sea level and the edge of the stratosphere, and n anywhere in between.
Altitude camps have long been part of the training regimens of professional cyclists, with the drop in oxygen concentration triggering an increase in red blood cells, but they usually involve traveling to altitude.
Usually, but not always. In recent years, with the advent of the “train low, sleep high” theory, the use of altitude tents has become widespread. Despite some ethical question marks, as the practice was previously banned in some countries, it has become a popular tactic for runners looking for elevation gains from the comfort of their homes.
Campenaerts and Vermeersch, soon to be joined by Lotto Soudal teammate Brent Van Moer, are taking things to new heights, not staying in a tent or pod, but in plush rooms that look like any other.
The so-called “hypoxic rooms” can be found in Denia at the Syncrosfera Hotel, a four-star establishment founded by former Russian pro rider Alexandr Kolobnev.
Altitude rooms are found in some elite sports facilities, while former pro Tadej Valjavec ran a small hotel in Slovenia that The Republic nicknamed the “Grand Hotel Doping” – due to the violation of Valjavec’s biological passport and the ban on altitude simulation across the Italian border.
Kolobnev, however, has wrapped his hypoxic chambers in a sports and wellness center which, crucially, is located in the corner of Spain where hundreds of pros flock for pre-season training every winter. .
Tadej Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates team stayed there for their recent pre-season training camp, although the squad confirmed Cycling news that no one was using the hypoxic chambers. Alpecin-Fenix and Groupama-FDJ are also said to have made reservations.
On Thursday Campenaerts and Vermeersch arrived, and they will be joined on Tuesday by Van Moer. Together they will prepare for the Classics, training on coastal routes and inland climbs before resting at altitude.
“We’ve all booked our own bedroom plus a fourth bedroom that we can convert into a living room,” Campenaerts said recently. Sporza. “We will also eat in this living room, to live at maximum height.
“I will simulate an altitude of 3,000 meters on some nights, but after intensive training, I could descend to 1,500 meters to let my body rest,” he added in a newblad interview last week. “On Mount Teide, you can’t say after training: ‘Tonight I’m going to sleep halfway up’.”
It’s not just a short break but, in Campenaerts’ case, a full month. The team said Cycling news that Vermeersch and Van Moer will leave on February 13 to race the Tour du Var, while the hour record holder will remain until February 23, when he hopes to be in top form for the opening weekend in Belgium.
The trio were due to leave for a real high camp in Rwanda, with Campenaerts having already enjoyed success at the back of the camps in Namibia, but the pandemic prompted an overhaul.
Campenaerts is no stranger to altitude simulation and has notably taken things to extremes during the pandemic, even spending short periods at 10,000 meters, well above the so-called ‘death zone’. where oxygen depletion poses a serious threat to human health.
Although authorized by the AMA and used by many professional cyclists, altitude tents have raised concerns, given the artificial nature of inducing physiological changes in the body. In 2006, the WADA considered banning them as its ethics committee felt they were “probably contrary to the spirit of the sport”, although no action was ultimately taken.