Hardly anyone could have missed the fact that I was part of the Alpecin Amateur Team this year. It was not just a great year for me, I was also able to test a lot of equipment – just like the pros!
As I received a lot of questions from you, I will answer them in detail, now that the registration for Team Alpecin 2020 is open.
What is Team Alpecin?
As I’ve just said, it’s an amateur team that trains (mostly) with the equipment of a Pro Team. The aim is to show what progress within a few months ambitious cyclists are capable of at various levels of performance with perfect equipment and a structured training plan. Every year, new members are selected. 12 to 14 riders from Europe and the USA are choosen from many thousands of applications. I can only guess how the selection process works in detail, but I think it’s a random process and then the organisators make sure that different training levels and from young to “older” (of course we all stayed young) every type of cyclist is represented. Some months ago, I’ve read some of the comments from users under old Team Alpecin Posts and would like to make some things clear which kind of annoyed me: we race amateur races without a license (in german: “Jedermann-Rennen”), not the complete Tour de France with the pros! If you want to become a professional cyclist in the Katusha Alpecin Team, this is probably not the “launching pad” some people hope for – or just a small part of it. Of course you can also stay a member of your local cycling federation during your time in the team. It is not possible to get a license for categorized races via the Team Alpecin.
How long do I have to ride a racing bike?
What is the minimum avg. speed/watt I have to push?
It is not bad at all if you are still a newbie on the bike, and I don’t think that you have a special advantage with the application if your FTP is already at 370 watts with the application. For comparison: Maddie, Laura, Arne and I have all been on the road for less than a year when we joined the team, Stefano already had an FTP of 270 at the very first lactate level test in Bielefeld.
Apart from the fact that your average speed doesn’t really say much about your training level, Team Alpecin is all about showing what progress you’re capable of. Even the FTP of the really strong Stefano has increased by 40 watts, while our Watt-machine Andi has lost 12 kg for the team and has massively improved his watt per kilo value!
How much time/money do I need to participate in Team Alpecin 2019?
I can only share my experiences here: for all team events together (team meeting in Bielefeld, training camp in Kaltern, my first race in Eschborn Frankfurt, L’Étape du Tour in Annecy) I took +- 12 vacation days.
While we had our training plan, I cycled for at least 9 and maximum 15 hours a week – depending on what the plan said. I was also went to somme local races on Sundays: the St. Pöltener Radmarathon and the Leithaberg Radmarathon. So in my oppinion, the whole thing is really easy to do, even besides a full-time job!
The equipment, which we’ll go into in more detail in a second, is very, very extensive, the only thing you have to pay for yourself is the journey to the respective places. That’s exactly on the page where you can register AND Daniel from RoadBIKE told me about it during our first phone call. The costs for the journey, purchase of a bike suitcase, takeover of some sponsor articles, send my team bike back and some beers have been for me with about 900 – 1000 euros in the books. In relation to what we experienced there, the great hotels in which we stayed, the excellent food and everything else we got on site, this is really nothing. In addition, the Orga team around Sarah was really very helpful and sent us all the information very early so that I could always book my flights cheaply.
Of course the exact number of vacation days for the events and the exact amount of the costs for the members themselves depends on your place of residence!
I’m not an expert – I’m simply an enthusiastic cyclist and have been able to test many products from Team Alpecin’s partners for just over half a year. I wasn’t paid for that, as you’ve read above, and I’ll just say it again: I’m not a specialist or a pro. I’ll tell you about my personal experiences here – which means that I’ll also write if something didn’t went exactly the way it was planned.
Our team bike is really a red rocket – and incredibly versatile. With Zipp Firecrest 303 Disc wheels, SRAM red eTap, Quarq Powermeter and the Conti GP4000 II S, I rode everything from Italian mountain roads (Video here) over the gravel track in “Strade Bianche Style” on the Platéau des Glières to flat MTB trails in the Lobau (Video here) without any problems.
The brand new bike with the equipment costs 7.200 Euro. My first road bike, a BMC Roadmachine, has similar geo and disc brakes, so I wasn’t quite as surprised as some others by the feeling of the more upright position and the disc brakes. The whole bike is incredibly light despite the discs and aero wheels. Just above the UCI limit. When I sat on it for the first time in South Tyrol, I was like: “Boah, that rides by itself!” Well, it wasn’t quite like that, but the much lighter wheels compared to my DT Swiss so far are immediately noticeable. If you like it more sportive, you will maybe prefer the Ultimate or the Aeroad, I for my part am absolutely satisfied with the Endurace! Also in racing it is absolutely top and if you don’t want to ride only on asphalt or if you are a lover of long rides, I think the Endurace is the best choice for you. About the size: I’m 1.78 cm tall and have ridden the bike in M. They even thought about putting me on an L-frame, but smaller frames are sportier. (; So if you’re thinking about buying a canyon racing bike, especially if it’s one of your first, you should think twice about a short trip to Koblenz so you make sure to chooe the right size.
Conclusion: a fantastic, light and incredibly versatile bike that you can even buy at a special price after your time in the Alpecin team.
My first electronic gear shift – so I can’t make a honest comparison to the Di2 or Campa-pendant. For me, it took one or two days to get used to it. On the first ride, my chain fell a few times towards the bottom bracket (because I was too stupid to properly shift gears). After these one or two days of getting used to it, there was not a single bug during the whole time. The gearshift works perfectly until today, I didn’t have to change the batteries at the gearshift levers a single time on the almost 8k km with the team bike. The batteries of the eTap shifters itself can be easily removed and recharged in a small, handy adapter. I did this, depending on the amount, length and profile of my rides between 1x weekly and 1x monthly, according to my gut feeling. I never had an empty battery on the road. And just in case, I always carried an additional fully loaded one with me, they fit perfectly into the jersey pocket.
Conclusion: Absolutely love it.
For me, the training by heart rate was already new. I never had a power meter before and except for a few laps in the fitness center on the body bike, I had no idea how much watt I pedal. As you can imagine, my expectations were high. At first I had some problems with my power meter: I had to calibrate it 4-5 times on each ride, because the displayed numbers dropped step by step to zero (in spite of the power clearly beyond 100 watts). Well, except for one time during the FTP test, where I had to crank empty a few times to recalibrate it, that was no problem either. After the mechanics from the team had their eyes on it and it was clear that it was not one of those well-known “Oh, my powermeter doesn’t work!” excuses, but actually a little-known mistake, Quarq sent me a replacement device. And see there: the new Powermeter works perfectly, completely free of failures, really easy to maintain (battery replacement, calibration) and the wattage values are very similar to those provided by my smart trainer. Quite honestly: something like this can happen with any product, the important thing is that Quarq has handled it well and that the final device really works optimally. And even with a powermeter, you still have to push the pedals yourself.
Conclusion: Very good customer service with a really good and reliable power meter that looks damn good on any bike.
The tyre that wins all the tests also convinced me. I’ve cycled on Vittoria Corsa 25 mm so far and I was very curious to see what the test winner could actually do. Before I joined the team, I was only 7 months on the road and never had a flat tire. I must have said that once too loudly, on the climb to the Coyote Pass in South Tyrol I had one right away and I also didn’t know what a flat felt like. Some of you will laugh now, but as a newbie things like this can happen. I just wondered why it was so hard to pedal – I had already managed similar climbs quite easily. Maurizio Fondriest even pushed me once, but despite the usual gear ratio (compact in front and 11-32 in the back) I just couldn’t pedal any further. At the top I saw the mishap: there was not a bit of air left in my rear wheel. You can certainly remember your first flat very well. After that I hardly had any more. All in all I used maybe 4 more tubes, although I went a lot over gravel and also drove not seldom through broken glass. #clumsy
Conclusion: I will continue to drive the Conti GP4000 IIs next summer. The test winner of the magazines is also my test winner so far and I am very curious about the first news of the tubeless version.
First of all, as far as I know Katusha will not be provide the equipment for 2020. But as we are talking about my experience in 2018, I will tell you about the clothing I got back then: We really got everything an ambitious cyclist needs from Katusha. From long and short baselayers with and without wind stoppers, to long and short jerseys, bibs and long winter overpants, wind vests, softshell and rain jackets, short and long gloves to arm- and leg warmers – simmply everything a cyclist’s heart desires. The stuff from Katusha works perfectly for temperatures from 5 to 35 degrees, at least I have ridden them in this temperature range and am completely satisfied.
My ears were always cold as a frostbite, so I ordered a black Katusha headband and from 0 degrees I absolutely need a windstopper in my pants. Briefly to the Bibs: the padding works very well for me and does not let you down even after several hours. The fitting is relatively true to size, I wear a size S in everything (178 cm, 70kg).
Katusha’s friendly team also visited us in Kaltern and gave us a short workshop on how to care for the clothes and choose the right layers for each temperature. The softshell jackets, for example, should be dryed for some minutes with a hairdryer or hung near (!) a heater so that the material is waterproof again. My favourite combination at the temperatures in Kaltern, which were mostly around 15 degrees: long baselayer, short jersey, sleeves, wind vest, shawl, short bib, leg warmers. So you can enjoy most of the variations and I wasn’t cold, even on the snowy summit of the Mendel Pass.
Conclusion: I will continue to ride in my team equipment and also keep an eye out for the stylish other kits from Katusha in Sale, because they are of excellent quality! But I dont know exactly which partner will provide you with equipment for 2020. As far as I can tell, it’s gonna be great stuff.
First of all: I don’t want to start a Garmin vs. Wahoo discussion here. I got the Garmin Edge 1000 as a gift from my friends and family a month after I started racing and it works great. And the Wahoo ELEMNT works just as well. Similar to when chaning from Android to Apple, Wahoo requires one or two days to get used to if you’ve been using a different system before. The display is black and white and has no touch screen, but I never missed any of both because it’s just not necessary. The individual display fields, your route or the live segments can be easily set up via an app. Sensors connect directly via Bluetooth or ANT+ in the app or the bike computer, just as you like. The whole thing is really child’s play, so don’t worry about changing. The SW display is very easy to read, whether with or without display lighting and I didn’t spend a second wishing for a colored display since riding with Wahoo. Also the navigation didn’t let me down, just as the battery didn’t. At the L’Étape, for example, I recorded the way from the bus to the start as well as the whole race with a gross time of 10:42h and still had a few percent left at the finish line. During the 200 km tour with my boyfriend, his Garmin went empty, my Wahoo didn’t. Especially if you like to ride offroad, the Wahoo might be the better choice for you. On my Edge some ways are not marked, which the Wahoo has indicated very well. This may cause some people to get confused every now and then when they import GPX files: the Wahoo shows many more paths, which are not necessarily optimal for 23mm tyres, but were great to ride with our teambike. To avoid this, it is recommended to import positively rated GPX files – the error is more with the tour uploader than with the Wahoo.
Conclusion: It’s a matter of taste, the Wahoo “tastes” very good to me.
And the price also: we members of Team Alpecin are allowed to keep it and I will continue to use it in any case!
During the training camp in Kaltern we also visited the Northwave factory. Here we could watch how our shoe, the Northwave Extreme RR, was produced. The really nice team equipped us not only with 2 pairs of the top racing bike shoes, but also with thick and thin socks, more gloves, softshell jackets and very comfortable sneakers. The road bike bike shoes are very stiff and you don’t get sweaty feet in them even in summer. If you are on the road in colder temperatures, you can also stick something over the ventilation holes ou just grab some windproof overshoes. The mounting of my Look Cleats worked without problems, also the lock can be adjusted easily by the silver lever and the wheel while driving. In fact, also the other things from the northwave clothing line like waterproof and neoprene overshoes do exactly what they should do.
By the way, I bought 2 more pairs from Northwave: a MTB shoe for cyclocross and the Raptor Arctic as winter shoe and am now an ambassador for this amazing brand!
Conclusion: the shoes look good, do what they should and have a high quality – so I even bought some more.
In our Northwave shoes we got insoles adapted to our feet. The foot is placed in a liquid enclosed under a protective film, which then hardens. The sole is formed and then fine-tuned to fit our shoe. We got 2 pairs, so I punched some holes in the front of my summer pair. If I wouldn’t have done this, my foot would probably have gotten quite hot.
Conclusion: I ride the sole in all my shoes and am very satisfied because they are really comfortable. But I can’t judge whether I can really get XY watts more on the pedal with the help of the soles as my cycling skills improved so much.
A bike is only as good as the condition you keep it in. I like to clean my chain and cassette a lot, so that my material lasts longer and I don’t waste my energy – with the equipment, which Holmenkol provided us, it works fantastically. During an extensive wash, the bike is sprayed with Bike Wash in the yard, then cleaned with water and a sponge. Afterwards the Sport Clean is degreased on the chain, gear roll and cassette and I pull it through an old shirt again and again. After taking out the rear wheel, I use some more degreaser and the old shirt and pull it between the sprockets to the left and the right so the cassette starts moving. Then everything is reassembled and lubricated with a suitable lubricant. While I prefered the Lube Classic in summer, I use the Lube Extreme in winter.
Conclusion: The products always do exactly what they are supposed to do – and don’t smell unnecessarily perfumed, which saves you a lot of headaches when cleaning!
The whole sports nutrition topic is very individual, there are products that are very well tolerated by a person and products where the stomach resists higher loads. I liked most of the Squeezy Nutrition very much and used it for the L’Étape, for example. My favourites are the gels with a little more water in them (Drink Gel), the cola gel with caffeine, the bar with cola taste and caffeine and the pure amino acids. I and my stomach didn’t get along at all with the carbohydrate powders that you dissolve in your drinking bottle. But since the tolerance of all these carbohydrate additives during training is quite individual, that doesn’t mean that it has to be the same for you. The rule here is: try over study. For example, if you don’t like the taste of artificial flavours, you’ll particularly enjoy eating the Organic Bar.
Squeezy also explained to us in Kaltern how we eat best during a race and that we have to drink about 200 ml of water after a classic gel (21 grams of carbohydrates). That’s exactly how I did it in France, and I didn’t have any stomach problems or muscle cramps at all.
Conclusion: Qualitative sports food that also tastes good.
SportScheck equipped us with all the clothes we needed to keep us warm when we’re not on the bike, such as a very practical, warm jacket that can be packed up to the size of a bolster. I liked to wear them in the starting area before the race after warming up or after the finish.
Also practical was our outdoor trousers, which were cut a little wider at the top, so you can quickly slip them over a short bib when you reach the finish line. The pants were especially helpful in my first cyclocross race when I surprisingly got a prize for my 5th place! By the way: during my time in Team Alpecin I was also allowed to report about it on the SportScheck blog, for example here.
Conclusion: If you want to stay healthy, get out of your wet cycling cloths after every ride and stay warm! The SportScheck equipment did a great job doing exactly this and even looked stylish.
It took the Tacx a few weeks to get to us. At the end of June it finally arrived, and my boyfriend was allowed to carry the Smart-Trainer up four floors without a lift (thank you again!) The construction proved to be tedious: if you ride a bike with quick-release axles, you should consider buying an adapter when buying the Tacx. As I don’t have a particular bike which will stay in the smart trainer for the whole year, I had to buy a second cassette with the same gear ratio, because I don’t want to mount the cassette from the Tacx to the wheel and back or readjust my gears I use the bike outside. If you pay attention to these little things when ordering, you will have a lot of fun with the Tacx – just like me! The calibration via app works without any problems and the Tacx is very, very quiet (as I said, we live right at the top of our building and you can’t hear it either below us or in the next room with the door closed!).
Conclusion: solid Smart-Trainer, which I can absolutely recommend!
To enjoy a smart trainer to the fullest, you’ll need Zwift – in my opinion. Its kid of a computer game in which you guide your character through the virtual world by pedaling: what counts here are the watts per kilo! In the app, which runs on computers (ANT+ Adapter needed), Apple TV, tablets and smartphones, you can run fixed training sessions as well as races. If you need help at the start or if you want to find nice german people to join for a ride in Watopia, the ZRG group is the right place for you. Recently there were discussions, because the price was raised to 14.99 Euro per month, but I can’t understand that at all, because you really get a lot on offer for it. Also, the fact that driving on the Smart-Trainer would be less strenuous is nonsense: an average pulse of 180 at my first intermediate race says everything.
Conclusion: I’m really looking forward to my second road bike winter! Zwift doesn’t replace riding outside for me, but it’s a welcome change if you don’t want to squeeze into your winter clothes for another hour after a long day in the office and then ride outside in pitch dark for 2 hours.
Us Team members from Team Alpecin got a free year Strava Premium (Summit in the meantime). Since I already had Strava Premium before, it wasn’t such a wow effect how many analyses of your rides you can get or how funny it can be to ride with live segments. If you still don’t have Strava Summit, I can highly suggest to get your hands on the bundle you like or simply all of them (just as me). It’s also a great christmas present!
Conclusion: Strava without Summit is only half the fun for me. You can Follow me here!
After our Oakley helmets were delayed, Abus jumped in spontaneously. Our helmet not only looks very sleek, it is also regularly mentioned in the top rankings of bike magazines. Even in summer the ventilation is good and he fits perfectly. Fortunately, I haven’t fallen on my head so far, so I can’t say much about its protective function. But he probably prevented something worse from happening when my team mate Maddie had a serious crash the day before the L’Étape.
Conclusion: a good aero helmet that doesn’t get too hot.
From Oakley, we got the TdF special edition, which are amazing glasses for daytime rides. That’s why my lovely boyfriend decided to give me the Jawbreaker with photocromatic glasses for Christmas! They are very practical for driving in winter, because you can change the glasses. Even cold winds didn’t get near the eyes at all. My favourite glass to insert is the photocrome glass that adapts to the current light conditions.
Conclusion: top sports glasses that don’t look stupid and also fit perfectly into the ventilation slits of my helmets!
My Compex 4.0 is probably the thing which I got the most questions on. It is a small computer connected to diodes attached to the body with plasters. It is used for muscle stimulation and can be used, for example, to support training, to warm up or to regenerate. Usually I use it after very hard sessions or races to get fit again. But there are many more possibilities, which I will test in the course of the winter, such as massages or muscle building (keyword: core training). Even I was quite skeptical when we got it in Bielefeld, but I used it a lot in our time in the team. We could have sent it back, but I decided to buy it now because it really does a great job.
Conclusion: A small thing with an impressive effect
These black rolls are now known across various sports and probably come directly from hell, but are effective. They are used for fascia training, but are also great to relax after a long session. The exercises with the blackroll, which for example are shown in YouTube videos, should be done until they don’t hurt any more. I didn’t always quite manage to do that, and I should actually use them a lot more often, but they have become a fixed point after every session on the Smart Trainer.
Conclusion: a training on the fascia rolls is worthwhile! You can tell that after, your muscles feel much better.
Our training plan was written by Flo from the Radlabor. First we did a lactate treshold test and should realistically estimate in Bielefeld how many hours per week we can and want to invest in training for the L’Étape. Flo said, it was up to us to make the most of the time in the team, and he had awakened my ambition: I wanted to train 11-15 hours each week. In Kaltern he explained to us how to measure training, how to read the training plan and so on… For example, it’s probably a common mistake for amateur cyclists not to push through intensive units long and hard enough and to exaggerate it in basic units.
After the training camp, we were always in direct contact with Flo via the homepage and were able to give feedback on which units we found difficult, when we couldn’t train for whatever reason and when we had races. That went smoothly and Flo always reacted quickly when we needed something. Even though I didn’t always follow the training schedule 100%, unless I came late from the office or had to get this one cyclist in front of me during a GA1 training, I could quickly see success. I was a bit disappointed when my FTP value at the last test before the L’Étape was lower than at the first test in Bielefeld, but I guess I was just too exhausted from a stressful working week paired with a different ascent than where I normally did my tests. What’s important is that Flo was always patient and motivated me when I needed to – and I wouldn’t have finished L’Étape without his preparation.
Conclusion: if you are looking for a good partner for structured training, performance diagnostics and more, you will definitely be satisfied with Flo in the bike lab!
Doping for the hair… Just for the hair! Whoever watches TdF probably know this advertising. In fact, the Dr. Wolff Group in Bielefeld also makes many other products, such as Plantur 21, the cosmetics line Alcina or Linola. I always had this cream at home even before I joined the team, as I use it in winter to protect my face from the cold. Yes, you’ve read correctly: I put a booty balm on my face because my skin breathes better under it than under Vaseline. And as I am a true rebel, sometimes I use the Alpecin instead of the Plantur 21 shampoo, even if it is for men. Please don’t tell my boyfriend, otherwise he knows why his bottle is always empty.
We girls were allowed to test the Ergon saddles from the SR Road series. The saddles are very well made, but even the narrowest one was still a bit too wide for me. Now I ride it on the Crosser, where my tours are a bit shorter and I am thankful that it is well padded. Great saddle, but make sure to get your ass fitted before!
From Lezyne we got a mini pump and a super multi tool for our bike. I am very satisfied with both and take them with me on every ride!
We really felt at home in the spacious rooms of the hotel in South Tyrol. Unfortunately it was still a bit too fresh to really enjoy the pool, but the hotel has a fantastic bike room and is an excellent starting point for various tours. If your family is not that much into cycling, they can also do a lot of hiking there, walk threw the apple gardens or swim in the Kalterer Lake. There are also many culinaric attractions in this area of south tyrol, for example we visited a winegrower when the weather was too bad for cycling.
In the media partners there was a lot to read about our adventures. Also very good for making an impression on families and friends.
Phew… That’s quite a long list – I didn’t expect that at the beginning of the article. But we got so much equipment – and I would like to thank all the sponsors again for it.
#tldr, the equipment we got is the all-round carefree package for road cyclists!
And now comes the best: with a bit of luck you can get all these great things and experiences next year. Because the registration for 2020 is open! I keep my fingers crossed for you all, because this year was simply unforgettable – and that’s what all Alpecin All Stars say!
Maybe we’ll see each other at one or the other event?