During the season the athletes ascend to high altitudes to carry out a period of regeneration. We often hear about this practice but we try to understand something more thanks to Davide Martinelli who in these days is engaged in a training camp in Livigno.

“Let’s start from a basic concept: The work at high altitudes must be carried out for a period of at least 15 days to obtain benefits, if the altitudes are around 1800-2000 meters.”

Generally at altitude we work profitably for different reasons:

– You are motivated to work at your best because it generally takes place in a period in which you have important objectives in the short to medium term.
– You follow the diet properly because you focused on a few things not having many other thoughts as well as to pedal, recover and just feed well.
– There are training sessions on important slopes, which therefore lead to almost certainly an increase in condition, if you do not exaggerate with intensity, which unfortunately many do.

A number of precautions must be taken. “Staying on a hill means that you are at an altitude of 1,800 – 2,200 meters“. But there are athletes who climb even higher on the Stelvio pass, for example, which is located at 2500-2700mt. “Going up further means to face some inconveniences such as the risk of not being able to sleep well or the so-called altitude sickness that brings with it, headaches, bad mood and not optimal recovery between one workout and another. All of this is due to hypoxia, ie the lack of oxygen that is proportional to the increase in altitude in which one is staying or training.

In my case the chosen location is at 1,800 meters. “Usually here it takes me 3 days to adapt and in the first outings in training we never get to the middle of heartbeat. The physique must get used to the least oxygen “.

There are different schools of thought on the train in the high altitude, Davide appreciates the theory of ”Sleep high and train low’‘ that means sleep at high altitude but train at lower altitudes below 1200m. “Usually my favorite place for training is the Maniva at 1800 meters, where descending just 8-9km, in the valley, I can find a series of climbs ideal for all specific jobs. I sleep at high altitude and train down, this practice is immediately profitable. I have the advantages of the height without the disadvantages given by not being able to do high-intensity jobs, which is not recommended at altitudes above 1600-1800mt.

At the foot of the Maniva Pass it is also possible to prepare the time trial because at low altitudes I can support every kind of training, even the race simulation.

The adaptation process is quite different when the high altitude training is made in Alta Valtellina: “When I get off from here in the first week I’m more tired. We carry out work of strength and resistance and we hardly exceed the medium. No high-intensity sessions are held so you must calibrate the workouts and ensure that the body can recover from one session to another and once descended to resume with quality sessions. For example, this year I will go down on the 19th and I will have to run on the 29th the Ride London, a WorldTour vallonate race where brilliance is needed. On days ranging from 22nd to 25th, I will certainly perform speeding sessions motorpacing at race-rhythm and high-intensity workouts such as 40″-20″ or violent accelerations of 2′-3′ near my maximale, in other words works that immediately increase the condition and allow you to be ready for a day trip”.

Here are other very interesting details: “The hill, if well managed, also allows you to regenerate. The hematocrit rises, or remains constant, and you can make quantities. The important thing is not to have a competitive goal very short, which means in 3 or 5 days. You can not expect to go down and be immediately 100% of the condition. The best think to do is to insert some race towards the great appointment. In my experience I have always tried to come down 15 days before the big date, inserting 2-3 races to find brilliance and race pace “.

Why do some athletes perform high altitude training sessions consistently and not always with stays of 15 days?

“This is an interesting speech that I have also implemented in the past, finding benefits. There are several blocks, usually 2-3 within 40-50 days.

If the runner has done an internship of at least 12-15 days in the height in the last month and decided to return to the high ground, he would be ready for an intense work block because the physics has a sort of “remember” of the previous stage and has need less days to adapt to unfavorable conditions of the height. A fact proven by various studies. In this specific case, even 8-10 days could be profitable in the production of red blood cells “.

Finally another gem: “It’s something that I’ve never done but that makes sense and I know that some riders have already experienced, ie spend a week at an altitude of 1,800 then move to the next one even higher. The body adapts faster to the higher altitude. A step that does not represent a radical shock such as going from zero to 2,500 meters. Sleeping higher should have amplified effects on the production of red blood cells. In the future I will definitely try to implement this technique and I will keep you informed about my feelings ”

MEN FROM GREAT TOUR AND CLASSICS: For the cyclists from stage races it is the opportunity to make long climbs, and also for example the Belgians or the Dutch that have the Cauberg or other hard slopes that hardly exceed the km in length, during the meetings Alpini find a new terrain suitable for climbers. Some classic men go offshore in February-March. Right now it seems like a fashion, but for the classic man to make long climbs could involve the risk of loss of explosiveness. I’ve never tried a retreat at that time but I think it’s more appropriate, to find the brilliance you need in the classics of one day run or prefer valleys but without too long climbs. I think it would be a risk that is not worth the candle. At the beginning of the season it is still fresh and there is no need to regenerate, which the hill helps to do “.

“I see it more profitable before the Giro or before the Tour. Each pro rider performs at least 2-3 stages per year according to the competition program. For example, in this mid-season period there is a hole in the calendar for those not making the Tour de France. 70% of professional riders are on the highlands around the world in recent weeks “.

NUTRITION: An important detail regards the alimentary aspect: “Be careful not to eat too little in the highlands, you need to increase the amount of protein taken, otherwise you can risk losing muscle mass. The energy consumption in the highlands is higher due to the increase in basal metabolic rate necessary to maintain the various vital functions (respiration, nervous system, blood circulation, etc.), especially during the first days of altitude training. It is necessary to introduce some more calories than when you are at lower altitudes “.

“You do not have to lose muscle mass, when you enter the fateful condition of overtraining, you risk a good slice of the season and once you enter catabolism you must stay still for at least 15 days. There are athletes who have played a career year for this aspect. I repeat, it is advisable not to make too restrictive diets while staying at high altitude “.