Jorge Ramos: “It is essential that the riders, in this current scenario, are always motivated”

Riders such as Enric Mas, Alejandro Ropero, Carlos Rodríguez, Sergio García and Juan Pedro López, among many others, have passed under his tutelage. Jorge Ramos Estalayo is the physical trainer of the junior squad of the Alberto Contador Foundation. And he has been since its origins, when the youth team became the first sports structure supported by the Foundation.

The competitive break has been very hard on all the Foundation’s sports teams, but especially on a youth team whose category is always very much dependent on the school environment.  We talked to Jorge so that he could explain to us the way of working with the riders during this period of confinement and also about some of the names that have passed through the team.

How does a rider in the youth category work during a period of confinement like the one we are experiencing?

The extraordinary situation we are living in leads us to establish different working patterns. All the training is done indoors, which allows to do it in a more specific way because it is not affected by external factors (punctures, crashes, weather, variation of the terrain, etc.). Depending on the planning, these guidelines start with roller work, physical conditioning, muscle compensation, stretching, etc. The work to be done by each runner is planned and recorded on an online platform that helps to manage the training. On this same platform each rider records daily certain fundamental variables to obtain optimum performance from each session.

The situation, however, has also led to the launching of parallel or complementary work…

With this situation of confinement we have also taken advantage of it to promote the work of core and the routine of stretching. The core work will help us to link upper and lower body and to develop balance, coordination and stability. On the other hand, stretching, which is a forgotten and fundamental part of any sporting discipline, reduces muscular tension and prevents future injuries.

What is the priority when establishing work guidelines?

In this category all our riders are studying and therefore the priority is their obligations as students. With this premise, we try to transmit to them the importance of having their day structured with an adaptable but concise program. The training sessions are part of this program and are combined with both their obligations and their leisure time.

Could you give us an example of a one-day roller training session for a junior team rider?

An indoor training day could go like this; a first 30-minute fasting roller session. A second session of one and a half hours of specific work (with your initial warm-up, your main work part and your ‘cool down’). A third part, also of half an hour, of stretching and core.

Given the age of the children or the specifics of their competitions (duration, distance, etc.), does a break of this kind affect young riders in the same way as riders in other higher categories?

The break affects this category in almost the same way as the others, even though they have shorter races.

Confinement, in the end, also tests mentality and psychology and requires that we be very aware of these aspects…

First of all, we would like to highlight the resilience that all the riders have shown to the situation we are experiencing and which has pleasantly surprised the whole team. Their daily routine differs from what they are used to basically because they have to organize their day in a telematic way. They have on-line classes at the institute in the morning or afternoon, depending on each Autonomous Community, and the rest of the day is divided between training and leisure activities. These playful activities help them to keep motivated to face a different training than the one they are used to.

In addition, we regularly do group work with different on-line platforms, which help us to check live the work that each cyclist is doing, thus reinforcing their motivation. We have always stood out because of our professional work, despite being riders in the youth category. We try that when they are professionals, either in our team or in another one, they do not notice any difference in the functioning of the structure and dynamics of work.

What are the main concerns that the kids bring to you? What do the kids miss the most?

We all miss going out on the road. We are talking about a very grateful sport as far as mobility and diversity of landscapes are concerned and to be deprived of it is quite demotivating. Therefore, it is essential to work with the runners to keep them motivated despite this new scenario.

In addition to being a trainer, you are now probably a much more experienced psychologist…

The role of the physical trainer does not only consist of boosting physiological performance in a basic way (improvement of thresholds, power peaks, etc.) but also takes into account many other variables that are analysed on a daily basis (VAM; IF, VI, W/Kg, etc.). The joint analysis of all these data results in the current status of the athlete. Through fitness (CTL), fatigue (ATL) and shape (TSB) we obtain the riders’s current performance profile. This type of training provides a series of data that I use in my internal comparisons between riders and that help me to make a projection of the rider’s evolution. If we were to find ourselves in a similar situation of exceptionality, this would serve me as a planning model. Data and information are essential for internal analysis and individualized planning.

In addition to all of the above, the fitness trainer deals with nutritional and psychological aspects with equal intensity.

What feedback does the issue of nutrition elicit from the children? What is the reaction you perceive in them when addressing these issues?

Nutrition arouses interest in riders at almost the same level as physical preparation itself. The two elements go hand in hand and will have a major impact on their sporting performance. For this reason, diets are created that are appropriate to the circumstances and time of the riders so that the sporting result is optimal, taking into account their category (youngsters between 16 and 18 years old, still in the growth phase). Furthermore, it should be pointed out that they are at a formative stage, so the progression they must make must be in accordance with their age at all levels (hours and intensity of training, rigidity in feeding and supplementation, demands of competition).

And in this context of confinement, what is the main objective of a trainer or a director in the merely psychological?

At this level all our efforts are always directed towards their well-being. We continue to set goals, to enhance their self-confidence and above all to maintain their motivation. Our motto is and will be teamwork. This is the philosophy of the Alberto Contador Foundation and the one that has led us on numerous occasions to train great cyclists and achieve great achievements. Without going any further, last season we obtained the best sporting results in the history of the Junior team since its creation in 2013. As a coach for over 15 years, I have always had a maxim: that the riders know each other and feel and explore their bodies and their feelings. I try to break their day-to-day inertia so that they don’t tend to put on the dreaded “autopilot”.

During all these years many young riders have passed through your hands…

I feel lucky to have contributed to the training and success of great cyclists. I feel very proud to have had the opportunity with each and every one of them. And also that several of them are already very sought after worldwide.

Would you dare to highlight some names?

With everyone’s permission, I would highlight four: Enric Mas, Carlos Rodríguez, Juan Pedro López and Álvaro Cuadros.

Tell us about Enric… (current Movistar Team rider).

He’s a great cyclist and a very good person. His qualities are evident and from the youth category could be seen in a palpable way. He liked very much to have objectives one hundred percent fixed from the beginning of the season, which we prepared conscientiously. To see where Enric has arrived and to have been spoken of as one of the favourites to win a great lap, confirms the good work done by the whole team.

Carlos Rodríguez? (now at Team Ineos).

He has some impressive qualities as a cyclist and as a person. Very exquisite at work, both on a sporting and academic level. I was impressed by the precision in the work he did day by day, it couldn’t have been better. Great coéquipier, working for the team when it was entrusted to him and always very grateful with everything. He is the runner who has given us the most victories as a youth both nationally and internationally.

Juan Pedro López… (riding for Trek-Segafredo).

He’s a great rider, very high quality. Always maintaining a good atmosphere with the rest of the team. He had very good results when still for him, cycling was a game and it was very difficult for him to take care of himself. As soon as he took it seriously, his quality came to the fore in an unquestionable way.

And to finish, Álvaro Cuadros (at Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).

Another rider with great qualities and very brave. A great atmosphere in the team with him. He was one of the first riders we had in the youth team and made impressive exhibitions. His quality has led him to become a great promise.

(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)