We ride in the cold

We ride in the cold

"I never suffer from cold weather in a race."
Wout van Aert

The Challenge

Wind, rain, snow, frigid cold—Team Jumbo-Visma will face winter’s worst this season. Professional bike racers have to be as hard as nails.

Toughness alone doesn’t win bike races though. Winners are intelligent.

They know that kilojoules shivered away are kilojoules wasted, when they have to save every ounce of energy they have for the final kilometres. And they can’t just skip a day of training because it snowed or the temperature dropped. It is likely to be just as cold on race day, and they won’t be competitive if that cold comes as a shock.

To race at the front of a classic or grand tour stage requires total concentration. A racer needs to keep a cool head, and to keep a cool head, he needs to keep warm. If his core temperature has fallen or his fingers are too cold to work his shifters, he won’t be fully focused. He won’t be able to race his best.

Still, even in sub-zero temperatures, riders will often race the finale of a classic with bare legs and as little extra kit as possible. No one wants to launch his sprint with a jacket in his pocket, thick mitts on his hands, or a wet warmer around his neck. During the most intense moments of a race, a rider’s body produces a tremendous amount of heat. The races Team Jumbo-Visma rides are often over 200 kilometres long and can last five or six hours though. Saving energy for those crucial moments is all-important. When the pace drops, riders can quickly get chilled and lose a lot of valuable energy. That is why layering is so vital.

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Rider Experience

Rider Experience

“I remember one year at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, it was blowing so hard that garbage cans were flying across the road. And it was raining. And I think it was only four degrees or so. Twenty kilometres before the finish the DS forced me to get into the car. I had stopped to try and put on a dry rain jacket, but he told me to get in; it was hopeless.” — Jos van Emden

Polartec Alpha

Military spec insulation for changing winter conditions

Solutions

On their coldest training days, the riders will head out in windproof tights with a long-sleeved merino baselayer and a long-sleeved, water-repellant thermal jersey, often with an additional vest or winter jacket over top. The winter jacket that AGU issued the team features a Polartec Alpha interior.  Polartec Alpha was first engineered for the U.S. military. Designed for start-stop combat, the soft, fleecy material retains just the right amount of body heat and is very breathable, so riders can maintain a comfortable body temperature in drastically changing conditions. The fabric is extremely lightweight and compressible and does not retain moisture.

If the temperature is close to freezing, neoprene shoe covers are a must, especially if the road is wet, as is a thermal cap and a neck warmer. Team Jumbo Visma’s riders need never have cold hands. AGU’s Deep Winter lobster gloves could handle an arctic expedition.

For racing in the cold, every rider on Team Jumbo Visma has several pairs of custom-made fleece-lined thermal bibshorts. Hardly any thicker or heavier than their regular bibs, these provide a welcome layer of insulation for cold-weather racing and feature a special Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating. This hydrophobic treatment ensures that water beads on the material’s surface and cannot be absorbed by its fibres.

On cold days, the riders will wear these shorts with a short-sleeved merino base layer and a thermal race jersey, along with arm warmers and long-fingered gloves.  Merino wool is a very fine, lightweight, and soft wool, which retains a great deal of warmth but will keep the riders’ bodies cool when they are working hard.

The thermal race jersey AGU made for the team also features an insulated lining and DWR coating. It looks and feels just like a regular jersey.

The riders might start the race with legs warmers on and a vest or lightweight jacket over their jerseys. A cycling cap is the classic way to shield their eyes from spray from the road and add a bit of insulation under their helmets. Before the racing really gets going, they will drop back to their team cars to strip off their extra kit. Each rider has a bag in the car to keep his excess clothing. The DS might even give them a swig of hot tea, before ordering them back to the front.

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Rider Experience

“The races that I am focused on all take place in the spring, when it can be very cold with really bad weather, so it’s really important to have a lot of options for all of the layers you have on during the race. It can be very cold in the morning at the start and by the finale you’re warm, so it has to be very easy to switch between them. That is something a classics rider has to pay more attention to than someone who is in the Tour de France and is always riding in the sun.” — Wout van Aert

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Other Ways to Keep Warm

Eat more

Some riders put foot warmers in their shoes or thin plastic bags over their socks. In the cold, the riders have to eat more as well, as their bodies use a lot of energy to maintain healthy temperatures.

Ride harder

The best trick to stay warm though is just to ride harder.

"I never suffer from cold weather in a race. If I feel well, I’m so focused on the race and everything that is happening that I have less of a problem with the cold than others, I think. That will be an advantage in the spring. It is important that you dress smartly and put on the right things, of course."

Wout van Aert

Process

Working with Team Jumbo-Visma’s riders and performance staff is central to AGU’s research and development strategy. Together, they have already produced several iterations of the team’s cold-weather kit and made custom versions of it to fit the dimensions of each of the racers. The team has been training with it for months and is very satisfied. It will soon make its way onto shelves in AGU’s clothing for everyday riders.

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Rider Experience

“That was one of the most remarkable editions of the Strade Bianche in recent years, and for me it was the first year that I stood on the start. And I think that from racing the cyclocross season in the winter, I am well-armed against the cold weather. That did help me, but I had my rain jacket on the whole day, and the mistake I definitely won’t make this year is to not get a bar out from under my raincoat to eat every once in a while, because that is actually what went wrong last year, and that’s why I went completely empty at the end and almost didn’t make it to the finish. So that’s a point to improve this year.” Wout van Aert

Polartec Alpha Vest

Featherweight warmth

Future Developments

AGU’s lightweight and insulated waterproof and windproof kit is prepared for the coldest winter days. AGU’s designers are presently experimenting with new high-tech materials and production techniques to make it even more streamlined, so Team Jumbo-Visma’s riders can compete on the coldest of days with little extra bulk and the best aerodynamics possible.

Rider Experience

“I remember one day in Paris-Nice that I had it so awfully cold. Snow was falling. The windspeed was at five, I think. The stage was 210 kilometres long. Yeah, that was a real drama. I think I raced with 3 raincoats on. I couldn’t open the zipper any more. I had two pairs of gloves on. That was really a hard stage.” — Dylan Groenewegen

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