"Science says that you are at your best the first two to three days after returning from altitude" - Analysing differing preparations of Wout van Aert & Mathieu van der Poel

It's not long until one of the great rivalries of modern cycling opens a new chapter with the renewing of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel's battles in the Spring Classics over the coming months.

Whilst both were active over the winter over the cyclocross campaign, van Aert rode a much more reduced schedule than van der Poel. With the superstar duo both targeting glory in the coming Classics however, which of the pair has the advantage? Belgian, Ruud Van Thienen - researcher at Ghent University has analysed the differing preparations and attempted to work out an answer to that question.

"Science says that you are at your best the first two to three days after returning from altitude, or around day fourteen," Van Thienen tells Het Nieuwsblad. "The first days at altitude you have to let your body acclimatize to the lack of oxygen. Energy goes from your system to adapting to the altitude and that is energy that is not available for training. You have to reduce the training volume during your entire altitude training period."

Whilst van Aert has already raced on the road, notably taking victory at Kuurne - Bruxelles - Kuurne, the Belgian recently returned to altitude, skipping Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo to focus on peaking for the Tour of Flanders.

Van der Poel meanwhile, has been staying in the well-known sports hotel Syncrosfera on the Costa Blanca since February 17. Whilst at sea-level, the hotel has state of the art rooms that can simulate the feeling of altitude.

"Theoretically, that is an advantage. During intensive training or if you feel a little less, you can set the height a little lower," says Van Thienen. "And the disadvantage of that altitude room is that you have to spend as much time as possible in your room, which is mentally more demanding. And if, for example, you complete a six-hour endurance training outdoors, that is also six hours in which you have no altitude stimulus, which you would have if you stayed and trained outside at a real altitude."

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