The off-season is a time when professional riders enjoy kicking up their feet and kicking back; lying on a beach or spending time at home to soak up the precious few moments of down time in a hectic year of speed, stress, sacrifice.
So what did Tiffany Cromwell do with her off-season? She ran a marathon, of course, in a pretty decent time of 3:21 and at the beginning of a city break to Budapest.
“Mentally I was recovered from the season quite soon so I needed something to do, then I got the idea to do a marathon. I was like, ‘where do I want to go? Oh yeah Budapest. Do they have one? OK yes, and that gives me a month’s training. That will be enough’,” she says.
“I flew in the day before the marathon, did that, and then had two days to hobble around. I was broken, for sure, but I could use the city bikes there and be like an elderly woman.”
Not for her a laid back few weeks of sun, sand and sitting back; Cromwell’s autumn included one of Europe’s biggest mountain bike races, the Roc d’Azur, sessions of boxercise in the gym, a rowing event with the charity Outward Bound, which aims to encourage young people to practise sport, a trip to New York and then the Rouleur Classic in London.
“If I do the same thing over and over, it’s monotonous for me, I need that new challenge,” the Canyon-SRAM rider says.
But even for someone like Cromwell, a fast-talking ball of energy who refuses to sit around and do nothing, the off-season is an essential component of a cyclist’s year.
From the outside it might look like losing a season’s worth of fitness and training to indulge in several weeks of eating, drinking, lazing about (or running marathons) is a colossal waste.
However that period of physical switching off pays dividends for high-octane bodies that are asked to hit high revs from January through to October, with that period of downtime allowing greater physical peaks during the season.
Then there’s the mental aspect of switching off from a sport that demands utmost commitment and sacrifice; whether they’ve had good seasons or bad seasons riders count down the days until they can come down from their high or put their lows behind them and restart.
“It’s the mental thing more than anything. You’re on the road all the time, you’ve got the stress of having to train for the right schedule, to do efforts, to hurt yourself.
“And also this is a time for family, relationships. It’s a time to enjoy them, it’s not like, ‘oh no I can’t go and do something fun because I have to race and I have to recover’.”
Like all good things, however, the off-season has to come to an end and those hedonistic autumnal activities get put back into a box for another 11 months. In Cromwell’s case she’ll wave goodbye to the running shoes and the rowing blades, but perhaps not the boxing gloves.
“I’d be open to seeing how we can incorporate that into my training because it’s a core and strength session, and high intensity too. Sometimes my coach is like, ‘what planet is she on?’ But stuff like hiking, rowing, running; I certainly won’t be doing that in the season.”