Giro d’Italia stage winner Oldani says Italian riders are disadvantaged by altitude tent ban
Stefano Oldani had two Alpecin-Fenix teammates for company in the winning shot of stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia, two more than he had by his side when he was preparing for this race at the summit of Etna last month.
Mathieu van der Poel and most of the Giro d’Italia team selection spent part of April cloistered at the Syncrosfera hotel in Denia, where they slept each night in special atmospheric rooms controlled that allowed them to artificially reproduce the effects of being at altitude. .
Oldani, however, couldn’t join his teammates in Denia. The use of hypobaric chambers by athletes is not only prohibited in Italy, as Lotto discovered when police confiscated their altitude tent at the 2005 Giro, but Italian athletes are also prohibited from enjoying the practice in outside their own country.
“I’m a bit disappointed because it’s an old question,” Oldani said after winning a stage in Genoa. “Nobody took matters into their own hands and thought about the fact that there are maybe only one or two countries in the world – like Italy and, if I’m not mistaken, Norway – where you can’t do that kind of training using altitude simulation.
“I’m upset because it makes me think how far behind other countries we are in Italy. More than three-quarters of the peloton – maybe closer to 90% – use this type of training aid. And I think it would be useful if someone thought about it so that Italian cycling doesn’t have this disadvantage.”
In 2006, the World Anti-Doping Agency considered adding the use of hypoxic chambers to its list of prohibited practices, but ultimately decided not to ban them. “The overwhelming consensus from our health, medical and research committees was that, at this time, it was not appropriate to do so,” said WADA President Dick Pound.
The so-called “hypoxic rooms” – altitude tents in popular parlance – in Denia are the brainchild of former Russian professional Alexandr Kolobnev, and Van der Poel took up a long residency in the Spanish hotel in February so that he was preparing for the Classics. Van der Poel returned to train for the Giro, but Oldani instead embarked on an airtight camp on the side of a volcano.
“For me, it was not easy to go alone to Etna for two weeks to train at altitude while the rest of the team trained together and created group dynamics,” said Oldani. . “They also had mechanics and healers with them. Whereas I was basically alone on Etna. I think that’s something that needs to be looked at and revised.”
Van der Poel
On Thursday’s stage from Parma to Genoa, Oldani was joined by Alpecin-Fenix teammates Van der Poel and Oscar Riesebeek in the decisive move that cleared after a quick 60km opener. At Napoli last weekend, Van der Poel was frustrated with his isolation in the day’s important break, and Alpecin-Fenix’s first aim on Thursday was to ensure the Dutchman had teammates at his side. sides when the first move cleared.
“The plan was to have more than one runner there if a big break came out. We didn’t want to make the same mistake as in Napoli,” Oldani said. “In the end, we were the only team with three in the break. Mathieu was the leader for the day, and I think you saw me bringing him bottles, ice and gels at various times.
“When I followed Lorenzo Rota and the Jumbo-Visma rider [Gijs Leemreize – ed]I was just trying to close them and keep the pace high, but a gap opened up behind us and we got away.”
As Genoa approached, taking the race on the Ponte Morandi, rebuilt after its tragic collapse in 2018, Oldani spoke with friend and compatriot Rota, and each agreed to try their luck in the uphill sprint on Via XX Settembre. After Leemreize’s twin attacks ended in the final kilometer, Oldani had the strength to push Rota back in the sprint.
Crossing the finish line in the shadow of the impressive Palazzo della Borsa, Oldani sat on the ground, barely able to believe he had won his first victory as a professional. The 24-year-old from Milan turned pro with Lotto Soudal in 2020 and has narrowly missed out in the past, finishing fourth on a stage in Foligno at last year’s Giro and second at the Volta Limburg Classic last month.
“I’ve always had a winning mentality, but in the last four years I haven’t won,” Oldani said. “My last victory came as an under-23 rider and I missed having that feeling of victory. .’ But I didn’t want to think about it too much either, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.”