After accumulating many riding successes of her own, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg now captains some of the biggest talents in today's women's peloton at the helm of Trek-Segafredo. Following months of coping with the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions, she's getting the likes of Lizzie Deignan, Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini ready to return to competition.
Were you able to draw on your experience as a rider to accompany your team in the lockdown months?
Ina-Yoko Teutenberg: I think it’s totally different. Even when you have a serious crash, you kind of know: ‘Ok, it will take that long, and I can do this, and then I’ll be back at races…’ The uncertainty at the beginning was the hardest thing. We were sent home from Drenthe and at the time you think it’s gonna be a couple weeks. And then more races get cancelled. It was pushed back several times and I think it was just hard to not know when it would end. There’s a pandemic, with many people dying around the world, so everybody can understand you can’t keep going as usual. But I think it was mentally hard to stay focussed and motivated without having goals relating to races, not knowing what’s coming, especially in this year. Everyone was on top of their training and extremely motivated with the Olympics. Now it becomes easier with dates that the girls can work towards.
How are you feeling ahead of the return to road racing?
IYT: I think we’re ready. The girls were good at staying on top of things. They are motivated and in good shape. There’s still a lot to figure out with the medical protocol and how we’re gonna do on races, what are the best ways to travel… This is part of the process and I think we’ll be facing these types of questions for a while. We all have to get used to it. Some things are not as predictable as they were before.
What do you try to provide to your riders in this context?
IYT: I think the most essential part is the mental support. Some went through phases where they trained very well but were not feeling good. You need to be supportive. I’m not involved in the training anyway, I do the racing planning. We would discuss anything and it was also important to explain to them it’s normal, everybody goes through ups and downs in uncertain times. I wanted to be available, be there to help them get through these times mentally.
What kind of adjustments do you have to make as we head towards the return to competition?
IYT: I prepare my stuff roughly the same way I used to. I’m probably working closer with the doctors to try and figure out the testing process and the hygiene rules we need to follow. Single rooms? How are we going to behave in the bus? It gets more precise as we get closer to the races and once we get to the camp, we need to make sure everybody gets used to what we have to do now. We’ve been doing things a certain way for twenty years and we have to acknowledge that we can’t anymore. I think there will be adjustments for everybody. But these last four months have been all about adjusting, for everyone and in every aspect of your life.
“Everybody in the peloton will want to win the first Paris-Roubaix”
The new calendar has totally reshaped the season. Does it change your ambitions on the road?
IYT: It’s always about winning. With the first weekend of racing in Spain [Trek-Segafredo will race the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, the Clasica Feminina Navarra and the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria between 23rd and 26th July], we have a training camp in the Basque Country. We’ll get used to the procedures and have some good racing. Then we still have the same goals. Strade Bianche (1st August) is always a big goal and we’re looking forward to it as the season restarts. I think the girls who know they can race really well there will be ready. We want to do well at all the WorldTour races and the Giro d’Italia is a big focus for us. All this hasn’t changed.
And there will be a new Classic with the first women’s race at Paris-Roubaix…
IYT: Everybody is excited about it. It’s one of those races you always watch on TV. It’s unpredictable, it’s just epic. To have the chance to experience a race like this, to race on those cobbles, it’s a really big deal for the women’s calendar and I think everybody will be super motivated. Everybody in the peloton will want to win the first Paris-Roubaix. Our service course is in Belgium so once the restrictions were a little bit looser, we took Lucinda [Brand] and Ellen [van Dijk] and we went to Arenberg, to see what kind of bikes they want to use, and we rode the last 50km of the men’s race. The girls loved it. We had a really good day out there.
You’re participating in the Virtual Tour de France. How important is this event to you?
IYT: It’s huge publicity, one of the biggest virtual races there’s ever been. We can see how many teams are competing and the media presence. The girls are motivated to show where they are and they’re racing against the best which provides hard-fought races. Nobody wants to show they haven’t trained well in the last months!