Covid-19: Cycling Training & Motivation with Gaby Traxler

cyclist sprinting

Picture this: you’re a professional athlete at the start of the season, your fitness is peaking, you’re itching for competition and ready to go! And then a global pandemic strikes, so what do you do? 

We’re excited to have kicked-off a relationship with Instafund La Prima this year, a UCI Continental Professional Women’s Cycling team based in Canada with a worldly 2020 event calendar. Now with the race season on hold, it’s invigorating to see the projects that they’re continuing to juggle amid a difficult year. We caught up with Gabby Traxler, a 22 year old member of the team to see how things are going for her now and looking forward.

Everything hit the skids by mid-March which is when cycling teams are really starting to hit their stride. What was your immediate reaction?

When everything with Covid-19 starting to become more serious, I was on my way back to Tucson, AZ for my final preparations for the season having just finished off our team camp in California. The day after returning to Tucson, my parents called me concerned about the state of the world and the possibility of the borders being closed between Canada and the United States. As things started to progress, our team staff, parents and I made the decision that I should return to Canada. Right when I returned to Canada, it seemed like a race was getting cancelled each day and within a week, my whole spring season disappeared. My emotions and feelings really went in waves. At first, I was extremely disappointed and discouraged after coming off such a high at team camp. I was more excited and motivated than ever to race with my teammates. I go through low points, feeling sad, anxious and second-guessing everything I do. But I also have days where the sun is shining, the sky is clear and I just enjoy riding my bike and being with my family.

How has motivation been as it pertains to training? Did you decrease volume and intensity or has training doubled down in order to mimic the lost races?

My overall motivation has stayed high. I am very goal focused and for me, my mindset changed from race focused goals to more training goals. My coach and I saw this as an opportunity to try new things and to work on my weaknesses, where in the past I haven’t always had time to do this. When I first returned home in March, it was still snowing and quite cold out. Most of my training consisted of at home strength work and high intensity trainer sessions. When I was able to go outside again, I started increasing volume and doing a lot of long slow rides. I believe for me, I have seen the silver-lining in this situation the past couple of weeks. I have really been able to see where I am lacking in strength and how I can improve. The process is slow but I am committed to put in the work because I know we will be racing again one day.

The “heat of the moment” action in races is irreplaceable, but there are aspects of training that can supersede racing as well. What are ways the team has made the most of the forced time away from competition?

With racing not happening, the team has done an excellent job with communication and coming up with different activities at home we can do to improve on and off the bike. Laura and Shawn, our team directors, have sent out different “homework” tasks for the team to work on. Some of these have been working on new bikes skills, changing flats, working on mindfulness, and recovery techniques. Laura and Shawn have taught us that there are so many others things as cyclists we need to work on other than just being able to win a race.

Here in the beginning of summer, we’re starting to see and hear about cycling races kicking off, especially in Europe. What are the objective next steps to get back into the swing of things?

Being a North American team, it is much harder for us to travel to races in Europe. Our team has taken the difficult but smart decision to not race this year. The team is focused on keeping the riders and staff healthy, as the health and safety of our team is the main priority. I am extremely proud to be a part of a team that puts the wellbeing of the staff and riders above everything else. That being said, it is disappointing, we love to race our bikes and at the end of the day, all we want to do is race again. For right now, I am taking the competitive drive I have to compete and focusing on how to become an overall better cyclist and athlete and focusing on areas I have neglected in the past. With no racing, the team is still focusing on ways we can still come together, to challenge and push each other. hopefully, when it is safe to do so, you will see us all riding together again!

Given a completely atypical year, what are the metrics of success you hope to look back on by the end of 2020?

For me, the biggest area of success would be to not let emotions or anxious thoughts get in my way. I am nervous about not racing this year and how that will affect me as a cyclist. Being a high performance athlete, we are always looking at ways to push ourselves to be better and achieve our goals. But with no racing, I often find myself comparing myself to others and questioning if I am doing the best I can be in this situation? Will I come out stronger or weaker? Am I doing enough? These questions lead me to be even more anxious. When I look back at 2020, I am not going to be checking off specific boxes that I met certain goals to measure my success, but rather I want to say that I was able to control my fear and emotions, and to come out stronger both mentally and physically. Overall, to just trust the process.

We’ve appreciated when a professional cyclist friend of ours referred to his “dessert pocket”. That’s where he stored his favorite ride food (his was a Maple Waffle!) that he’d eat when hit a mid-race milestone. Pass a KOM or make the front group. What are your personal favorites that you store in your dessert pocket?

Anything sweet! If I could keep ice cream in my pocket, I would! 

Thanks very much Gabby for taking the time and thanks to the entire Instafund La Prima team for staying so positive amid these tough times. For more about the team head to their website or stay tuned to their instagram, @instafundlaprima.