The Ardennes campaign in lockdown: Sonny Colbrelli and the appeal of the côtes

The UCI has just officially issued a new calendar for the 2020 cycling season with the re-positioning of the three grand tours, but uncertainty still tinges the lockdown days. In these days of late April the Ardennes campaign should have been under way, and we have asked Sonny Colbrelli, an athlete from the Sidi squad who won the Brabantse Pijl in 2017, to tell us about his quarantine but also… about the appeal of the historic côtes (climbs) of the Ardennes classics, to help us dream at home too.  


It is a very difficult time for everyone as it is for cycling and sport in general. These days I try not to think too much about the current situation and instead I enjoy my family as much as I can because, once the season starts off again, I won’t have much time for that. This is definitely the positive aspect of this forced stop: taking care of your beloved ones and your home – tidying up and, why not, doing some little jobs that you kept procrastinating about.

For sure, the worst is that you cannot take your bike out and ride it, enjoying the spring days. A rider is always used to freeing his mind while pedalling. That’s why it’s no fun to see some colleagues being able to train outdoors, whereas I am forced to ride on the rollers, but I try to think positive and be patient. The routine has changed for everyone, of course. Mine – just like many others’ – is paced by indoor exercises. Every day I train on the rollers for two and a half/three hours. When I make it, I do four hours of training, but not more, split in two sessions. One hour in the morning before breakfast and another hour and a half in the afternoon, when I do some work to maintain my muscle tone. Then, I do floor exercises and stretching.


This is the Ardennes week and it is so strange to think that the Belgian côtes will not be set alight with the fire of competition. They are really difficult and tough races because their courses feature many meters of elevation gain, so they are almost easier for a climber than a rouleur like me. However, those races are so fascinating, especially the Amstel Gold Race that, I think, is the most beautiful one. But in 2017 I sprinted and won the Brabantse Pijl. It had been thirteen years since an Italian had claimed the win and it was a great honor for me. That’s a somewhat mixed race, unlike the others: some sections are on pavé and the short climbs are not so hard – a really nice combination of Belgian and Dutch Classics. To win this kind of race, you need a great team that supports you a hundred percent as well as good legs and the ability to know how to read the race and always at the front when the peloton hits the climbs. 

The last Spring Classics are always a pure energy boost. Now, if I need a boost to break the monotony of the training, I switch on Spotify and listen to all kinds of music, from Vasco to house music – even the most commercial kind – and with the most inspiring… I turn it on full blast! Never lose the motivation.