It’s fair to say that the man in charge of Team Alpecin, therefore, holds the reins to every amateur cyclist’s biggest dream.

Each application needs to impress former pro Jörg Ludewig. Based in Bielefeld, Northern Germany, Ludewig is head of sports marketing for the Dr Wolff Group and responsible for putting together the “pro package” that so many people dream of. “I’m well attuned to this because I’m probably the ultimate pro amateur. After leaving the pro ranks I knew I wasn’t going to try and replicate my career; I’ve turned into a weekend warrior,” he says with his characteristic good humour. When Jörg gets time to ride now, it is his hour-long bike commute, twice a day. Alongside his role in charge of marketing for the team Alpecin-Fenix pros as well the Team Alpecin amateurs and running the brand’s exclusive RIDE LIKE A PRO events, he has a farm to run and a daughter to bring up. It doesn’t leave much time to train, so he makes these hours count — something that’s key to connecting with the amateurs in the team.

Team Alpecin’s pro package consists of a season spent riding the industry’s pinnacle products and receiving first-rate advice and coaching. In more detail, this includes guaranteed entry to sell-out events like the Ötztaler Radmaraton and the Etape du Tour, delivery of a top-specced Canyon Endurace CF SLX Disc Di2 team bike, full ASSOS kit, personalised training plans and invites to all-inclusive training camps in South Tyrol where the experience exceeds the expectations of even the most demanding pro cyclist—massage and cuisine included. In short, Team Alpecin is designed to have you riding faster by the end of the year and leave you reeling at the experience you’ve just had.

“When road cycling in Germany imploded with the doping scandals of the early 2000s, there was the sense that something really had to change. The editor of Road Bike magazine proposed an amateur project to rejuvenate the sport that we all love so much. By the second year of the project, we’d got some of the sport’s biggest names on board — ASSOS, Specialized, and Lightweight,” explains Lude. This ensured that the project had the authenticity not only in its staff — top coaches, mechanics, nutritionists, and biomechanists — but also its equipment.

For 2020, Team Alpecin has had to take a slightly different approach, but the principle remains the same: “We’ve had to adapt to a more digital style, but it’s working really well and, who knows, hopefully we can go analogue again before the end of the year. The bonds are forming through weekly video calls, Zwift meet-up rides and workshops where we go through key elements, like bike fitting, layering your apparel, and how exactly to set up your Speedplay pedals with the Northwave shoes. These are the topics where you really benefit from expert advice and luckily we’re still able to provide that while keeping the mood up. It was a shame not to kick off the season with our camp in Caldaro/Kaltern, but the kit drops that went out to all the riders — 14 of them in 5 different countries — made a really big impact.”

Left: © Lorena Strohner | Right: © Tim Jud

© Tim Jud

Even 13 years into the project, Team Alpecin still feels as fresh and as relevant as ever. With their virtual approach for 2020, they’ve been able to connect with even more cyclists than ever before. In March, they launched the Alpecin Cycling Challenge — an online portal for one-to-one coaching, designed to bring about improvements in your FTP. The first round of the Challenge culminates in the follow-up FTP test on July 15, where once again pros like Mathieu van der Poel will participate beside the amateurs. “That’s the next milestone,” confirms Lude, “it’s where we’ll look closely at how everyone has developed in the past 3 months and analyse their improvements. By autumn, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get some real-life events off the ground; a long training weekend in South Tyrol would be ideal.”

We are also excited to see Team Alpecin take to the roads, but until then, we’re happy to see that all the riders are making the most of their equipment. We caught up with three of them to see how they’re getting on:

Hugo Foulon, 27 from Rouen, France:

“I’ve called myself a cyclist for the past 10 years but before the Alpecin Cycling program, I had never ridden a road bike. I was a fixed gear rider, racing high-level crits. I signed up for the team because I wanted to learn how to ride a road bike and become as strong (or maybe even stronger) than I could be on my fixed-gear bike. I also want to inspire people, travel, meet beautiful people, and share these experiences. Because of Covid-19, this adventure hasn’t yet been what it was supposed to be, but we are positive. The team spirit is incredibly strong. We’re managed like pro athletes at distance and it’s so motivating. The trainings are hard and I’ve genuinely never been so fit.

For now, Alpecin is pushing me to the next level and I’m ready to fight.”

Ahead of the team’s first FTP test, team member Anna Nusser had this to say: “It doesn’t actually matter how this test goes. It isn’t about how good I am NOW, but about how good I WILL BE at the end of the season spent with all this pro equipment. I’m still a bit nervous and do not really want to see my fitness data stripped back. Soon it’s time for the live meeting to begin and there’s no way out of this.”

Team Alpecin 2020 teammate and former international rower Steph Clutterbuck used the UK’s lockdown to ride a virtual LEJOG — Lands End to John O’Groats — covering 1,394.76 km in 41 hours 46 minutes on Zwift. Her motivation to join Team Alpecin goes like this:

“I watched the journey of the Team Alpecin members throughout 2019 because a friend of mine was on it. She had an incredible time and grew in confidence on the bike. Cycling has pulled me out of a difficult place with my mental health after retiring from rowing, and it felt like the perfect opportunity and team to continue to enjoy this incredible sport. The experience has been amazing and very unique so far! While it is a shame we haven’t been able to go on camps, race, or (for most of us) even meet each other, we speak every week and the care packages have lifted spirits in lockdown. It’s definitely been hard not knowing what all this is “for” if we can’t race, but the team have been brilliant at keeping excitement and motivation levels high.”