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Freddie Scheske interview: adventures in the school of time-trialling

The Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling rider discusses his transition to time-trialling

Over the last few seasons, 26-year-old Freddie Scheske has steadily made a name for himself on the British domestic scene. 

After learning his race craft with the University of Exeter cycling team, he stepped up to the UCI Continental level in 2019 with Cherie Pridham’s Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother squad. The sports science graduate quickly established himself as a fine criterium rider that season, a win at the Salisbury round of the Tour Series in 2019 his most notable result. But his move across to Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling in 2021 has resulted in a new focus on another discipline. Yes, you guessed it: time-trialling. 

My eyes have been opened to all the gains that are out there when you’re going solo in a crit or a road race

The Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling squad has become synonymous with time-trialling, especially with the aero know-how of rider Dan Bigham a key part of the set-up. Freddie has been quick to take advantage of this in-house expertise, keen to enhance his prowess in the race against the clock.

Joe Laverick caught up with him last month to see how his transition to time-trialling is going, and what his goals are for the rest of the season.

Freddie at the 2021 Tour Series. Photo: James Huntly

Freddie, how are you settling into the team?

With the calendar changing around there have been fewer opportunities to get together. When we have been together though, it’s been a really good atmosphere. It’s business, and you’ve got a job to do. But outside of the racing job, it’s a jokey environment. 

In cycling, you don’t see each other that often, especially if you live down in Devon where I was. I found previously that you don’t talk to your teammates until the day of the race. At Ribble, we have a good group chat, and everyone’s friendly. It feels like a band of friends who race hard together and treat it seriously. Whereas other teams maybe try to be too professional. There is a time and a place for it, but sometimes you need to be a bit more relaxed.

Why is there the new focus on time-trialling? It’s fair to say you’re better known as a crit-rider.

It was originally because of the Tour of Britain. Time-trialling has been neglected by some of the bigger teams and we think that if we’re put on a level playing field, we can hold a candle to the World Tour squads. We originally aimed to win the [stage 3] team time trial, but the route is hillier than we were expecting. A hillier route negates some of the aero work that we’ve done and plays more into the hands of pure power, although we do still think we’ve got a chance of positioning ourselves up there, if not taking the win.

Photo: James Huntly

Do you have any personal goals on the TT bike?

The German national champs were an objective, but they’ve already passed. There was a spike in COVID cases in the UK at the time and restrictions on travel to Germany were increased, it made the whole thing unfeasible. I think the CTT national 10-Mile TT will be a good target, as well as the circuit champs. I haven’t looked at the dates for them yet, but I’ll definitely do the 10.

My outright power hasn’t increased by much, but I’m down by a minute and a half on a 10, and that’s just by getting lower and being able to hold the same power

How has the transition to time-trialling been for you?

I’ve always enjoyed time-trialling, but I’ve never really had the support. Joining Ribble Weldtite, with all their time-trialling pedigree, has given me that, from equipment through to aero testing. And then just through Dan [Bigham] too. The amount of training I’ve been doing on the TT bike has made a huge difference. My outright power hasn’t increased by much, but I’m down by a minute and a half on a 10, and that’s just by getting lower and being able to hold the same power. Through the winter I spent 10 to 15 hours per week on the TT bike.

Freddie winning the Salisbury round of the 2019 Tour Series. Photo: David Hares

I guess there has been a change in your actual training too?

I feel like I’ve done more steady-state and threshold work but had less focus on my peak power. At the beginning of this year, I was starting to get a bit concerned because my peak power was a good 400 watts lower than it was in 2019. That was at the end of winter, I did a few intensity sessions, and the peak power came straight back again. So, I don’t think I’m lacking at the top end, and I’ve definitely got an increased threshold. It’s a win-win.

Has your road racing benefitted from the new TT focus?

My eyes have been opened to all the gains that are out there when you’re going solo in a crit or a road race. When I won the Salisbury round of the Tour Series, I was solo for the final 20 minutes, so aero plays a part in winning some races. If I can get more aero on the road bike using some of my TT knowledge, then that makes the solo win all the easier. In the bunch, aero is still a thing but something such as positioning is more important. 

If you can physically adapt to a more efficient position there are huge gains to be made

What’s the secret to Ribble Weldtite’s aerodynamic prowess?

A lot of it is down to Dan’s expertise, it wouldn’t be possible without him. He’s been guiding us a lot which then cuts down the number of actual testing days required. At our testing days, we concentrate on seeing how equipment interacts with different riders. For example, on some people the POC Tempor is a fast helmet, on others, it’s a slow helmet. There’s no way of finding that out other than gathering data. Playing around with your position is another big thing. Although I’m not going to delve into all the secrets, if you can physically adapt to a more efficient position there are huge gains to be made.

Since joining Ribble Weldtite, I’ve kept a spreadsheet of all the aero-testing that I’ve done. Most of it has been on the open roads with the Notio, as COVID has made it difficult to get into the velodrome. My CdA now sits around 0.197, which is down from just over 0.2. In the last seven months, I’ve saved 5w in aero alone, or around 0.5sec/km at 45kph.

The biggest difference for me was when I got hold of some of the Wattshop Anemoi Aero Extensions. The extensions themselves don’t make a huge aerodynamic difference, but they lock you into your position. Being locked in makes it much easier to be in control of the bike while being in the optimal position. The team works well with its sponsors. Our new sponsorship with the Wahoo Speedplay pedals makes a biomechanical efficiency gain too as you can lower the stack on your cleats and bring your saddle down. Bringing all of that together improves the whole system’s efficiency.

Photo: James Huntly

Talking of biomechanics, how’s your degree coming along?

I’ve just finished my Sport and Exercise degree at Exeter. That mainly focuses on biomechanics in running, rather than cycling. There are some things that translate over through leg kinematics though. Having your legs moving more efficiently can have a huge physiological difference to your power output without gaining any fitness. My degree has also helped with things such as nutrition, and how important it is to fuel correctly both in training and racing.

Have you enjoyed having your degree as a focus away from racing?

Everyone operates differently, but I’ve always trained the hardest and most effectively when I’ve had less time to train. There have been periods when I’ve not had much uni work and had too much time to kill. In those times, I don’t seem to train as hard. Having something to keep me focussed helps me a lot.

What’s your next step after completing your degree?

Now that I’ve finished my degree, I’m purely focused on my cycling for a while. I’m going to spend the rest of the year searching for some more gains in aerodynamics on the TT bike and then aim to have a good ride at the German national championships next year.

Featured photo: James Huntly