An interview with ABUS Le Col’s elite cyclist Belgian Lennert Teugels.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do? What do you like to do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
I’m Lennert Teugels, 29 years old and currently living in Wetteren, Belgium, with my girlfriend Laura (a cyclist and occasional Zwifter), my cat, and two giant rabbits. I have studied for six years in Ghent as a land surveyor, but since 2018 my life has been 100% cycling as that’s when I turned professional.
My girlfriend and my family are both very supportive of cycling. To show how important cycling is in my life, I will tell you about my first holiday with my girlfriend after the road season in October. We took our bikes just in case, but it was off-season. After two days of being tourists, we both admitted we would rather just ride our bikes. So the rest of the week became nothing more than a duo training camp.
What is your cycling story? When did you start competing, and what is your racing history? What is your most significant accomplishment racing on the road?
My love for cycling grew as a small boy, spending the summers on my grandparent’s farm. I watched the Tour de France, and that’s where the dreams started. However, I first played football till 15 years old, starting cycling myself only at 16 or 17.
I didn’t know much about training or materials, so it was just a hobby until I was 23 or 24 years old and graduated. I joined a continental team, and since then, it has gotten better year by year. I think the best is yet to come, despite my age.
My biggest accomplishment on the road was the win of the 3rd stage of the Hellas Tour in 2022.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
Like many, it started during the Covid time. However, only in the fall of 2020. As there had not been many races during the summer, I wasn’t tired in October, so I tried Zwift Racing. Sportsolid contacted me, and later I joined the top team BZR-Sportsolid (Now Abus LeCol), and they taught me everything I had to know.
My best virtual performance would be the two wins in the Premier Division, especially the one in Yorkshire.
Tell us about your esports team. How has racing with your team prepared you for this moment? Is there anything unique about your team that has contributed to your success?
ABUS-Le Col is a team with Belgium riders only, and I think that is very unique. It’s easy to grab the best eracers in the world together in one unit and let them win, but that’s not our way of working. Many of our riders (including me) grew so much in the team.
Some evolved from mediocre Zwift riders to world top because of all the support. The local character of the team gives it a unique vibe, we all know each other personally, and most of the team I know in real life. We also do meetups sometimes. I’m very proud to be part of it.
For a frame of reference, how tall are you, and approximately how much do you weigh in competition? What is your indoor PB for Peak Power, 15-second, 1-minute, 5-minutes, and 20-minutes?
I’m 173cm tall (however, in the evening nowadays, only 172, maybe I should make a new height video, I’m getting old 🙂 ) and about 64-65 kg.
Indoor PB’s: 1100W (1s), 980W (15s) 700W (1m), 480W (5M), 410 (20m)
Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
My rider type is a difficult one. I have always thought I was a climber with only good endurance. Since I started eracing, I also noticed that I neglected my anaerobic capacity for many years because of ‘bad’ training.
I trained around 25-30 hours a week (even during winter) with very few intervals, only the famous grey zone. Decreasing my hours and increasing time in the anaerobic zone pushed me more towards the ‘puncher’ profile, something I also showed this year outside with some sprint and punch results.
I will never have the ultimate peaks, but I can hold a sprint quite long. The downside of the medal is my pure climbing decreased a bit. I can only do it on the power, out of the saddle.
What is your go-to training workout, and why do you enjoy it so much? Has your training emphasis and philosophy changed to make you a more successful eracer?
I like endurance riding on the road, but I use Zwift races to train in the anaerobic zone. Having a goal is nice, not just having pain for nothing. I feel like I need to race at least twice a week to keep my ‘punch.’
What are your short and long-term esport goals? Do they involve becoming the UCI Cycling Esports World Champion? What does that mean to you?
My main focus will now be road cycling, as I just joined a Pro Team. The date of the Esports Worlds (end of February) is a bit bad timing for the road racers, as the Europe road races have already started (There’s a chance I will be in Spain or France at that time).
I will discuss my program with the team soon, and it will be apparent if I can ride the UCI Worlds Esports. Last year I had to skip it too.
For sure, the UCI Worlds is the biggest thing in Esports, and it’s my biggest goal to get that jersey once in my life. We will see! If not, it can be an objective for after my professional career.
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
I think my aggressive race style, however, that’s changing. When I started, there were barely any attacks in Zwift racing. But my successes showed it’s possible, and I now see a lot of other riders racing more openly and aggressively.
It’s great to see that Zwift is more than a sprinters platform only. Apart from that, I’m a bit good at everything, but I don’t stand out in anything.
How much do you factor in the gamification side of esports? Is there a learning curve that you must master? How vital are PowerUps and other things unique to virtual cycling?
I think it’s a big misunderstanding of Zwift’s technicality, which doesn’t include only powerups. Momentum, drafting, technique on a smart trainer, knowing the lap and finish, it’s an incredible learning process. Watts are essential, but not all.
I would say I’m still learning, even after two years and about 300 races. I like the concept of powerups, as it creates more tactical options, but there are options to improve them (for example, less randomness or the Ghost longer than 10 sec).
Do you feel cycling esports will ever gain acceptance as a trusted discipline and gain popularity as a unique discipline? What challenges does it face?
Eracing will eventually become a full side-discipline of cycling, like track or cyclocross, but there are indeed some challenges. Accuracy of trainers, of course, but also verification and making it interesting to see for spectators. I think eracing is still looking for its own identity in the formats.
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
My setup is in my house’s spare room, which we don’t heat during winter. In combination with 2 (cheap) fans, it’s pretty cold in the middle of the winter, but that’s, in my opinion, the key to a good performance. I perform worse in hot circumstances.
In the last five years of cycling, I have performed the same power on about ten different power sources, so I know my limits, and because of road cycling, I also know how they compare to the world top.
You can’t do more than calibrate your power meter and smart trainer correctly. I ride on a Wahoo Kickr V5 and various power meters as dual recording.
Some cynics and detractors don’t trust the legitimacy of esports. What do you say to those who question the integrity and ability for a level playing field between competitors? What challenges does esports face in becoming recognized as a trusted competition venue?
The last step the Zwift Grand Prix made (only 1% accurate trainers) was a good one. I also had to invest in a top model trainer, but if you compare the level now to before, it feels a lot more ‘normal’ to me.
Some smart trainers had overshooting in sprints, which is clearly gone now. Sometimes lower category races (without performance verification) have higher-level than the Zwift GP or other big races. Then you know something is off.
The system as it is now is pretty stable. Cheating is probably still possible, but you already need to be very smart (or dumb?).
Many of your fellow elite eracers have been publicly critical of the lack of standardization in esports. What is your view on the topic?
The 1% accuracy is about the limit. Going towards the same trainer for everyone is an option, but I’m not an engineer. It might be that the accuracy difference between the same trainers can be just as big as the difference between different brands. We also have to ensure we don’t make it too strict, which can be a big dealbreaker for new riders joining eracing. We need to accept that technology can fail.
You are deeply involved in cycling and how it relates to the elite esports scene. How has the landscape changed during that time, and where do you see it going?
I see an evolution from scratch formats to more exotic formats. I wasn’t enthusiastic initially, as my principle of racing is first over-the-line wins, coming from road cycling. But I have to say I like the shorter races too, where tactical choices need to be made (for example, choosing if you play the intermediate points or saving everything for the finish).
The problem with scratch races is the exaggerated pack speeds in bigger groups, making breakaways on some laps impossible. So there are two options: make pelotons smaller (this is also happening) or make races longer. But about this last option, the spectators might not be interested.
What is esports' future amidst the multiple-platform landscape, and where would you like to be positioned?
I think Esports is the discipline with possibly the biggest growing range of them all, but at this moment, it’s too much of a niche sport. Maybe it needs input from other disciplines to get it really off the ground for the bigger public.
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
As mentioned before, I’m starting to like it more and more. But there is still some work. Some of the concepts are too complicated for the riders and spectators. It can be tactical, but you need to be careful that it’s not more thinking than pushing the pedals. But there is potential, for sure!
Esports has come a long way in a short time. What do you envision it will be like in five years and further into the future? What will it take to get it there?
It will grow, but I have to say I expected it to grow faster. I don’t feel the community is growing explosively, as I expected from a digital platform. To race on the highest level is a time and money-consuming hobby (Zada test, figuring everything out), with very few returns (a virtual number on the internet).
If there were more races with prize money, there would be more interest too. The step to sponsored teams is being made, but it will take some more years to develop like road cycling teams.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you? Please?!?
I never race without music, especially since the Belgian techno, house, and trance scene of the 90s is always on while racing. I hope my neighbors like it too!
The floor is yours! Is there anything you would like to say?
A big thanks to my team Abus Lecol and all the riders on Zwift. I’m having a lot of fun during the races!
Thank you, Lennert!
Anything you’d like to ask Lennert?
Ask away. Comment below! I’ll see what I can do.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!