Koen Pelgrim is the trainer of Quick-Step Floors, and a personal link to the Sport & Science aspect of the team, as he is also a staff member at Bakala Academy. Koen, a Master in Human Movement Sciences, coordinates the training, testing, and performance analysis of the team. An important resource, he is involved in exercise physiology and sports nutrition as it pertains to improving cycling performance.
“I did my thesis in Leuven with Professor Peter Hespel, and when I finished my Master’s I started working in the field,” Pelgrim said. “I worked at first with young riders, to test them, develop their talents, and advise them. In the meantime I got to know the team of Quick-Step Floors when they needed performance testing for the riders. Then, when the team needed a trainer, they asked me to join. Also, Bakala Academy opened. So, doors opened and I walked through them.”
Pelgrim said his interest in cycling began when he was a rider himself, from 15 until the age of 23. “When I was riding I was always interested in training and how to improve, and the science behind it," Pelgrim said. "So, I found out you can study something like that through Human Movement Sciences. I was also really interested in Exercise physiology. So, all these things just came together in an interesting way. Today with power meters there is so much data. You can analyze things more and more. Before all you had was speed, then they had heart rate. Now the data of performance is all there. You can see the way time trialists pace themselves, and compare performances of climbers based on things like body weight, and that’s just a couple examples. For me, I try to prepare the rider for racers and help them improve. If you see them improve it’s really satisfying. Even something like young riders exceeding expectations. You can see the big steps.”
Pelgrim said every rider is different for how they utilize data compared to riding by “feel.” “Some people are really analytic and they want to see the data to understand where they’re going," Pelgrim said. "Other people think it’s useful, but rely more on the feeling. It’s very individualized. The truth is somewhere in the middle. The data is important, but the sensations you have as a rider is also really key. You should never just use one or the other. The data tells you something if you consider the sensations you felt. You can see the heart rate and how hard they push, but it’s important to speak to the riders and know if they felt tired or fresh and how they perceived the effort. We have to work closely with each rider to understand their individual personalities and goals, and design the right racing programs together with the Quick-Step Floors Sport Directors. This can’t be possible without communication with the riders and understanding how to use data. It's a big puzzle we have to solve considering everything. It's a lot of work, but I love to do it.”