With Winter in full swing in the northern hemisphere, we’ve asked the experts to talk us through the benefits of an off-season training camp. With years of experience of organising supported trips to the likes of Calpe and Gran Canaria, Peter from Arrivee Travel talks us through the benefits.
With the weather forecasts in the UK a seemingly endless procession of single-digit temperatures and cloud symbols, and a full bike wash and degrease now part of every ride ritual, it can seem that the simple joy of riding and training is requiring more mental toughness than you first anticipated.
Of course this won’t last forever, but you will have to tough it out till at least March, when the season starts and you notice the faster riders are suspiciously more tanned compared to your pasty exterior.
These fitter riders, have of course, been on a training camp, maybe even multiple camps, and the truly blessed remote workers and students may have even spent multiple months abroad in Spain, Australia, or in Chris Froome’s case (not that you’ll be racing against him!) - South Africa.
So, you’re thinking, why should I go on a training camp? I get plenty of riding done at home in a mixture of short outdoor rides and turbo sessions. Below are six reasons why a training camp is not only good for your physical fitness, but also your mental well-being.
Sun and warmth, or at least a lack of rain and cold, is the main motivation to going away. This lets you knock out, day after day, huge rides that simply would be miserable and demoralising back in the greyness of home. Plus, it’s always nice to hit the first race of the year with tanned legs whilst the majority of your competitors are pasty.
No2. The Roads
Reason numbers two for a lot of people are the different roads that are available abroad. The highest road in the UK is Great Dun Fell summiting at 835m, but this is extremely exposed and is itself a dead-end. 1000m+ climbs are common abroad and you have the chance to live out your dream of being a world-class climber – that is until an actual world-class climber cruises past you with team car in tow.
Stump up a bit more cash and the Canaries’ 2000m+ climbs are accessible in the winter. The roads are also much better looked after – frost is rare and any roadwork is coordinated amongst utility companies so they only have to dig once. Summer bikes and carbon wheels here!
No3. Less Traffic
Spanish drivers generally have much higher respect for cyclists and you’ll notice this by cars giving you appropriate space when overtaking and patiently holding back when it is unsafe to do so. Spain also has fewer cars than the UK, around 22m compared to 26m, and those cars are spread over roughly double the land area! Baring coastal areas and cities, you can quite easily go out on a couple hours ride and see enough cars to count on both hands.
Spending many hundreds of pounds on a trip away tends to focus your mind somewhat on the reason why you’re going away, after all, you had to justify those same reasons to your significant other!
The motivation starts many months before you take your first pedal stroke in your dream destination. Nobody wants to turn up at a camp overweight and unfit. Yes of course the reason that you’re going in the first place is to increase your fitness, but there is a base level that you need to be at to get the most out of your camp. You’ll be there for a week and want to pack in as much riding as possible. Weight-wise, you shouldn’t look to a training camp to loose weight. You’ll be training hard every day and as a result will need to take on enough nutrition to recover from the days riding AND fuel for the following days’.
It’s not often that you get to ride in a group for an entire week, and this can have many benefits to training. Firstly, riding in a group makes the hours roll by faster, and secondly, more likely than not there’ll be someone better than you and they’ll be able to push you to your limits on the climbs.
Also, when it comes to the latter half of the camp and you’re in a big hole, knowing there’s a group waiting for you in the hotel foyer will get you out on the bike for another marathon ride.
No. 6. Feel Like a Pro
It’s not often you get to do a ride with a support car, mechanics, guides, spare bikes and wheels. Better-equipped camps will have complementary nutrition, media staff and maybe even a scooter for motor pacing. Depending on the area, Calpe in particular seems to be the preferred training spot of about 50% of World Tour teams and countless smaller ones. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to be riding along and a full pro team to overtake you. At this point, it would only be rude NOT to get a tow to the bottom of the Col De Rates or through the tunnels of Mascarat back to the hotel.
If you’ve been training all winter, a training camp is something you should treat yourself to.
Peter is the founder of Arrivee Travel. Take a look at their website for more hints and tips, and to see upcoming camps.