Carry on camping

It’s coming up for training camp season, the time of the year that the riders who’ve been on vitamin D supplements since ‘that week in July’ that they last got some sun shining on their skin decide to go abroad, with a bike. We/they decide to visit hot southern coasts & islands in search of a ‘fast looking’ tan or possibly some decent form for the upcoming season. The realities are often different, too many pizza’s at Tolo’s, too many post ride bieres, and too many colds brought back home after a pile of time on the bike and a weakened immune system, can lead to putting on weight & getting ill. But do it right and the training camp is an incredibly useful & enjoyable tool towards a great season, do it wrong and you’ll be in your bed & off work for a couple of weeks on your return, it’s often down to your own choices.

Training camp types

On your pre-season training camp, you’ll either be going there with friends, clubmates (possibly not all your friends), complete strangers on an organised training camp (with possibly a cycling celebrity host), or a mix of all of these. Here are some of the individuals you’ll encounter in the sunshine.

#1: The ‘pro’ wannabe. This rider tends to be slightly overweight (sometimes more than slightly), has full pro team kit in unflattering white for their body type, talks like they’re a top sprinter (which excuses their lacklustre climbing) & thinks they’re a big hit with the ladies/waitresses/barmaids. They tend to go on training camps for different reasons from the other types, and rarely go with a big group of people they know. This is part of the plan, so that their heroic riding, demon descending & general all round pro-like training camp performance can be talked about in the same terms as an angler talks about how big their fish was. Often the tales will be vastly exaggerated on return to the cold north lands & without any viable witnesses, the tales of bravado will be boosted again at next years training camp, and so it continues, only with a new full set of next years white pro team kit. These individuals rarely perform very well, so if you’re looking for an easy day choose a bunch of these guys to go out with, easily spotted by immaculate kit & pro level bikes under the UCI weight limit, even though they’re all carrying at least 15kg excess body weight.

#2: Ageing lager meister. This guy enjoys himself, he’s generally an older gent, but there are some younger early ageing guys who drift into this category their 30’s, so ‘ageing’ isn’t a true definition. You’ll spot these guys easily, first you’ll see either an immaculate classic Colnago sitting outside a pub, either that or a pristine & beautiful ‘retro’ steel race bike. Very close-by will be a fella sitting with a €1 pint, a big smile on his face and will always give you a welcoming nod if you’re in bike gear. He’ll be wearing either brand new club kit, or very old club kit, but definitely nothing in between, he keeps that for under his winter tops, it’s a nostalgia & modern-day thing, the new stuff he’s wearing will be hidden for a few years soon, only to reappear in a sunny bar with a sea-view somewhere overseas. He’ll meet up with other similar types for a ride, all with skinny arms & legs, but a few spare tubs in their midriff, out for a nice sedate pace in the sun, only to return later to another watering hole. They return home with a cyclist’s tan lines from mostly sitting in bike gear at the pub, stories of riding the bike each day to tell the wife & spread the embarrassing stories about what happened to the newbie on his first training camp with seasoned clubmen.

#3: Wide eyed newbie. The fate of this type really depends on what company they keep on the training camp, it could be any of the other types, so if you’re new to cycling choose wisely. This guide will help you identify what you want to do with your time off work & who you will associate yourself with. Most newbies will be talked into the training camp by others for a purpose, either to genuinely help them progress and get some form as the club’s early season secret weapon, to have somebody to ‘drop’ on the training rides, or as a good wheel to sit on. So make sure you ease yourself into the training camp and don’t choose the hardest ride on the first day, it’ll likely ruin the rest of your week. Gravitate towards the faster rides and the days pass, but a complete pummeling on day one will make your week a disaster. Beware of the seasoned clubmen (type #6), they’ve been riding & drinking for years, so treat the evenings as the training rides, ease yourself into the night stages.

#4: The Racer. There are large numbers who take their hard-earned holiday from work very seriously indeed, they are solely here to get absolutely pummelled on the bike and get some serious training in the bank. This group will tend to be the most multinational training ride at the camp, with some serious kudos to be earned & routes including the local major climbs. If you want a very hard ride, with no let up and often no stop, go with these guys, but take plenty of water & food, it’ll be a while before you stop. The racer won’t often be seen at the local bar in the evening, although may make a brief appearance a couple of nights to appear to be social, but will quickly scamper away to bed & will make sure that he rooms with another of his type.

#5: The Triantelope. Famed for an inability to handle a bicycle, they leap from their bicycles like antelopes in the Serengeti, hence the name. The value of the bikes the triantelopes ride will often compare with type #1, but these riders are much fitter. But beware of the bunches, especially if ‘silly bars’ are being used, it’s a recipe for disaster. There is a reason for the poor bike handling though, remember they do three sports, you likely just do one, the technicalities of the transition from cycling to running means that a different position is adopted, so saddles are flung very far forward (way beyond UCI regs) and more weight is focussed ahead of the front wheel, not ideal for unknown mountain descents on a far away island, or close bunch riding. You’re best advised to stay away from this group at the training camp, they tend to ride alone most of the time at home, so bunch etiquette is almost completely unknown to them, you’d probably get a good workout but it’s not really worth the risk, it’s a different sport, leave them to their own quirks & oddities, we have plenty of our own.

#6: The Clubman. This one is your ‘true’ training camp type, they know the score, they’ve done it before, they can hang onto the fast guys and give a pasting to the slow guys, they’ll pick & choose which group they ride with & generally get more out of a week away than most of the other types. Most training camp aficionado’s will eventually gravitate towards #6 (apart from #5), while #2 is an even more experienced form of this type, he’s gravitated past #6 into #2. The clubman will also enjoy a couple of good evening visit to the local watering holes while you’re away, while treating the daily rides as serious training & the rest of the camp as their annual warm weather social event with riders they’ve literally known since they were teenagers. If you’re a newbie & you get in with a good group of clubmen, they’ll open up a number of opportunities for rides to you, provide evening entertainment and cement yourself into the bizarre world of bike culture in a week-long crash course (this bit not literally).

Survival Techniques

The training camp is going to be very demanding, so there are a few things you need to bear in mind and keep under control, especially if you’re not used to riding every single day for a week or two.

  • Before packing your bike, make sure it works correctly, the bike you take may have been put away all winter, it needs a road ride to make sure everything works & nothing is broken from last year. Do this at least 2 weeks before you leave, not the night before, so you’ve got as chance to get your local bike shop to fix it.
  • Pack your bike properly, a damaged bike on arrival is your worst nightmare, that’s what you’re here to do, so use all means you can to make sure your bike arrives in one piece and survives the onslaught from the worst of baggage handlers.
  • Chamois cream – Get yourself some & use it from day 1, smear your chamois with it, you’ll sweat much more in the heat & you’re also likely to be sitting having a coffee after a ride for some time before getting changed, the ideal environment for germs to grow.
  • Clean your kit – Never wear undergarments that have been worn the day before without a wash, again this is just common sense, your hotel will be able to wash clothes for you or use the sink in your room with a non-bio cleaner you bought at home.
  • Sun Cream – This goes without saying, don’t come back looking like a lobster, you live in a cold damp place & if your skin has ever seen any sun, it’s not seen it since last summer. You need to make sure you never forget to put it on, it will ruin your training camp if you forget, so even if it’s overcast, wear sun cream.
  • Drink lots & lots of water, on the bike, after a ride, just keep drinking water. If you’re doing any post ride pub visits, it becomes even more vital to rehydrate after a ride.
  • Eat as soon as you can after a ride, it’ll help you recover for the next days training.
  • Check your bike before each ride, check your tyres especially, locate the local bike shop on day 1, if there are any mechanical disasters you’ll need to know where this place is.
  • Don’t assume it’s all going to be sunshine, prepare for showery days and for it being cold at the top of hills. It’s tempting to just take shorts & short sleeves, but check the forecasts and make sure you can get out every day no matter the weather.
  • Above all be self-sufficient, you’re in a foreign country, so take a multi tool, spare tubes & a map so you know where you are and how to get back to your digs, as long as you get home every night you’ll be fine.

Conclusion

The training camp isn’t something to be worried about if you’re prepared for it, get some winter training in before you go and you’ll be fit & ready for a big increase in training load. The key to it is enjoying yourself, this isn’t meant to be purgatory, it’s a week away where you’re main focus is doing something you really enjoy, riding your bike. If the rides are too much, choose an easier group, but make sure you get out every day, you’ve earned this holiday, make the most of it.

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