Training camp and coffee stops
Cycling in Spain
Story by GripGrab
The combination of sun, comfortable temperatures, perfect climbs, bike friendly accommodation and the simple fact that everybody else is going, makes the winter training camp a mandatory migration from north to south each pre-Spring season.
Hiding in a tranquil and exclusive villa up in the mountains outside Calpe, the riders from the Dutch WaowDeals Pro Cycling team get their gear ready for riding out. It´s all about movement. Mostly on bikes, but the team riders and staff have traveled from their home turf to a location that offers better conditions for training. They move in order to move with quality. The sun is generously pouring warm rays of light down on the giant terrace with breathtaking views of Calpe, as the riders pack their energy, snap a photo for Instagram or talk to the mechanic about their bike setup. The atmosphere is relaxed but concentrated and everyone knows what to do. It’s not the first time for the team to stay in Calpe for the winter training camp.
On the agenda for today is a 20-minute FTP test, that the riders will conduct on the south climb towards the village of Tárbena. Before reaching the starting point for the test, the riders ease their way out of Calpe on the busy N-332.
No rules, no plan
On their way towards Bolulla, the WaowDeals riders pass a lonely rider. He´s from Denmark and is enjoying the sun and the climbs like everybody else. With a more relaxed attitude towards training, his ambition is to do a selection of the climbs and get a decent mileage done during the week. “My motivation comes from the joy of cycling. I used to race at the elite level, but that´s my past now. Both the racing and the culture around the elite life is gone now. It took a while to get used to, and I had to work with developing a different mindset. But I still love cycling and cherish the moments when I jump on the bike and go wherever I want. It´s very liberating and almost like therapy. No rules, no plan, if I feel like a coffee I choose a sunny café and sit for as long as I feel like. Maybe this is a spot I will only sit in once. ” It’s obvious that Casper Saltoft from the proud cycling nation of Denmark has been in the elite game in his past. His muscles are still toned and strong, his riding is efficient and effortless, and his style is elegant and perfect.
The riders from WaowDeals Pro Cycling don´t have the privilege of stopping for coffee when they feel like. They´re at work and have begun their FTP test. Three-time world champ and Olympic gold medalist in the team pursuit Dani Rowe is racing up the switchbacks with music in her ears. The air is warm and along the road, the almond trees are in full blossom.
Spain at its best
The almond trees stand on rocky terrain and their stunning rich pink flowers are in strong contrast to the otherwise dry landscape. It’s Spain at its best. No wonder many cyclist frequent Calpe as their favorite winter training destination. With more than 320 sunny days a year, Calpe is a heaven for sun-longing northern cyclists. The practicalities are easily sorted. There´s plenty of hotels and apartments, and with the right planning and timing, flights to nearby Alicante are cheap. And then there are the mountains.
With a wide selection of roads going into the interior, it´s easy to plan a variety of rides that each will accommodate different riding styles. The more popular routes include going to Parcent via Alcalalí, either via the Sierra Bernia climb with nice views of the ocean or through the Xalo valley. From Parcent the obvious choice is to do the well-known Coll de Rates climb with the chance of meeting pros and descend back towards Calpe via Tárbena. Another option is to turn right towards Castell de Castells and do a longer ride.
Regardless of road choice, the surroundings are stunning and heavenlike for cyclists. Small villages are followed by long stretches of pine forest, and it´s difficult not to feel a sense of bliss when a climb is followed by a long, flowing descent. The asphalt is very good at all places, with only the Sierra Bernia being a little rough at times, but that´s part of the charm of this road.
Casper from Denmark has reached Xalo and stops at the little main square by the beautiful church for a cup of coffee. It´s February, but the sun is summer warm. There´s a siesta like atmosphere on the plaza, it’s a pocket in time. It´s hard to believe that snow is covering the Scandinavian roads right now. “There´s only two reasons for going on a training camp: Either you are here with a pro team and it´s hard but rewarding work, or you´re here with the purpose of having a blast on the bike. I´m here for the latter reason. That doesn´t mean I don´t have ambitions. I think we are all driven by the competition and comparison to some extent. Nobody wants to be the last rider up the climb. It´s deeply rooted in us as riders. The competitive aspect never really leaves you.”
The WaowDeals riders return to their Spanish mansion up in the hills. The sun is low and lazy and as it slowly drops down behind the mountains, the riders prepare their recovery drinks and disappear into their private quarters. Soon they will leave the Spanish coast, and open the season with the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, followed by Omloop van het Hageland the day after. “This season, we want to perform strongly as a team and we do not have a fixed head rider. Riders who sacrifice themselves in one race, deserve to get support in another race”, says DS Jeroen Blijlevens.
Down on the harbor, the fishermen return from the sea. Here there’s no shaved legs or aerodynamic consciousness. Their tan-lines are different from the rider´s lines, but they have all been under the same sun all day. They offload their catch, bring it to the auction hall, and the fish, crabs, and shrimp are sold. It´s a different life, but they share the routines – the steps that define a work day – whether at sea or on the road.
Photo credits: Martin Paldan | GripGrab
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