Team training camp it’s like … summer camp for adults, but instead of flirting with a cute camp counselor, you are getting your ass kicked on a bike, six hours a day, and in my case, riding through a jet lag haze.
Winter training camps have, for many years, served to set the foundation that will carry teams through the ups and downs of the upcoming season. They are intended to be low-stress environments where riders, staff, and management can work out the kinks with the warm glow of Spanish sun on their backs. All while preparing for the maelstrom that is the WorldTour season to come. I also like to think that the camps are there to remind fans that our short hiatus from racing is nearly over, and soon they can click on the T.V. (or computer) to watch their favorite riders in new colors.
Last year went by so quickly. It truly seemed like yesterday I was at this very hotel eating the same breakfast before a five-hour ride. Bike racing can make you feel like that sometimes. Competing in many of the same races every year, there is a type of arrested development that can occur, as time is warped by the season. Jet lag doesn’t help either. Crawling around the hotel the first few days like a zombie, I felt incapable of coherent sentences.
I’ve got no time for jet lag, however; team camp is an incredibly busy time. Every morning I wake up, begin to grind my coffee, open my computer and stare blankly at the new schedule. The complex matrix looks more like a crossword puzzle in a foreign language this early in the morning. Half asleep, I shuffle downstairs to meet the rest of the guys for breakfast, hoping that someone will tell me when and where I need to be, if I missed it. The kitchen is always bustling, and Kim our team chef is always there to greet you with a smile and a large helping of gourmet grub.
This is our second camp of the season, and the team is starting to mesh already. With a large number of new riders this year, that is a testament to the vibe everyone on the team has tried to foster. Some of the guys are already away racing in Australia, and another chunk is off to Argentina. I’ll be starting the season in another two weeks in Dubai. As the rain turned to snow at the end of our five-hour ride, the start of the season in the desert couldn’t have felt further away. But after 10 days roaming around Mallorca’s island roads, I at least feel more prepared.
I spent nearly two months away from the team, training solo or with a couple friends around the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Each year it is a bit of a shock being yanked from my island sanctuary and thrown into the speeding peloton.
But the adrenaline rush those final 20km of the first race back always puts a smile on my face and reminds me why I still love racing my bike. I have high hopes for 2017. Every January, cycling rewards us with a clean slate and fresh pair of legs. I’m ready to hit the ground running.