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Sun, safer roads, climbing, logistics: Why do most teams head to Spain for the winter?

Adam Yates, Lucinda Brand, and Mads Pedersen tell VeloNews why the Alicante region of Spain is so good for winter training camps.

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Stand anywhere long enough in the Alicante province of Spain in December and you’ll spot a large chunk of the peloton out on a training ride.

The region on the southeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula has been a very popular spot for teams, both professional and amateur, to clock up some winter miles in Europe ahead of a new road season.

VeloNews spent some time in the area this last week to visit a few WorldTour teams and could hardly move for professional riders. During a short 15-minute drive from Calpe to Altea, VeloNews saw Groupama-FDJ, SD Worx, Team DSM, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Astana, Movistar women’s squad, Arkéa-Samsic and a whole lot more.

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It would be easier to tell you which teams didn’t hit up this area of Spain this month, so what has made this region so popular across the peloton? There are a number of reasons why it has become the go-to location for squads, but you only have to look up into the sky to see the primary one.

“It’s sunny. I’ve just come from Gran Canaria, and I reckon that it’s one of the best places in the world to get to. Here is relatively easy to get to, the roads are good, and the weather is usually good. In general, it is one of the best places in the world to train,” Adam Yates said from his training camp with UAE Team Emirates in La Nucia.

“This time of year, you don’t want to spend chasing mental bullets chasing hours when it’s raining and it’s cold. You can get more stuff done here that you need to do.”

With so many flocking to the Alicante region every winter, it has had a positive impact on the riding environment for the teams. Though there have been some crashes with other road users, such as the time a 73-year-old woman driving on the wrong side of the road collided with the Giant-Alpecin team in 2016, they are relatively few and far between.

Most roads now have arrows pointing drivers in the direction of travel for British and Irish nationals who are used to driving on the other side of the road.

In 2018, Trek-Segafredo took its December training camp to Sicily, but it was in Calpe this December. Mads Pedersen believes that the Spanish coast provides a much safer working environment, he also concurs with Yates’ opinion on the weather. Cost is another factor, with many hotels opening just for the teams, meaning rock-bottom prices.

“It’s almost 100 percent sure that the weather is nice in case if you have some rain, it will still be about 10 to 12 degrees here,” Pedersen told VeloNews. “And then for sure, also, the hotels are cheap enough when you bring 150 people.

“Sicily was mainly because of the sponsor, and it was also a bad place for training. The cars are not used to a cyclist and so on. And here, everyone is so respectful, and we get like a meter and a half when they overtake and so on. So, it’s a safe place to ride also and I think that’s important when you bring out people who have to perform for a whole season if they have bad luck with a crash or stupid accident with the car now, then the season can be over before it started.”

Logistics are also another major factor for teams and riders looking for a bit of winter sun. These training camps are about more than just going out on a ride and a lot of equipment is brought to these camps to run health checks on riders, test riding positions, and more.

It is a rare opportunity for the whole squad to get together during the year so everything they need is brought to the camp in preparation. Most teams are based on mainland Europe, so taking equipment to another place on the continent is far easier than shipping it to somewhere like Sicily or Gran Canaria.

“A lot of the teams, they leave the materials here for the next months, and then in January there are also races here so they can go directly to the races with the materials. Logic-wise, it’s also still possible. If you go to Teide, you can’t drive the truck there, so it makes it a bit more complex. Here you can still drive,” Lucinda Brand told VeloNews.

Like Pedersen and Yates, the weather is also another factor on Brand’s list for the Alicante region being the best option. However, the terrain is another very important consideration for her.

While there are not any great climbs to scale nearby, there is still plenty of ascending to do with the rolling roads giving the riders plenty of options for training.

“I really like this area because it has climbing. It’s not too crazy, but it’s good enough to do serious intervals if you want to,” she said. “Really flat is maybe not possible but then I would stay at home. Sometimes, the team says we do a flat four-hour ride today and then I think I better stay home. I come here for the climbing. It’s nice and rolling.”