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The season starts in December: Pro peloton clicks back into gear at camps on Spanish coast

Pogačar, Vingegaard, Evenepoel and Co. build back for 2023 in first team camps of winter – here's what they do, and why they choose Spain.

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The 2023 season starts now in Spain for the men’s WorldTour.

Top-tier squads will be swamping out Spain’s Costa Blanca and Mediterranean coast at the start of December for weeks of big base miles, staffer meetings, and media moments.

The upcoming training camps draw a line under a lazy off-season of beers, burgers, and glamorous vacations as riders like Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel hunker down for the start of a new racing year.

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The opening weeks of December will see all 18 WorldTour teams host training camps on Spanish soil.

Thirteen of those will be clustered into the pro cycling training mecca around Denia, Calpe and Benidorm on Valencia and Alicante’s sunshine coastline.

Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe chose to stick to old haunts in Mallorca, while EF Education-EasyPost and Movistar stay close to rider homes and team service courses in Girona and Almeria respectively.

Further camps next year will head to high altitude as racers trade sea-level Spain for the hulking mountains of Tenerife, the Sierra Nevada, or the Alps.

The approaching December meets will see staffers plan race schedules, mechanics fine-tune bikes, and medics conduct mandated health checks.

Many riders will be building back base fitness after taking up to one month off the bike following a long, attritional 2022 season.

Strava suggests the upcoming camps will see riders accumulate 25-30 weekly hours of easy aerobic training as they pedal up to 800 kilometers of fine Spanish road surface. The rugged low-lying mountains inland of the Costa Blanca give riders room to amass more than 10,000m ascent across a typical week on camp.

“We normally do some good three-day blocks of training, slowly building up to maybe a decent long ride at the end of the camp. And then there’s lots of ticking off all sorts of admin stuff as well in the first few days,” Bahrain-Victorious rider Fred Wright told VeloNews.

“It does feel like the start of a new season when you’re there. By the time camp’s done, it’s Christmas. Then before you realize, it’s January camp, then you’re racing. It’s nice.”

Off-season will seem shorter than usual for Wright and Co. this winter.

The WorldTour curtain-raising Santos Tour Down Under returns mid-January for the first time in two years, and the Vuelta a San Juan is also back, with Evenepoel, Egan Bernal and Peter Sagan already booked in for a flight to Argentina.

Why Costa Blanca?

Sun, steady climbs and perfect tarmac draw WorldTour teams like Ag2r to the Denia region.

Spain’s “white coast” grew to become the go-to for pro teams looking for off-season accommodations decades ago.

The region’s mild, dry climate, quiet roads, and extra-smooth tarmac is so sweet that amateurs and pros alike choose to spend weeks away from home in cycling hubs around Javea, Denia, Altea, and Calpe.

It’s a welcome escape from the cold, dark winter days of northern Europe and beyond.

“The region around Alicante is a really beautiful area to train. You have good weather all year round, so ideal for my basic and winter training,” said Evenepoel, who is set to move full-time to the area.

“I can find training courses that are a bit harder than the Ardennes, which is also necessary because I want to keep aiming for the grand tours and the difficult climb stages. Last year I already wintered in that region.”

The must-ride Valencian climb of the Coll de Rates – a steady 7km ascent averaging around 6 percent grade – has seen more than 53,000 rides recorded on Strava, with Vingegaard, Pogačar, Tejay Van Garderen and Joe Dombrowski among those on the top-20 leaderboard.

And the area recently became better adapted to host the influx of weekend warriors and WorldTour stars. Dozens of cafes and hotels now market themselves as “bike-friendly” and boast of recent pro rider visits with signed photographs and donated memorabilia.

And the more accommodating somewhere can be to moneyed-up cyclists, the better for its bank balance.

Teams will return to book out entire complexes from one season to the next as equipment trucks pack out parking lots, conference rooms turn into testing centers, and basements become workshops.

Denia’s Syncrosfera hotel even has rooms that include high-altitude hypoxia facilities. You’ll be breathless when you check the pricing, too.