Training Camp in Spain by Michael Coward

Saturday 28th February 2009

by MikeC

Southern Spain Training Camp 7th – 14th February

To prepare for the 2009 racing season I headed out to Lanjaron in Southern Spain for a week’s training on the road bike with Lanjaron is 40km east of Granada on the Southern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range so I was in for a tough week!  

I got picked up from Malaga airport on Saturday lunchtime and was informed that the weather had been really bad recently with heavy rain and strong winds causing landslides.  However it was set to improve for the following week, and anything had to be better than the snow, sleet, ice that I had left behind in the UK.

Shortly after arriving I built my bike and headed out for a late afternoon easy ride to spin the legs and get the position dialled on my new carbon race bike. Simon (owner and guide) told me about the easy 32km reservoir loop that I could do, ‘its all left turns, you can’t go wrong’ were his words…erm, I beg to differ. After reaching Poinos de Valle I turned left and climbed on a poor quality road for about 6km, I could see Lanjaron on the other side of the valley, I then descended for 8km to another village. I had been riding for over an hour and realised I must have taken a wrong turn. On the phone Simon told me I had gone the wrong way and the best way to get back was the way I came, that meant about 8km climb, 8km descent, 8km climb! It was now close to 6pm and the sun sets around 7, I couldn’t hang about! I rode hard all the way back to the village and got there just before 7.  What should have been an easy spin turned into 2.5 hours of hard riding!

I was to eat at the main house with the owners so quickly got showered in my apartment and headed down for tea. Some other guests were staying in a house in the village and they came round to see what the riding plans were on Sunday. I met Gareth, Graham, Andy, Paul, Odhran and Steve. We all decided on a 130km route out to Granada then a 10km alpine style climb up towards the ski station, it sounded great. Meeting at 10.30 in the morning was bliss; it meant getting up pretty much when I wanted and the only thing I had to think about was riding my bike………I could get used to this lifestyle!  

My IT band/knee was niggling a bit from yesterday’s ride so I tweaked the position of my cleats slightly. New bike, new position, new pedals and new shoes could cause problems if not set up correctly.

We headed out west towards Granada into a 35kmh head wind; the pace was steady and gave me the chance to get to know some of the other guests. Most of them were elite level mountain bikers on a road training camp. The exception was Odhran and Steve who are Irish road racers. The standard was high!

After surviving the traffic and crazy Spanish drivers through Granada, we stopped at the foot of the climb for a coffee; maybe the caffeine would help me on the climb. We started at a steady pace for 2km until the pace was lifted.  I got into a steady rhythm riding at the front with Gareth, Graham and Andy. About half way up Gareth and Graham pulled away, but working together Andy and me managed to catch them back up. The road went all the way to the ski station but we turned off to descend to a place called Monachil. Towards the top the side of the road was snow covered and it was quite cold; I was certainly glad I wore my bib tights. What can I say about the descent?  It was phenomenal, fast sweeping corners, smooth, dry tarmac, proper alpine style.

It was nice to have the tailwind on the way back and the pace was certainly very brisk. The final 8km climb back to the village isn’t very steep but after 120km of riding is always a sting to the legs. Three guys attacked, but I decided to ride steady; I didn’t want to overcook it this early in the week!

Apart from riding your bike there isn’t much to do in Lanjaron, so after some food, a shower and some stretching I chilled out with my book before heading down to the main house for tea. The evenings generally consisted of some talk of the day’s riding, some good food and some trashy pop music viewing on VH1. We also discussed possible routes for the next day. Monday was to be a tough day, 110km with nearly 3000 metres of climbing; that’s the equivalent of climbing Scafell Pike in the lakes 3 times!

The first climb started at Motril and was about 10km.  I started to suffer half way up and was going slowly backwards. The guys waited at the top and we descended down to sea level again. The next climb broke me completely, it was only about 8km this time but the gradient was steeper.  After riding hard 2 days in a row my legs gave out and I crawled to the top churning my 39×25 at a surviving pace. There was no let up, this climb was a killer!  Paul who had arrived the same day as me was maybe 10 minutes behind me; if the climb had broken me, then it had destroyed him!

When we all met at the top (1400 metres) it was a quick re-fuel and re-dress for the 14km descent into Orgiva. This descent was really fast, easy corners, wide, open road and super fun, I think we hit about 77kmh. I may have cracked on the climb but was 3rd down the descent!  We still had an 11km climb back to the village. We stopped at the BP garage for some re-fuelling and I quickly downed a coke and an energy bar hoping for renewed vigour. With hindsight I should have got into the van like Paul and Steve did but being the stubborn, tenacious bugger I am, the ‘I started the ride, I’m finishing the ride’ mentality won. My legs were shot and I was mentally exhausted; it was not the most productive 40 minutes I have spent on my bike. Tuesday is definitely a rest day!

So, what do 6 cyclists do on a training camp rest day in a quiet Southern Spain village? Sleep, eat and relax on the roof enjoying some winter sunshine. My legs were seriously sore after yesterday’s efforts. The weather was improving day by day and Wednesday dawned a beautiful blue sky sunny day with little wind.  However my legs still felt sore from the previous few days, making me think I had dug a bit too deep. Wednesday’s ride was another monster 130km with nearly 3000 metres of climbing, the biggest day yet! Would my legs hold up? I really really hoped so!

Find out if Mike’s legs held up next week in the 2nd part of his blog!

3 Responses to “Training Camp in Spain by Michael Coward”

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