29 January 2011

Calpe Diem

Training Camp on the White Coast of Spain
Time to go to camp! Calpe, Spain has been in the news quite a lot lately. It seems to be the town to train in these days, unless your team goes to Mallorca, or you are Lance and you can't leave the country or people will accuse you of yet another comeback, Spain is the place to be. I was wondering what these guys learn at camp, since they are already pretty good at riding a bike.

The most important part of spring training camp for a cycling team is establishing new nicknames, making quick and timely complaints about roommates, establishing who is the best dancer on the team, celebrating every birthday for the coming year, and letting the cooks know exactly what you will and will not eat (namely beef). Also this is the time to bring beer, coffee and women to the best mechanic.

In 2010/11 Garmin-Transitions, RadioShack, Quick-Step, and Katusha all held their training camps in Calpe, Spain.

Here we go - our trip to camp in Calpe, Spain with the pros. How do they do it:
We fly in from around the world to begin our bonding session. Big city, rolling hills
Beautiful Spanish coastline. The parking looks tough, so bring a bike, wait never mind, they will give you 2 new road bikes and 1 new time trial bike (this is the main reason to show up for spring training camp).
The promenade in Calpe, Spain, looks quiet in December/January, (that is because the water temperature is 13.4 °C (56 °F)!
Don't worry about packing light, you'll need a lot of stuff to throw a training camp
First, any piercings and tattoos that somehow appeared in the off-season are removed from the riders
Next it is time to stop by your favorite team clothing boutique, the sizes are small and Xsmall. You have no choice in color. You will only be alloted 12 bibs, so choose wisely. This is also the critical point where you must decide whether you like tall socks or regular socks.
The remaining afternoon is devoted to deciding what flavor of cliff bars you like.
The next morning training begins; first practice recognizing your teammates, then tips on how to recognize your team bus, and finally how to sit on a bike toptube without inflicting pain.
Next the riders are shown how to walk up and down metal stairs in cycling shoes (Andreas Kloden cares more about his snickers bars, because after camp - there will be no more snickers!).
Next iTunes procedures are covered, including downloading, UCI approved playlists, and how to best wrap that cord around your helmet straps. Because there will be no more race radio entertainment offered via radio during in-flight races. Only tunes from this point out. Music sharing is encouraged to build team character.
Then they teach you table manners (Christian Van de Velde teaching the guys how to put elbows on the table)
Thor Hushovd demonstrates his world champion abilities at cake cutting (cakes are an important part of camp, they are the best kind of male bonding)
Then Christian gives a long talk about how to wear your hat (no one is listening, he gave the same talk last year). 
Podium drills follow, how to get up, how to get off, how to zip up a jersey backwards, how to look taller than a podium girl, and timing of raising the trophy (very important - this first attempt failed). Also champagne opening drills, (don't want to pull a Contador and cut yourself).
The DS (Johan Bruyneel, Sébastien Rosseler, and Yaroslav Popovych) makes a flashy appearance in their new transportation. (And you were wondering how they learn those driving skills)
Andreas Kloden - says he needs one too. He is so competitive.
Next they wake you up at 6:00am to climb a big rock (matching clothing mandatory)
Andreas Kloden decides the only way to climb up a mountain is straight up. Again very competitive
Group photo at the top (Andreas Kloden is already back at the hotel)
Wait, who invited Mario? he wasn't supposed to be cc'd on the invite.
Then you practice your lead outs, first without bikes
Now that head butting has been discouraged, the team goes over other defensive shock and awh tactics
Then you practice finding your bike in the rack of bikes that all look the same (this took some practice)
Then you line up by height, next to the guy that speaks your language, and go out for a ride.
The fine art of domestique training is gone over by Tom Boonen
Holding up traffic while never changing pace was explained
Enjoying the scenery was explained, but no one seemed to grasp this concept
After the big ride you hang out at cafes and gossip about Matt White, and why the Soigneurs wear those capri pants.
Finally you ride off into the sunset and practice your smile for the camera. Photo by: Lucas Gilman
All of these images were taken by the different teams during their recent training camps in Calpe, Spain, plus CyclingNews.com and PezCycling.com. They did not provide narration, so I took liberty. Based upon zero experience at training camp, I'm pretty sure this is how it went down. If you are honestly interested in what goes into a training camp read: What it Takes: January Preparations with Garmin-Transitions Service Course By VeloNews.com
A stage of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana took place in the hills outside of Calpe, Spain, and some day I might actually write about the roads and hotels and beaches in the area, but for today, I had so much fun at camp! I can't wait to go back next year.