Being a member of Paceline RT (http://www.paceline-rt.co.uk/) allowed me the opportunity to get involved in a team training camp in Spain for a week in March. Thanks very much to Jasmijn for organising! I’ve never done anything like this, but was keen on the idea of some good weather riding, on some great roads!
So 12 of us flew off to Alicante on Saturday afternoon, all bike boxes and luggage arrived in tact and we made the hour drive across to Xabia, just up the coast from both Alicante and Benidorm. We arrived at the enormous 14 person villa in the evening and were given a tour by our host. (Villa details at the bottom). There was more than enough room for everyone, including secure car and bike storage. There was a nice communal lounge type area which opened up out onto the pool deck area. A great escape from the crap weather of London!
We woke early Sunday and set about building bikes. Luckily no real issues came up in doing so and everyone was ready and raring to go before long. The weather was getting up to 15 degrees or so but was slightly overcast to begin with, still, a great contrast to back home and warm enough for shorts and jerseys, which was a treat. Once everyone was good to go we set off on our first days ride. Some of the others on the camp had planned a nice 50 mile route to kick things off.
Day 1 – https://app.strava.com/activities/264911068
It soon became clear the amount of climbing that we would be doing, over 6000ft in 50 miles was a lot compared to what I had been used to! The scenery was sensational though, and the views sublime. Before going on the trip I was slightly concerned about being able to keep up with everyone on rides, but for the first day at least this wasn’t a problem, and I was conscious not to push too hard so I didn’t end myself before the weeks riding proper had started!
Day 2 – https://app.strava.com/activities/265499193
Coll De Rates Descent. Utterly brilliant
A slightly longer 80 mile route had been planned for Day 2, taking in some more climbing, and one in particular called Coll de Rates a 4 mile long ascent climbing just over 1000ft, or for me about 20 minutes solid effort. I was still in the mind of not killing myself, so just tried to pace myself up the climb in the little ring with a 25 tooth cassette on the back. Still ended up doing 291w though. I struggled to keep touch with any of the other guys, but everyone gathered at the top of the climb to admire the view, and stop for a cafe stop. Sadly the cafe stop here is very anti cycling, and were extremely rude, so I’d avoid there in future! The rest of the ride took in the descent over the other side of the Coll de Rates, then back to Xabia.
Working hard up Coll de Rates
Day 3 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266016092
Today’s ride was a mammoth 105 mile route that took in another large climb named the Col d’Ebo then some pretty rolling terrain across to a large man-made lake with a damn, before heading back to Xabia. I was certainly a bit apprehensive on heading out for this one as usually I’d aim to be fresh for a distance like this, not having done 50 and 80 miles prior, so I just concentrated on trying to pace any harder efforts and just plug away all day. The ascent up Col D’Ebo was fantastic though, a nice steady grade all the way to the top with some sensational views. The next section of the ride to the lake was mentally very hard work though, as it was very rolling in nature and I found difficult to find any rhythm let alone the right gear for the varying terrain. The weather was superb at over 20 degrees, and once again the views and countryside superb! We stopped for lunch at a tiny local cafe, and ate omelette baguette and chips (top cyclist food!), quenching our thirst on coke, coffee and water, all for the unreal price of 7 euros! I began to feel better after lunch and just worked on steady effort all the way back home. Not helped by the fact our villa was on top of a large hill, and so required a steep ascent of a couple of miles at the end of each ride. All good training though! We arrived back fairly late, safe to say I was shattered.
Day 4 – (Recovery)
Today was all about recovering from the previous days huge ride, we pootled out for about an hour for a cafe stop by the beach and a sandwich, before cruising back to the villa. Really easy effort. I needed it as my legs were in bits.
Day 5 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266945167
Gareth had planned to do 3x reps of Coll de Rates today as part of some slightly more structured training. I was quite looking forward to it as the legs felt good for this sort of 20min effort, and I really liked the climb. I was also looking forward to having a good go of the descent as well, which seemed like it would be pretty exciting! We got to the climb after a fairly nice ride there in the once again great weather, and I started my effort. I’d done just over 290w last time up, and felt good so aimed for 300w for the 20 minute effort. The climb has some shallower sections near the top so felt I could really crack on here, which was great fun. I held some of the other guys in my sight, and even managed a sprint for the top overtaking Keith who was doing his own steady effort, pointless, but felt good. Stopped at the top for a rest as the others were descending, and in pausing my Garmin I managed to delete my ride so far! To say I was unhappy was an understatement, as all the power data was now gone. Pissed off I just decided to sit and watch the others doing their reps. I eventually got over myself and descended the climb, taking a few liberties with some of the corners on the way, but it felt absolutely incredible. What a road bike was made for! Such a great piece of tarmac. I stopped at the bottom, and tried to take a couple of photos of the others coming down, but it was getting so busy by this point that it was largely in vain. We all caught up for a coffee and some cake at the bottom of the climb, before heading back to Xabia. I was still slightly annoyed so channelled the frustration into a hard effort up the final climb, in doing so managed a new 5min power pb, a couple of watts shy of 400w, and a pb by over 40w which felt good!
Bike by the man made lake, just before the lunch stop. Was scorching hot here.
After Coll de Rates I was having some bike issues, one of the spokes on my front wheel was clicking horribly, and I’m sure pissing the rest of the group off, not to mention me! I took a look at it on previous ride, and tightened a nipple which seemed to help, but took a proper look at it on the morning of Day 5. It was at this point I discovered the whole rim had split in about 5 separate places on the nipples! Remind me never to buy 3T wheels! It got even worse, as looking at the rear it was the same story, both wheels totalled. I was pretty thankful to have discovered at the villa rather than out on the road, especially considering the descent the day before.
Another of the Paceliners, Jim, kindly let me borrow his wheel set for a morning ride with the group, and so we set out on Day 6 for what was supposed to be a 80 mile route taking Coll de Rates and Col D’Ebo once more. The weather had taken a slight turn and was slightly overcast and pretty windy. The planned route took in a couple of nasty little inconsistently climbing roads which were hard work, and it was fairly clear my head wasn’t really in it as I was getting pretty frustrated. It seemed Gareth felt the same, as he decided to turn back just before we got to Parcent, and I made the decision to go back as well. Mostly because motivation was at a low, and also because I didn’t want to be out all day on Jim’s wheels, stopping him from riding as well. So Gareth and I paced back to the villa, even started to enjoy it a bit on one of the straight flat roads, where we got in a good little two up rhythm at a decent speed back home.
Following this I packed the bike away, as frankly I’d had enough of the sight of it, I was shattered, and the weather forecast was for rain on Day 7. Took the afternoon just chilling, and wandered down to a supermarket a couple of miles away to get some time away from cycling! It was quite apt that at this time Gareth and I mused about how pro cyclists could do this for a living, as frankly I couldn’t handle much more!
So in all from Sunday to Saturday I totalled a distance of 352 miles, 20 hours 40 minutes and over 34,000ft of climbing. I’d also spent some time with a great bunch of very experienced riders, so just listening to all of them chatting about cycling and racing, as well as riding together has I’m sure furthered me as a rider as well. Not to mention it being more than double my usual weekly miles and far beyond anything I’d ever done before in terms of climbing. My CTL bumped almost 20 points, and I’d even come away with an unexpected 5 min power pb. Really looking forward to the next couple of weeks training and racing now to see what comes next. Next race is the Alfold circuit on the 29th of March.
For further details on the villa and to book:
The villa is located in Xàbia, approximately here, and quieter than Calp. Alicante is the local airport, and it takes about 70 minutes to drive from the airport to the villa. The villa itself is served by numerous local supermarkets at the bottom of the hill; a large Consum, Aldi, and several small supermercados, all within 25 minutes of walking. On the hill is a bar named Cannibal, and ProCyclingAgency, with a bike mechanic. There are several seasonal restaurants such as an Indian, only 5 minutes walk away.
The local beach is the cove of Platja l’Arenal, which offers a typical tourist seafront promenade of shops; lilos, buckets, spades etc, plus lots of cafes, restaurants. This is less than a 10 minute drive, and offers free parking on the seafront.
There are local hills, 5-8 minutes long within 5 minutes of the villa. Heading further inland towards Coll de Rates and Vall d’Ebo is a flat 19 miles or so, so approximately 60 minutes riding time away. For cyclists, there are plenty of opportunities to cycle some lovely climbs and descents. Peter, the villas owner, is more than happy to rent out to groups of cyclists, and the villa itself is ideal for catering for groups. For more details, see the following links below:
https://www.facebook.com/NeetesonVakantiehuizen (he also has a villa in Czech republic)
Further photos of the villa