After nearly 3 weeks of relaxing, it was time to get back to work. I’d taken a total of 10 days completely off the bike, and had 9 days of very easy riding. Then I had a week to ease back into training before I headed off to training camp. That was partly why I stayed in Europe during my break. I wanted to save my airline miles for another trip to Mexico this fall, but staying over here meant that I could go to the training camp and have company. It would be a big block of training either way, but at this point in the season my motivation to do intervals by myself is always lacking. A training camp would be just the boost I needed.
As my rest period had been a week longer than I’ve taken in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I really started riding again. After one 3 hour ride I was starting to reach for the panic button. It had been a hot day and my legs were destroyed that evening, nearly cramping up. Thankfully they started to come around with a few more rides.
By that time, I was headed to the French Alps for three weeks. Our camp was 7 riders and a handful of staff—trainer, soigneur, and mechanic. We’d be staying in an apartment at a ski resort, in charge of our own meals. The apartment was at 2100m (7000’), so we definitely noticed the altitude for the first week there. It was the first altitude camp for some of the guys, but I’ve gone back and forth from altitude so many times over the last few years that it’s mundane for me now.
We eased into training for the first week, and then things really got cranked up. We were near several big climbs of 1200m elevation gain, but sometimes we would do time trial or team time trial work down in the valley. It was my first time to do TTT work with 7 riders…every additional rider makes the technical aspect of the TTT that much more important. The more familiar I get with the event, the more respect I have for it and those who can do it well. To have that many guys riding that close to each other at 55kph, each of them more than a half-second from their brakes…not for the faint of heart.
Once I acclimated to the altitude, my endurance quickly returned. At the end of one block, I did a 6.5hr ride with three big climbs, climbing easy at 280w all day to hit my second 5000kJ day of the year. In the final week, we started getting some intensity again to make the transition back to racing a bit easier. Part of this transition was to try out the team’s new slush puppie (ICEE for my American readers) protocol for hot time trials. In combination with the ice vest, the slush in our stomach can keep us cooler for longer and improve our performance. The test was to see if our stomachs got along with ice during a hard effort—best not to try for the first time in a race!
We suffered through erratic weather just as our teammates racing Le Tour did. Some days were incredibly beautiful, and others were downright gross with rain. We lucked out in that we were only rained on while training a couple of times—most of the time the roads were just wet from overnight rains. We got a lot of practice descending in the wet, and thankfully we were on race tires!
Every ride started off with a 22km descent (and every ride ended with a 22km climb…), so by the end of camp we had it completely memorized and were consistently reaching the bottom in the dry at 23 minutes. Over the three weeks, we did the descent in the wet and dry on both road AND TT bikes. I’m certainly a bit more familiar with descending on my Trinity now!
Off the bikes, we enjoyed ourselves pretty well. The hotel had a sauna and swimming pool that we’d visit on recovery days, as well as a small gym that we’d use for core strengthening. We’d finish our ride every day in time to see the last hour of the tour stage—all of us screaming as Marcel surged past Kristoff on the Champs Elysees.
|We visited the glacier atop the mountain on a rest day...|
|...and the euros seized the opportunity to do some sunbathing|
We rotated cooking duties in pairs each night. Cooking for 10-12 was difficult at times, but we managed well and every meal was very good. We enjoyed a great BBQ one night with a fantastic view and ate out a few times, including our Raclette meal on the last night. That meal was a shock—people say Americans have to have cheese on everything….
|a BBQ with a view|
By the time camp was wrapped up, we’d covered 1800km in nearly 70 hours of riding with 36000m of elevation gain. Basically, we climbing from sea level to the top of Mount Everest 4 times. A lot of climbing!
And just like that, camp was over and we were off to our next races.
For me that would be the Classica San Sebastian, a race that I really knew nothing about beforehand. It would be a tough re-introduction to racing at the very least, as the race was WorldTour, and 220km with 6 climbs. I was there in a support role and to get some racing back in my legs.
The whole day, my legs never felt great. I just felt like I was missing that top 5-10% that comes through racing, and the data confirms it. I was on the survival plan in the hopes that I could contribute to our protected riders on the later climbs, but didn’t last long enough. On the fourth climb of the day I slipped off immediately when the road turned up. I was in the cars for a while but was a couple minutes behind over the top. Deciding to get the most out of the race, I shifted into training mode.
As it turned out, the Caja Rural rider who had been off the front all day collecting KOM points was off the back, and I linked up with 4 of them riding a TTT to get him to the finish inside the time cut. So actually, I did get to ride the whole race hard! Some guys in the grupetto complained, but hey, you can drop off anytime you want. There’s no stage 2, may as well get everything out of it that you can! On the flat sections, I’d sit just a little bit further into the wind. Then we reached the final climb, which couldn’t be taken easily anyways. A kilometer of the climb was at 20%, which really hurts after 210km! Including the neutral section, my day ended at 4950kJ…so close! I’m not very pleased at the state of my top end right now, but I trust that it will bounce back just as my endurance did. No need to panic yet! Even though I wasn’t really able to participate in the race, it was an awesome day on the bike.
Now I have another week of training back in Lucca before the Vuelta a Burgos, with my eyes firmly locked on selection for THE Vuelta. Let’s do this!