This was the response from @Jonhinio when I asked the Twittersphere what was important on a Winter/Spring Cycling Training Camp!
Not surprisingly the other answers revolved around food, sun and scenery with @SJcyclist feeding back “I loved Mallorca, quiet roads, great weather, sympathetic drivers and stunning scenery”
It is often hard to fit winter miles in around life, work and of course the variable UK weather, so a winter or spring training camp allows you clock up some serious mileage before your racing season or sportive season starts and get some much needed vitamin D!
Whatever your cycling goals the extra hours in the saddle early season will certainly help and if you are aiming for a big sportive like the Etape du Tour you will have the chance to ride climbs of similar length, which we just don’t have in the UK.
And yes the food is vitally important! If you have only been riding occasionally over winter then expecting your body to ride 4-6 days in succession is a big ask, and certainly not wise on calorie deficit!
David Butcher, Owner of 7hundred in Windsor and organiser of Training Camps in the Costa Blanca, says
“Motivation is the biggest driver. When it’s dark and miserable in the UK it can be difficult to find the motivation to ride, that can affect endorphin levels creating a negative feedback loop. The allure of different roads and warmer climes, even if only for a short period, can help restore motivation and reinvigorate your training.”
Hundreds of options exist for organised training camps where everything is done for you, the real pro experience! Just book a flight and pack your bike (or even hire one there) and everything else is taken care of.
45 Degrees North in Morzine, in the French Alps offer a luxury chalet with a hot tub, delicious food from a professional chef, a Level 3 Performance Coach, complimentary sports massage, a bike mechanic, homemade energy bars, laundry facility and a full support vehicle to carry extra layers, tools, food and drinks (and riders who fancy starting part way up the climb or a lift home at the end of the day!).
I asked Chris Sellings at 45 Degrees North how a rider should choose a training camp.
“This depends entirely on you, your budget, what you want to get out of your training camp and absolutely the time of year. For example, if you are looking for an early training camp in the mountains, you can rule out the Alps, but could find several in Mallorca, Andalucia or even South East Asia. This depends on your race calendar and targeted events. Generally, athletes will attend a training camp early in the season (February to May for UK) to improve their base fitness before the season really kicks in. Athletes targeting races later in the season (August to September) can absolutely benefit from a training boost mid-season (June to August).Some people go for camps run by big name coaches and for others it’s about taking the opportunity to explore a new location. There are a plethora of training camps out there to meet every budget and time restraint. The key is to think about your race season and whether you want to attend a training camp to lay base fitness or to peak for an important race. This determines the time of year to aim for. Next think about the type of fitness you need for your race. There is little point heading to the mountains if you are targeting flat, fast crit races and vice versa. Then it comes down to your budget. If you can afford to attend a training camp run by a famous coach and staying in luxury accommodation, then get in fast and book. Otherwise seek out a good quality camp that offers great value for money and the more beautiful the rides on offer the better!”
Often riders are concerned about their ability to participate or concerned they might be the slowest and hold the group up. David from 7hundred advises “choose your camp carefully, if in doubt don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest about your abilities when discussing pace. Why not encourage those you ride with to join you? It’s not a race! It’s also easier to ride in a group you know”.
Chris agrees “We all have to start somewhere and any self-respecting training camp will recognise this and cater for weaker riders. There are a variety of ways to do this. Weaker riders will generally ride together with an experienced guide. For longer more challenging rides such as sportive routes, they may be set off before the faster groups and even from a point further along the route. There will be a no drop policy in place so you don’t need to fear being left behind and becoming lost. Sometimes vehicle support will be offered. This means, if you become too tired you can climb into the vehicle and be driven home. This said, you should have a reasonable level of fitness before attending a training camp and be able to comfortably meet the minimum requirements set by the training camp. If you are not sure, seek guidance either from a club coach or the training camp operator prior to booking.”
Most training camps will offer a variety of riding groups, with the distance and speed of each ride varying accordingly. Helen from Twickenham Cycling Club, who make an annual pilgrimage to Majorca for Legro’s Training Camp, feels “setting expectation of the groups, advising people which group they should be in and having enough group leaders to ride with the slower riders and allowing those who up the pace unnecessarily to go off on their own” is key to a successful week.
At Hotel Dory in Riccione, Italy, the 4 routes for the following day are posted up on the notice board in the bar with the distance, speed, profile and estimated time. Riders sign up for the one they would like to complete the following day and the hotel allocates the appropriate number of ride leaders to each group. The convenience of having the lists in the bar means that should you find yourself still in the bar at midnight with another glass of Italian red then you can quickly cross your name out on the 150km mountainous ride and swap to the 40km flat tourist ride!
Alternatively, how about a DIY training camp with your friends, you can then choose everything yourselves and decide your own schedules and rides, but you may miss out on the support, structure and local knowledge of an organised trip.
There are also plenty of cycling holidays to choose from the difference according to David from 7hundred being “A training camp is more focused, concentrating on building an aerobic base and while a cycling holiday may be guided and cover the same ground, it might not be as beneficial for those looking to improve. Cycling holidays are generally more relaxed and an excellent way to explore new terrain without the pressure to perform. Decide what your goals are for the year, if you intend to race or you’re targeting some big sportives then a training camp will be beneficial. If you’re simply looking for motivation to get back on the bike and rediscover your cycling mojo, or purely for enjoyment of being on the bike, a cycling holiday is the way forward.”
Just booking a training camp can be the incentive to get out and train in the winter, it gives you something to work towards and look forward to when you are slogging it out in the gloomy UK winter. It will reinvigorate your training, boost your fitness and up your motivation levels, what’s not to like!
Level 3 British Cycling Coach
USA Women Training in Mallorca
A few weeks ago my boyfriend Jetse and I did a short visit to Mallorca, he had to do an intense block of training and the guys from Performance United have their training base there so I was excited to catch up with my sister Sofia!
It was impossible not to fall in love with the place, with those amazing views and all the mountains! We arrived at Sofia’s apartment in Alaró, such a nice little town.
Very close to her apartment is the Team House, the boys of the team live there and they also have a weight lifting room, with all the necessary equipment for track riders along with the fantastic watt bikes, and you can’t miss the flags of Ireland, USA, Turkey, Mexico and Spain decorating the room.
We had time to catch up a little bit there with coach Andy Sparks while he was showing us the place and telling us all the advantages that came with training in Mallorca, he even invited Jetse for a ride with the guys.
To me it was clear why my sister doesn’t want to come back to train in Mexico after only a few hours of being there, the Island is really special for bike rides!!! But I was so excited and looking so much forward to go to the track and see the guys in action!
But that didn’t happen until the last day, meanwhile we had time to do some training, enjoy the sun and the beach and we even went for dinner with Jennie Reed and her hubby Brandon Madden, I have to admit I’m such a big fan of Jennie since long time ago when she was a sprinter but this is the first time I’d actually met her and had time to get to know her.
When I asked her, why did she make the change from sprinting to endurance she said she was looking for a new challenge and I think instead Jennie’s creating a challenge to other teams as she rocks in the team pursuit even as much as she did as a sprinter!
Anyways back to the track… The Palma Arena is such a cool place, the track is beautiful and you can feel the great atmosphere at their training sessions, you can hear everyone cheering for each other while they’re doing there efforts and giving tips to each other to improve… its just priceless! But I have to say the biggest supporters at the track are Brandon Madden and Kirk Bausch (husbands of Jennie Reed and Dotsie Bausch) you can hear they screaming “GO, GO, GO!!!” during the whole training.
While Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed have basically made Mallorca their second home the rest of the Team Pursuit girls (Lauren Tamayo and Dotsie Bausch) come in special periods during the year, this time they were all together as they’re getting ready for London and yes… they are looking STRONG!
Other riders in the team also preparing for London are Martyn Irvine (Ireland) and David Muntaner (Spain), while Recep Unalan (Turkey) and Sofia Arreola (Mexico) are making next year’s World Cup season their major focus.
Coach Andy is looking very optimistic about the Games and I’m sure the boys and girls will get amazing results there, so excited to see them racing and I even got special t-shirts to support them along the way!
Thanks for reading!
We are in the sprinting line on our way to the Olympic Games of London. Sofia has to participate in the four World Cups, Pan American Championship and the World Championship in order to make enough points to qualify.
The qualification system its complicated, it’s a ranking for Continents. The American continent has 5 places for the women’s omnium and we have Sarah Hammer (USA), Tara Whitten (Canada) and Marlies Mejias (Cuba) that have secured their places for the Olympics in the last season. The big dispute is between Angy Gonzalez (Venezuela), the Colombian Maria Luisa Calle and Sofia Arreola (Mexico).
Sofi hopes to finish in the top 10 of the World Cups and World Championship in order to finish within the first five in the Pan American Ranking.
Training base in
Mallorca is a perfect place for training; it has high mountains as well as flat and safe roads to do nice and long rides to improve the endurance. Mallorca has 2 different tracks where you can train and improve different things.
Sofia is currently training under the direction of Andy Sparks in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Supported by the Mexican Cycling Federation and the National Sports Commission.
The training objectives are to improve power and endurance for individual events of the omnium. Training with Sarah Hammer and riders from Turkey and Ireland has made significant changes in Sofia as she has improved both her power and her endurance on the track. In the last Pan American Games in Guadalajara 2011, Sofi showed the progress when she won the silver medal.
First World: Astana
In Astana, as in all World Cups, you need to do a points race of 40 laps in order to qualify to the finals in the omnium, they have 2 heats and the best 12 of each heat get to ride the finals. Sofia was 4th in her qualifying heat, showing again her progress in her endurance.
The omnium started with 24 riders, all the best girls of the world were there only two big names were missing: Tara Whitten and Sarah Hammer they both decided to start their season in the 2nd World Cup in Cali.
Sofia was looking strong but performed poorly in the elimination race and finished 13th overall at the end.
2nd World Cup: Cali, Colombia
For this World Cup Andy and Sofi planned to do the scratch race in addition to the omnium. The scratch race is an official event in the World Championships but not in the Olympics, this is one of Sofia’s favorites events and she can perform really good in it as well.
You also need to do a qualification ride before riding the finals, 2 heats where only the first 10 of each heat can go to the finals. Sofia was second in her heat and was ready to give everything in the next race.
The final had 20 riders, the best riders in the world for sure. She was trying to control the race from start to finish and maybe worked too much, 4 riders went into the break away and she managed to win the bunch sprint to finish 5th place, this complies in part with the goal set by Andy for this World Cup.
The next day begins with the qualifying for the omnium. Sofia had to ride the heat with the best two riders of the specialty (World Champ Tara Whitten and multiple World Cup Champ Sarah Hammer) She managed to qualify and had a very regular start in the first event (250m flying lap). In the second event (points race) she finished in 5th place, Sofi improved her chances in the general classification and she was getting closer to the top 10 she wanted.
In the next event (elimination race), a race that is usually very complicated as every rider starts the race full gas because every 2 laps the last rider gets eliminated. The excitement of the riders as well as their desire to win caused several crashes, Sofi was involved in one of them. She hit the wall of the track injuring her back, right arm and finger and so had to end her participation in this World Cup.
Sofi is currently in 3rd place in the world ranking of the scratch race and she is looking forward to top that at the World Championships in Australia but her main focus is to make more points for the Olympics, she still wants to secure top 10 in the next two World Cups in Beijing and the Olympic test of London.
There are now four more races where she can collect Olympic points: the next two World Cups, the PanAm Champs and the World Champs it will be a hard and close fight between the riders because everyone is working harder than ever before to get there but we are sure that Sofia can achieve her goal and make her Olympic dream a reality in London.
Sofi & Nancy
My Sister Sofi
by Nancy Arreola
Sofi and her papa Rolando in Apeldoorn for the World Championships
Sofi Arreola is a young successful rider from Mexico (she also happens to be my sister) and she’s aiming for a place to ride for her country at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
Sofi has won 6 gold medals in the Jr. PanAm champs, 4th place in the Junior Worlds in Moscow 2009 and she’s finished within the top 10 in almost every Track World Cup she’s competed in. She was invited to the World Cycling Center in Switzerland for the 2009-2010 track season and that changed her life. Her results as a Jr. were really good but it wasn’t until she met her new coach Andy Sparks that she started to look at cycling in a different way.
Not everything has been easy for her, she’s had to fight for everything… including her own life. Sofi was a premature baby and she almost didn’t survive. The doctors told dad that he should be prepared for the worst because it was very possible that she wouldn’t survive the night, but she fought and she won that battle. She was getting 15% less oxygen than other babies for one and a half months and she was so tiny.
We had to take lots of care with her because she was always getting sick (I have to admit… I was SUPER jealous because she was getting all the attention from my parents). She used to be allergic to everything so she had to go to the hospital once a month to get 30 injections in her tiny little arms. I could see in her face she was in so much pain but she never cried or complained about it; 3 years old and she was so tough! She wasn’t 100% healthy but my little sister was never weak. She has been giving me life lessons since the minute she was born.
Sofi & Nancy
Life goes on…
Our younger sister Chely and I are really hyper so my parents introduced us to sports at a very young age. Chely is 2 years younger than Sofia but she was just as big as her and beating her in every sport they tried! I bet she can’t say that anymore though… haha!
When I started cycling both my sisters were doing speed skating and they were really having fun with the sport but after one year they took part in a local bike race and they instantly fell in love with cycling, just as I did.
Sofi did the State Championships two weeks after that but she didn’t qualify for the Nationals so she made it her personal goal to win it the following year, she worked harder than anyone else, never missed a single practice and she was really serious about eating well and taking her recovery to a whole new level. It was impressive to see a 13 year old girl behave like that.
Sofi at Apeldoorn - Image ©Copyright Anton Vos
The next year she won everything in the State Championships and got 2 silver medals in the Nationals, since then she’s won almost every competition she’s entered in Mexico. The first time my sister ever rode on the track she won the Scratch Race in the elite category when she was only 14 beating Nancy Contreras (former 500m World Champ) and yeees… she beat me as well but let’s forget about that part!
Sofi & Rolando (Papa) in Puerto Rico
Arreola Family LtoR: Rolando (Dad), Sofi, Chely, Nancy (Mum) and Nancy
She’s had many good results in her short career but also had her ups and downs. In her first Jr. World Champs she crashed in her opening event and was forced to use a wheelchair because she couldn’t walk, but even that didn’t stop her from doing the road race and TT.
She also crashed in the Central American Games last year in Puerto Rico. She was knocked out but the first thing Sofi said when she gained consciousness was “where’s my bike?!” she finished the race concussed and went straight to the hospital not knowing where she was. All her efforts that day gained her a bronze medal for Mexico, a bronze with a good taste of gold.
I’ve seen her do an Omnium going from the ambulance to the track and then back to the ambulance again because she was really sick and even then winning 4 out of 6 events (it was an important race because it would decide who was going to the track world cups to represent Mexico). The Olympic dream has been in her head since she was a little kid and it’s that determination and desire that leads her to keep fighting.
Even with those chaotic races she’s had good results on her way to London, she finished 2nd in the elite PanAms [Pan-American’s] last year and 4th in the Scratch Race at Manchester’s World Cup, putting her in 2nd place in the world rankings but eventually she finished 4th at the end of the track season.
Of course Sofi and I have the support of our whole family. My dad Rolando goes to almost every World Cup with her and when we’re in Mexico he follows us both to every single ride providing all the support while training; my mum Nancy is the one who makes sure that Sofi has everything she needs. Mum calls the FMC [Federación Mexicana de Ciclismo] almost every day, books her tickets to World Cups and she also makes sure that she has all the right equipment to train and race. Chely and myself are her biggest supporters!
Sofi with her coach Andy Sparks
But I think the main thing that has made the biggest impact on her career is training with Andy Sparks, she was training with him when she was in Switzerland and now she’s followed him to Mallorca where they are now both based.
Andy is an amazing coach and they get along really well. She has a lot of respect for him and follows everything he says 100%. Since she’s been training with him we’ve seen her gain more confidence in her skills and has a better attitude while racing. Andy gives her the right motivation and the perfect training to be at her best in every competition.
Sofi knows that nothing is impossible if you work hard for it and you give your best at all times. The fact that she gets to train with Sarah Hammer is also a major boost for her, Sarah is her role model and inspires Sofi to become better every day. Sarah and Andy have been an amazing support for her when she’s away from home, even when she’s missing family, home and friends she’s surrounded by great people in an amazing environment and we know she’s happy even though we all miss her.
She had a complicated season last year but has pulled herself together and focused on doing things right and hopefully she’ll qualify for the London Olympics and achieve a good result. She’s taking it a step at a time, the next track season will be crucial for Sofi, as it will be for many other riders across the world, in order to qualify for London she needs to get good results in the 4 World Cups and the World Championships in Australia. It’s going to be a fun season; I am excited to see how it goes!
Sofi & Nancy - Sisterly rivalry while training - Mexico - March 2011
Thank you very much for reading and I’ll be giving you more updates about the World Cups and who has a chance of getting to ride in London 2012 via my articles here at Cycling Shorts!