Training Camp Rules

The first rule of Training Camp is always talk about Training Camp.  So here goes...

Pre-trip Preparation
In the weeks leading up to the time you go away, hammer yourself on the turbo three nights a week to get fit.  It's important that you're race ready and down to your fighting (read climbing) weight before you get on the plane.

Tell anyone who'll listen, that you're not training before you go away as you'll get such a massive training benefit by being away riding with the pro's that there's no need to do anything up until your camp.

Make every attempt to keep out of sight of people who are training at the weekends, and if you are "caught" tell them you're on a "smell the flowers ride" just to keep the limbs loose for when you go to your Training Camp.

Don't put your compact chainset on until the day before you go away.  Tell all your mates you'll be riding the classic 42 x 52 combination at camp, to build your climbing ability in the mountains and develop a carbon-frame breaking sprint.

If at all possible (and I promise you this bit really happened in the 80's) hire a sunbed and get under it after every training session wearing a race jersey and shorts, to get your tan lines clearly defined.  I swear it's been done; you know who you are!

It's important to be comfortable when travelling.  So wear baggy shorts if possible (makes your legs look skinnier) and shave your legs the morning of your trip for added style. 

If possible, pinch some UltraGlow from the missus and rub it on your legs, just don't get it on the plane's upholstery.  Whatever you do, don't go out dressed like this; that includes you Mr Whiteside, not even for a laugh (your mankini and two kiwi fruits was the limit).

From the moment you leave home, until the second you get back, never, ever, ever, take your Oakleys off.  Possible exception might be at airport security, but wait until your asked/forced/manhandled before doing so.

Make sure you've got reading material for the journey.  Boy Racer (Mark Cavendish) or any Lance Armstrong book will mark you out to the plebs that you're a true cyclist, and to other cyclists that you're to be avoided at all costs.

Another must have is your training plan,  It should have your name, a professional logo and a seriously good title, all in big bold letters on the front page.  Inside there should be copious graphs and charts. For the best effect, have a heart trace and a download from a power file on adjacent opposite pages so when it "falls open" everyone can see your serious about your sport. 

Extra points can be scored if there's handwritten notes on the graphs, with bold arrows pointing to the peaks and red-ringed areas at the troughs.  This will impress any stewardess (or steward) that sees them during the refreshment part of your flight.  If you haven't got an impressive document like this, email me.

Under no circumstances whatsoever book an airport transfer.  It'll mark you out as a team player and is the first sign of training camp weakness.  Why pay 15 Euros for a bus/trailer transfer and wait for everyone else to turn up, when you and three others can pre-book a taxi and travel in style.

After spending an hour and a half arguing with the driver of a Fiat Punto that you're not putting a Colnago, a Pinarello and a Trek on his roof rack, you finally set off, with bike bags on your lap.  It could of been worse, you could of blagged a lift of me!

Two hours and 75 Euros later, you arrive to check in just as everyone else is returning from dinner.  All the sea facing rooms have gone but you get a conveniently situated room above the kitchen and overlooking the motorway.  This is good, as it'll give you more to talk/moan/winge about when you get back home.

Being a worrier/professional/OCD sufferor (delete as appropriate), you want to (need to) check your bike is okay.  However, if you do suffer from OCD you won't be able to get past the fact that "sufferor" is spelt wrong.  So we'll lose you right here...

Being a worrier, you check your bike.  You spend the next hour building it, as you can't find your pedal spanner (so have to borrow one) and then you find you have to undo one of them to get it to go on!  How bizarre.

You get to the dining room, just as the tables are being cleared but manage to bag a stale roll, some wilted buffet salad and lukewarm chicken.  Never mind.  You take a cup of tepid, stewed coffee to your room and can have an energy bar as dessert.

Finally, before you go to bed, rush outside and get your Union Jack towel on a sun lounger.  Place a half consumed bottle of water and an old (Lance) book next to it, so it looks attended.  As for the Germans, ha!; Who's ze daddie now Franz?

A final hour studying the morning's route maps and it's to bed in a lovely toasty warm, underfloor super-heated room.  With only the drone of the cars on the motorway to drown out the washing and stacking of pans below in the largest, noisiest, hottest kitchen this side of Saipan.

Day One
Don't fall in to the trap of waiting to set off with the main group.  Again, you don't want to be mistaken for a team player.

Luckily, you're up early as the cooking of breakfast in the kitchen at 5:00 am brought you out of your sauna induced, dehydrating slumber.  This gives you time for a hearty breakfast, a jug of water and a couple of toilet visits before you set off.  Remember, foreign coffee's a lot more rigorous on the digestive system than the Mellow Birds stuff you drink back home.

With the day's route firmly planted in your mind, you wander to the lobby and have a smug smirk at the deeply shaded Gerolsteiner, Telekom and Landbouwkredit towels.  With "the sheep" listening to last minute debriefing instructions, your on your way fifteen minutes early and heading for the first climb.  Alone.  Apart from a few other flamme rouge subscribers.


Getting on the road early gives you many advantages; you can climb at your own speed, you don't have to talk to anyone, especially riders that may be better than you, and you can get a head start on the descent without show offs getting in your way and cutting you up. 

Finally, you if you are caught late on in the morning, you'll be on the front on the next valley floor as you're the only one not in oxygen debt for the race to the base of the second climb.  Job done.

However... Because you missed the breakfast briefing, you failed to hear the mountain top weather warning, the moving of the feed station and the closed road after 85k. 

You end up returning to the hotel frozen and sodden after eight hours (five in the rain), 180 kilometres alone and three punctures.  And all this done on two water bottles, an energy bar and a jelly baby you found in your saddle bag. 

The irony of the fact that you passed your gilet to the feed station marshal before you left has also not gone unnoticed. 

It's now four pm, lunch is over, it's three hours to dinner and your sun lounger is sitting in the shade while all the Germans are getting pink in their wind-free sun trap corner of the patio. 

You go back to your room to the sound of the evening meal being prepared.  This would be a good time to plug your laptop in, if you hadn't of forgotten the europlug adaptor.  So it's recovery and power nap time.  You're on holiday remember.

You wake up at 9:30 pm, still in your sticky kit and miss the evening meal and sports nutrition seminar.  But don't worry, day two will be better.  For you it's a recovery day!

School for Scoundrels
Our old school motto was "Altus Cogitatus Cranerium, Te Phallus,"  which loosely translated to, "Up there for thinking, you c*ck"  We had many other mottos, but being scousers they mainly revolved around what's yours is mine etc.  Anyway, I digress...  Here are ways to get ahead through the power of thought.

Nothing speaks louder than a drunken Geordie lass,  But in our context, we're looking at numbers.  And this seasons' de facto (more Latin there) parameter of choice is wattage.  Nothing speaks louder than a big wattage number.  So here's my top tips.

If you have an SRM, recalibrate it so it reads 10-15 watts higher than actual.  This is a great way to impress your mates.  Also, underestimate your FTP in your Cycling Peaks software.  You'll then get mightily impressive Training Stress Scores for very little effort.  This will really impress your fellow forum readers when you get back and extol the first rule of training camp.

If you haven't got a power meter, adjust the circumference wheel measurement on your bike computer to read 10% more.  That way, your average speed and distance will be 10% higher when you scroll through the readings at the end of your ride.

As for team kit, don't wear yours.  You don't want to be spotted and have someone who knows you become a hanger on and spoil the perception you've worked so hard to build.  You're the cool dude who eats alone, trains alone and does seven hours on the first day.  This is stuff of legend so you don't want a better rider from home recognising you and blowing your cover.

Any kit you do wear should always be of a trade team stylee.  You can tell the seasoned training camper, they've done their homework.  They know which team trains where and choose their kit accordingly. 

No use wearing a Lampre kit in Calpe if the pro team is at Club La Santa.  Two words; nigh eve, get it right. 

If you're a vet, it is permissible to wear kit with rainbow bands around the sleeves.  Obviously not a full blown jersey as everyone would guess you're an ar$e, but jersey sleeves?  You might just be able to carry it off. 

Just make sure you have less than 8% body fat and the tan lines (see above) to see it through.  Again, it's obligatory to keep your Oakleys on, so no one can look you in the eye and call your bluff.

If you're on the road and you see someone struggling, providing you're in the previously discussed full trade team kit, feel free to ride alongside, proffer advice and generally make them feel inadequate.  Criticise everything from wheel choice,  gearing, cadence, contents of drinks bottle and general riding style.

They wont be offended because it's just like the club runs back home.  It might even make their week as they'll get back and tell everyone that they received guidance and support from an old ex-pro who must have been good because there were coloured bands on their sleeves.  See, you've made their week!

For added authenticity, keep playing with your sleeves and say you've put on a bit of weight since you started taking cycling less seriously.  It's probably half-true!  Just hope they don't see you going out the back of a chipper League of Vets race at Easter.

People to Avoid
There are many pitfalls waiting to catch the first time or unwary training camper.  Most of them concern people.

Once again, another picture from L'Eroica

The first people to avoid are similarly clad groups of individuals.  These will be cycling clubs.  Some are higher up the avoid list than others.  But it's easy to spot which is which. 

Clubs with light blue, yellow or pink, in their jersey will be southerners.  You can ride with them but don't expect to get wet or do big hills.  You'll spend a lot of time in cafe's so take loads of money and some hair gel if you want to fit in.  Drink of choice is a Cafe Chocca Mocha Latte-chino.

Riders regaled in fluorescent colours, red/green/white combos or with upwards of forty-six sponsors are definitely your Johnny Foreigner. 

Being German, Italian and French in that order.  You'll easily spot the Spanish, they're all under 45 kilos, have 6% body fat and are a mahogany colour.

You can ride with the Germans, just don't mention the you know what, and don't expect any through and off. 

The Italians don't ride until the afternoons, so you'll probably never see them on the road but they will still be wearing their kit at 10 pm with the bottom of their shorts turned up, to show road rash sustained in the car park.  Here's a picture Dianne took earlier...

Avoid anyone wearing orange at all costs.  If they're over 6 foot they're Dutch and hard as nails.  If they're under five foot, they're Basque and harder still.  Basque drink of choice is Patxaran and the Dutch's is obviously Oranjeboon.  These drinks are well known lactate buffering supplements and should be drunk copiously.  It seems to work for them.

The Spanish are good to ride with on the flats as it's the recovery section for them, but don't expect to get any shelter.  As soon as a rise appears, get out of there sharpish.  They climb faster than you descend.  When a hill comes, look for the Germans.  Drinks of choice are, cappuccino for the Italians, espresso for the Spanish and mineral water for the Germans.

As for the French, never, ever, ever, ride with the French.  French vets are the speed and climbing equivalent of the GB under-23 squad.  They're all nice people but they'll always be talking about you, and when they laugh, they're laughing at you.  Best wait for them at the top of a climb, let them go past, then nail them all on the descent; they descend like girls.  Drink of choice is vin rouge.

Anyone with black, brown or deep green in their jersey will be northerners.  You can ride with them if you can hang on in the 53x11 and climb in the big ring.  They wont go out if it's over 16 degrees and will actively seek out wind and rain. 

They take their own sandwiches to the cafe's and complain constantly about not being able to get a decent cuppa.  Take some Eccles cakes and brylcreem if you want to fit in.  Drink of choice is Yorkshire Tea, with five sugars and a thimble of milk. 

And just like all of those above, you'll not be able to understand a bloody word they say.

You'll notice there's no Belgians.  They don't do training camps.  Why go elsewhere when you can cycle in God's country and have the weather from hell as a training aid?  Also, there's no cobbles at these manicured camps, so what's the point?

Finally, keep away from triathletes (aero bars, suspect handling skills), people in black socks (Armstrong fans), people in long socks (newbies), people in long black socks (Americans) and the devil's spawn themselves, recumbent riders; it's just wrong on many levels and is cycling for lazy people.

Things to remember...
Always assume Johnny foreigner can't talk English.  That way if you do find anyone English to chat to, you can have a jolly good laugh at their strange habits and riding styles.

Each evening, talk will turn to the days ride and the cycling equivalent of Top Trumps.  Or as we call it, Top Bumps.

Scores normally centre on bust curviness, length of hair, cuteness of the bottom, depth of tan and lycra hugginess. 

Bonus points are awarded if they are riding an Italian frame.  I took this photo at L'Eroica, as evidence of my all time highest score.

What's more, if you can pick them out in "normal" clothes at meal times, you get extra points.  And if you get an acknowledgement from them, then no doubt about it, you're the winner of the top prize, a tub of Assos Chamois Cream.

Constructive criticism is important to the organisers of training camps.  So, complain at every opportunity to the hotel management that you can't get Sky Sports or the Dave Channel on your TV.   

If you're in Spain, somewhere there will be an English Pub that sells fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, proper cups of tea and has all the red-top papers.  Your job is to find it and buy a t-shirt before you come home.  You score extra points if you don't tell anyone else and no one else finds it in the week you're there.

Always talk in a voice two decibels higher than normal at meal times, especially when discussing power/speed/distance numbers; see above for calibration suggestions.

my gorgeous wife...Get the missus back home, to text you twice a day.  If anyone asks (and even if they don't), tell them it's your coach asking for numbers in the evening to give you your plan for the next morning.  Don't expect them to believe it though, as they'll all suspect it's your mum anyway.

If somehow all of the above fails and you find you're out on the road with a fast group, tell them you've been here for two weeks and this is your recovery day.  Sit at the back and cadge an energy bar off one of the weaker riders.  It'll give you someone to ride back with when you're dropped.

Back Home
Once you get home, never underestimate the capacity of your riding mates to listen to stories of your travails.  Remember, rule number one of training camp, always talk about training camp.

Never miss an opportunity.  If someone mentions a new flavoured drink they're thinking of.  Your in.  Now you've got an hour and a half to recite to them the nutrition seminar you attended, twice, to get the freebies and drinks bottle handout at the end.  Particular attention should be paid to the glucose/fructose mix and the post-ride glycogen window.  They'll be mesmerised and will hardly be able to speak with admiration for your new found knowledge.

Digital cameras now mean you can take literally hundreds of photos of your trip.  Unlike the 80's, you don't have to wait to cash your giro before you go down to Boots to pick them up.  They're all free and can be transported forever without getting dog eared.

Also, by the magic of computers, you can show them all to an enthralled and captivated (read trapped) audience through the medium of a Post-Training Camp Power Point Presentation.  Share with your club mates at the pre-season get together the blood sweat and tears of your week in the sun.  They'll be too shy to approach you so don't wait to be asked, just turn up with a USB stick and a laptop at club night and off you go.

Again, don't be afraid to include power files and lactate graphs in your presentation.  If you need any, I can provide some old Jens Voigt ones I have.  I can smudge the name, for data protection purposes obviously.  If anyone questions why you can't put the same power out now, tell them obviously power wattages are higher at altitude because the air's less dense.

Don't race too soon when you get back home as you don't want to show your hand too early.  Again, if anyone asks, your in a consolidation and transition stage of your season's preparation.

Volunteer to take the juniors out, who will be in awe of the fact that you've ridden outside the county.  For added legend, let them "tease" out of you the fact that you did a seven hour time-trial after dropping a Lampre rider on the first climb that you used as a warm up.  And when you let slip that you can't confirm or deny that Cunego was there, well your as good as a God in their eyes.

Before you know it, you'll be elected Club President and will have sole coaching responsibility for the juniors.  Never be afraid to take on this role of nurturing talent and basking in the glory of others.  I've made a career out of it.

The Message
Cycling is mainly a social sport however there are some golden rules to follow.

Stay away from good riders, foreigners, people with aero bars, flint catchers (they can really kick your backside), riders in sleeveless jerseys and those with tattoos.  Nothing good will come of it.

Remember, the objective of a training camp is not to get fit, but to come back with enough stories and anecdotes to see you through to your Tour de France trip in July.  And that dear reader, is a whole new factsheet.

Until then...