The Team camp-2019
at the beginning of March, it was time to have the entire team together for what would be only our second time as a full compliment, Dylan having missed out on the December fun! We travelled to Calpe for what might be considered a relatively late team camp. But when you consider the big national events in the UK don't kick off until April it was perhaps perfect timing and a very wise move of Cherie Pridham to have a later camp. What a great camp it was. the first real time the entire team was put together for any long period of time and its fair to say we generated a pretty great vibe.
We did a one week training camp and it just didn't seem long enough. The days absolutely flew by with sponsor involvement every day and solid training combined too. The first day we were introduced to our brand spanking
new SRAM RED AXS Etap groupset equipped Vitus ZX-1 bikes. The beautifully painted red and black steads with their shimmering iridescent decals stood out from day 1. These bikes would go fast! And so they did that entire week as we pushed ourselves in training exercises and drills as well as solo efforts establishing the pecking order for the year.
Our first real ride encompasses 2 team time trials along a relatively flat road. It was special to ride the first effort with the decorated and legendary Edward Clancy (Ed) and Scott Thwaites. Both men that I had watched with star struck eyes on the television as I grew up. Getting over that emotion it then quickly became clear to me why they have risen so high in the sport. Their legs are bloody strong! Not that I was going to let that stop me from pulling equally devilish turns. There's one way you can make everyone hate you in a team time trial or through and off exercise and my teammates from HMT will testify to this. That is, every time you reach the front to take your turn, you just squeeze on the gas a little bit more than the rider who just pulled, thus appearing to accelerate to the rider behind you and all riders in the line, forcing them to squeeze to. This is very inefficient and I don't recommend it for your local chaingang but when you want to let others know you are strong its a great way to show a little panache. Especially when everyone else is doing it! I quickly came to realise that this was a completely different standard of team to the previous year's. I was quite comfortable for the most part of the rides but when it came to laying down the hammer I certainly felt the burn more than I ever have. Though this for certain is a good thing and as I grow I will attain the strength to inflict such discomfort.
The Key day of the training camp was our mountain time trial efforts up the col del rates. A 15 minute effort roughly. If only I had listened to the advice on how to ride the climb. I had gone well on what I thought were the lower slopes, holding onto a 400+ Watt average for the first 10 minutes, which is quite frankly a lot. The lower slopes of the climb are twisty with several hairpin bends and a sporadic incline which steepens and levels and steepens at various points. The road then bends round an outcrop and once you pass this long turn round to face the coast you can then see all the way up the road snaking a long the side of the climb. It was this view that broke my spirit. Had I listened to the break down of the climb I might have learned that this was in fact the final hurdle and the top was just around the corner. Oh dear. In my mind I still had 10 minutes to ride and the road was still going up and I was going well into the red and I don't know whether I can sustain this then all of a sudden I faltered in my head and the cranks stopped turning. Bam! When your impetus goes in any sort of timed effort wave good bye too any hopes of a respectable time. Sadly when I got to the top I was left frustrated with myself as I still had plenty left in the tank to give! So much of sport is about belief in yourself and it is often you find yourself asking that question can I really do this. It is in those moments when if you want to be the best, you must respond yes, or simply ignore your feeble thoughts and keep pounding the pedals.
Sadly the camp didn't get much better for me as I ate something which didn't agree with me. "It must have been the mango" as the boys kept saying or as I thought was more than likely the paella. I should have learned from my days as a junior, never touch seafood. I have never had a worse day on a bike, my stomach felt as if it were full of lead and I just couldn't absorb anything I ate. The cramping started as we set out for the biggest ride, a mountainous day in the Calpe outback. I remember being okay in the first 50km, most of which were uphill, but when we started to push the pace I only felt worse. I can remember this one section of road, where it dipped up and down, and you could see the tarmac in front of you bending down and up over some ridiculous gradients. All I could think was **** and it was when we hit are gradient that was a solid 11-12% average that I finally cracked and had to slow down battling my body. I fought on to the café stop where I thought it couldn't get any worse. It will be no surprise to that I spent the majority of the café stop in the toilet! We set off again heading up the col del rates once more. Kenway decided to have some fun, shooting past us on the lower slopes at an insane speed (we later discovered he had been launched of the car) the pace went up again and my stomach contracted further within itself only generating more discomfort for me. at the top of the climb I had to climb into one of the team vehicles, veritably grovelling in the back seat with discomfort. It is easily the worse day I have had on a bike and strangely not due to poor sensations in the legs!
The camp ended on a low for me and in true team fashion I was ridiculed for climbing off and for the excuse I had given. I would have liked to see someone else even climb out of bed with the same feeling as I had, let alone ride 100km. Despite that thought I was still disappointed. I felt I had underperformed and not shown my best. Giving your best and showing your best are most certainly two different things.
It was always going to be a tough year, the tough challenges make the end goal worth while and when your while is supported by so many fantastic people its even more gratifying when it comes together. I very much still have my eyes set on the most prestigious races in the sport. The tough days only make me stronger for the bigger challenges to come.