Arriving at my first 2019 Mitchelton-SCOTT training camp felt a bit like the first day of school or maybe even more like waking up in someone else’s house and trying to make breakfast in their kitchen. I know everything I need is here—just in different places or a slight variation from what is my normal. I’m slowly feeling my way around and learning the setup of this new organization.
Just getting to camp was quite a whirlwind. I took a full day to get from Girona to southern Portugal. I arrived late in the evening, but that didn’t stop me from heading straight to the TT bike on a trainer in the parking lot in anticipation of some TT kilometers on the first day of camp.
Back in my room was a box of new gear that needed some organizing, so it was a full evening. With so much ground to cover each day, it’s essential to get an early start, so the next morning was a bit of fury with me zipping up the suitcase and trying to get fueled before my first big ride with the team.
The life of a cyclist partly revolves around caffeine and these guys smash some mid-ride coffees! I’ve kept with my morning routine and continued to pull out my pour-over setup from my suitcase for a morning brew and a few minutes of alone time. Once we are out on the road, it’s the usual Spanish fair--hot, caffeinated java that gets us out the door for hours 5, 6 and 7!
After more than a decade with my last team, there are a lot of differences that I’m adjusting to, but it is all coming along well. I keep reminding myself that the transition is a work in progress.
The most significant differences are probably with the bikes--particularly the saddle and the handlebars—because at this point in my career, these are areas that have basically grown into extensions of my body. This is why having a training camp is so vital. I’m getting 6-7+ hours a day on the bike to adjust. I know I’m right where I need to be before heading into the race season.
The other differences are a little subtler. It is about learning a new system and how things are organized and communicated. Overall, the Australian culture and mentality are quite laid back and flexible while still being professional and prepared. To be honest, I can't imagine a better environment to go through this change.
The squad at this camp is a reduced group because many of the guys are racing down in Australia. It’s definitely been exciting watching them find so much success at that first race and already feeling somewhat a part of it. This is the sort of momentum that carries across the entire team.
The squad here in Spain is a unique one with nine or so different nationalities represented. Despite the strong Australian core, there isn’t a single Aussie rider here! Chris Juul-Jensen is definitely the jokester of the group. He must also be in great shape because he always seems to have the breath to crack a funny one-liner even while we are climbing up a mountain and I’m huffing and puffing. We also have one women's team rider here--Annemiek van Vleuten--who has joined us every day despite being in the early phases of injury rehab after suffering a crash at Worlds (still pulled a top 10) and needed surgery. Despite doing days that are about double her usual race distance, she's completed every ride and had an awesome attitude through it all. I think we are all learning a bit from her approach and mentality.
Out on the Road
After a decade doing training camp in Denia, Spain, it is super refreshing to be on some new roads and having a change of scenery every day. It takes a bit of recalibration as we aren't doing as much specific work, but it’s invigorating to find some simple pleasure just being on the bike all day. We are looked after by a fantastic support staff, which makes the whole experience pretty perfect. I know it sounds cliched, but I’m basically living the dream!
The training side is definitely different from the more traditional camps I’ve done. Here the focus is on volume and accumulating time on the bike with a fair dose of climbing. It’s not necessarily the time to work on specific weaknesses or techniques. Instead, it is about laying a fat foundation to build upon during the season. In the past, I’ve trained with a little more intensity at this time of the year, but the volume is taxing me differently, and I know I'll be motivated to pick up the intensity when I'm back training at home in the next block.
I’m heading back home to Girona today and actually another training camp before I head off for my first race.