Tenerife hit the cycling headlines as the island where Bradley Wiggins laid the foundations for his Tour de France triumph.
“It’s the only place in Europe that you can stay at over 2,000m in the winter and train from the hotel door,” says Jeanette Caldicott of Polka Dot Cycling, who has helped Team Sky with logistics during spring training camps.
“The team (along with a lot of other pro teams now) stay at the Paradores Hotel situated in the old crater right next to Mount Teide. It’s the only building there, there are no shops and no internet, so it helps the riders to get away from it all and just focus on their training and recovery.”
Mount Teide dominates the island and rises to 3,718m, while the summit of the climb peaks at 2,100m. Wiggins first came to Tenerife in early 2011 and used Mount Teide to work on specific intervals between 1,500m and 2,100m after struggling at altitude during the 2010 Tour de France.
“Tenerife hosts the longest continuous climb in Europe (in terms of height gain) from sea level to – 2,200m in one hit,” says Caldicott.
“There is very little flat in Tenerife, but generally the main climbs are very steady, around five to six per cent in gradient, so it’s a great destination to get some good aerobic training.”
But Tenerife isn’t only a destination for professional cyclists. The largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands, Tenerife, which lies 300km off the coast of Africa, is dubbed the Island of Eternal Spring thanks to its southerly latitude and moderate climate controlled by the trade winds. It offers reliable weather year-round, not least in January and February when training camp destinations further north are liable to periods of poor weather. Tenerife’s good weather, however, is a four-hour flight away.
“Tenerife is an all winter destination,” says Caldicott, who says the best time to visit the dryer, warmer southern half of the island is December to April. Rain typically falls on only three days a month during winter.
“You see cyclists all through the winter here. We’ve cycled in many European destinations in the winter and spring months – Majorca, Nice, the Alpujarras in the south of Spain, Cyprus, Sardinia, Corsica – and all have great cycling and wonderful scenery, but they don’t have the winter weather Tenerife has.
“In Tenerife we have ridden every day during the winter not even thinking about the weather. You just get up assuming you are going to ride.
“Most people think of the Canaries as barren volcanic rock, but unlike some of it’s neighbours, Tenerife has a really varied landscape from prickly pears to pine forests. There are some stunning views as you climb from the coast up to Mount Teide.
“Ninety per cent of the roads in Tenerife are very well surfaced and are very quiet. Some need repairs, but they are easy to avoid. The locals are extremely patient drivers when it comes to cyclists and they will often sit behind you on a climb for five minutes until it is really safe for them to overtake.”
Pros: Longest continuous climb in Europe, year-round sunshine, ride like Wiggo & Froome
Cons: Four-hour flight, mountainous terrain provides little respite