Life in Lanzarote
In preparation for this year's l'Etape du Tour we've headed for a week of hard training in the hilly and windy climate of Lanzarote - well, that and some glorious sunshine.
So, for now, here's how we've spent the first few days of our training camp, there will be more pictures to follow, so keep an eye out for our photo gallery over the next few days.
Day 1 - 40kms
Time to shake down the bikes and start the training. Lanzarote is windy and desolate. But it's a warm and a suitably quick spin up from La Santa to the village.
There are several experts out on this Sporting Tours International Etape training week, all designated a particular role in the party. Tim Lawson from Science in Sport, the cycling coach Joe Beer, Andy Cook from British Cycling and the former Tour de France rider Malcolm Elliott. The intention of the camp is to ready the riders for the build up to l'Etape du Tour in July. And it's perfect training as you can't really go anywhere in Lanzarote without going up hill or into the wind, so the riding is always going to be challenging.
Day 2 - 80kms
There's 60ish riders on the trip so there needs to be 4 groups made up. La Santa employs several very handy riders to escort the groups at a suitable pace and everyone is catered for. Everything is explained by Andy Cook and group riding fundamentals are ran through so those who are new to road riding get the basics.
First of, the climb over Fire Mountain and a loop of El Gulfo before re-tracing over fire mountain and back to La Santa. The groups have been staggered a little and the faster group sent for further loops so that we all meet at suitable rendez-vous at about the same time. There's a support car with food and water too - it's all very well organised.
Day 3 - 115kms
A fairly gentle start and a roll out along (relatively) flatter roads towards the brutally steep climb of Femes, there's certainly nothing gentle about this climb though, with the final metres kicking up to well over 20%. But it's a lovely day and certainly a lot warmer than the training has been in the UK lately. After lunch at the top of the climb and a further 30 or so kilometres we reach La Santa with fresh legs, so when two of the faster groups come together in the closing kilometres there's a bit of a burn-up into the La Santa complex.
Day 4 - 115kms (or 160kms)
A longer day is planned for today. Before we go anywhere a minute's silence and black armbands are worn in tribute to the Rhyl CC. Today the groups are changed around a bit to allow faster riders to move up a group and to equal out the numbers. The pace is still pretty steady for the first few. The highlight of today's excursion is the climb of Tabayesco. It's 10 kms from the bottom to the top. We're told that 30 minutes is good, 25 is very good and 22 is pro-contract time... so the whole group set off at a ludicrous pace to try to secure a season with CSC. Fortunately a few have a more sensible approach and treat the climb with the respect it deserves.
It's windy and steep but not so much that the Rabobank riders we've seen out training can't do it two or three times. Dean Downing (who's out here too) manages about 25 minutes and, although he already has a pro contract, the guides are suitably impressed with all our efforts on a very hard day. Apparently, Bjarne Riis has ridden up this climb with one leg, and he also broke the 22 minute barrier the year he won the Tour de France. Needless to say I needed both legs and CSC won't be after me this year. The remainder of the ride back to La Santa is pretty easy (mostly downhill) but then for some stupid reason a few of us decide the best option is an extra two hours with Deano and Malcolm... 100 miles in the day and a few pairs of very sore legs...
More to follow, we'll be riding the Lanzarote Ironman course on Tuesday (170kms) so that should be fun!?
Look out for more photos and reports later this week...