As I waited at the airport for our plane to taxi yesterday, a man wearing more day-glo than the most zealous of commuter cyclists appeared outside my porthole. Elevated by a cherry picker, he was brushing his hand over the wing as if dusting a cabinet. “He’s just checking to see if we need to put anti-freeze on the plane,” the captain helpfully informed us over the tanoy. As a cold snap moves across Europe, there didn’t seem a better time to be jetting off to Majorca for a training camp.
The island is currently awash with cyclists hoping that they’re far enough south to avoid the big freeze. The Schlecks are here apparently, as are Quick Step and Lotto. Sky and the Great Britain team have had an ongoing training base here while the Endura squad I’ve come to visit are into their second week of their pre season camp. Half of them are to fly home on Friday. The rest will stay on the island and compete in the Trofeo Mallorca next week.
Shortly after arriving, I found Endura sponsored mountain biker Oli Beckingsale slouching in the hotel lobby. He was doing what professional cyclists do in hotel lobbys: endlessly scan the internet on their smart phones. As much as I’m sure the father of two misses his family, he also admits that he loves being at training camp.
It’s just a chance to knuckle down, he explained, without the distractions of home. The roads here are brilliant, he enthused. There’s flat. There’s mountains. The weather is a lot better. Being marooned out here in the middle of the Med, he’s almost guaranteed to be able to do the training he needs to right now.
Technically speaking the Olympian off-roader is not actually a member of Endura Racing – the UCI registered Continental team. Instead he’s a one man band in an Endura sponsored mountain bike team registered with British Cycling. In a nutshell, he does his own thing but combines with the road team when and where it works. At training camp this means rolling out with the road boys but peeling off when the efforts get specific. The mountain bike season doesn’t start until a bit later and he’s still coming back from breaking a femur last year. What he needs right now is consumption of steady road miles.
As we talked, a trickle of the road riders came up from the garages after completing their ride. Wearing the contented grins of a long day in the saddle, they almost routinely stopped at the top the stairs and gave their weary thighs a satisfied rub to confirm so.
“I’d thought you’d do another four k just to make it a proper day,” Beckingsale joked with Ian Wilkinson having already read their ride distance on Twitter.
Wilko dismissed the suggestion. “196km is quite enough for this time of year,” he noted.