The Endura team are based at Palmanova, a few bays along from Palma, and just short of package holiday Mecca Magaluf. It sits on a sweep of pale sandy beach washed by the turquoise waters of the med. Even under today’s grey skies, there is no mistaking that this place primarily serves the holiday trade.
Of course, right now, it’s out of season. Restaurants and cafes are shut. Holiday apartment block after apartment block stand empty. One member of the team noted that if they weren’t staying at the hotel then it would be ‘like God’s waiting room’. I thought they were being melodramatic until working in the hotel bar on my first evening here I looked up from my laptop to find myself surrounded by elderly northern Europeans waiting for the bingo.
But that’s what Majorca is in January: retired folk and cyclist’s making use of the summer tourist trade’s somewhat redundant facilities. Alongside the roads and the relatively good weather, this is what appeals about the island as a training camp. The swimming pools are empty, the bars are uncluttered, the hotels offer attractive prices. On the roads, traffic is slim. The smattering of people you see out and about are just going about their business.
Endura are at Palmanova through the Stephen Roche connection. The three time Tour winner bases training camps here and has an office just above the reception.
Downstairs there’s ample space for the team mechanics to assemble this year’s bikes. There’s a laundry with industrial sized washing machines that the soigneurs can use and a restaurant that is familiar with feeding hungry cyclists. “Stephen’s been using this place for about 18 years,” former British National Champion Neil Martin told me during a spin round the hills this afternoon. Neil, brother-in-law of Stephen and father of Garmin pro Dan, will now be based here till May helping run the camps. “Not many cyclists come to this corner of the island,” he noted as we dropped back into town. “Most camps are on the other side.”
Roche himself has been milling around the hotel since the day I arrived and says he’s been doing flat out days giving the business a bit of a revamp. Over a cup of tea after dinner, he told me about the day he first decided to base his camps here in 1994. “If you arrive on a flight at midnight, the last thing you want is to traipse across the island on a coach for an hour.” Here we’re twenty minutes from Palma’s vast airport. During the formative weeks of the business, Roche experimented with two week camps split between both sides of Mallorca. The overwhelming feedback he got was that this western pocket was better.
For riders the location means closer proximity to the hills. Yesterday, riding with the team, we headed straight out the back of the town over a little drag, before taking a cute little road that switchbacked past orange groves to top one of the rocky ridges that define this side of the island. Fitness among the sixteen riders is high and many of them seem to be chomping at the bit to get racing. Russ Downing’s eyed up a couple of stages in the Tour of the Med, ‘JT’ Locke’s pencilled in the Mount Faron stage and Alex Wetterhall is hoping to show his climbing legs at the Tour of Murcia.
Endura has again bolstered its line-up this off season. Of the 16 on the squad, almost all of them are proven winners. I’ve asked a few of the riders if they envisage this being a problem – too many chiefs and all that. Of course they say no. But some of the exercises they’ve been doing have been specifically designed to get any squabbling over and done with now. Most illustrative of these have been the lead out practices. After being split into two, the two sub teams had to decide how to conduct things. “They were all over the place and bickering the first time we did it,” recalled team DS Julian Winn. “But that was the point. When they realised they need to sort these things out amongst themselves and get organised, they did the lead outs a lot better.”