Team Training Camps

Team Training Camps

By Michael Sayers

   It is that time of year again. The time when the weather has forced us to look to places where the sun shines. For most of us, we want to spend those sunny days with friends,and hopefully friends that double as teammates. This time of year, we are resigned to spend our winter riding hours on our home roads. One great part of cycling is that no matter what our age or our ability, there is a place for us on a local team or club, and many of these team organize a weekend of group training often referred to as a training camp. The concept of a training camp started with professional teams, but in the last few years, the concept has floated down to the local teams and clubs.

   For most of the pro teams out there, training camp is a big part of the season. It’s the place where the team gathers for the first time as a group, and maybe the only time, to start the season. What most people don’t know is that many camps, at the pro level, become less about training and more about all the other aspects of a team; getting new equipment, getting medical check ups and taking photos. The photo days can be the most time consuming and exhausting of all the activities. The training becomes secondary, and even if it is the primary objective of the camp, the emphasis squarely falls on the word training. The whole idea of a camp is to create a solid social bond along with a solid fitness base.

   For those of us who ride for enjoyment and to improve our physical well being, winter training camps can be an incredible opportunity to re-enforce our social bonds with the people we chose to spend our cycling time. With that in mind, it is important for us to enter these camps with the right mindset; a mindset that says “we are here to have fun” and not “we are here to show our fitness”. It can be incredibly rewarding to do some incredibly fun rides, possibly in a place you have never been before, with a solid group of people. With that,it is the early season, for road riders, and that can mean far different fitness levels.

   That can lead to some riders taking on a large percentage of the work load and some riders unable to match that physical output. The great part can be when the stronger, fitter riders willingly accept that workload with the goal of helping their slightly less fit teammates achieve an improved fitness level. So how can this harmony be achieved when the fitness differential can be at its largest? The ideal suggestion is that the rides be tailored to the median level of the group and the pace set accordingly. As I previously mentioned, the fitter riders can take on larger portions of the pace setting which allows the slightly less fit riders to stay in the group longer, and, therefore, improve their fitness. There should be a lot of standard 2 by 2 riding formation which allows the group to move more smoothly, take up less of the road and gives the riders the ability to sort the more fit from the less fit. It becomes a simple calculation of those who can pull longer should and those who cant will do what they can. With all that, there is always room for the “go fast zone” where the heat is on and the riders can push themselves to the edges of their fitness. This is the reward for keeping the bulk of the ride at that nice tempo pacing where all can participate in improving not only their own fitness but the fitness of their teammates. After the “go fast zone” the regroup should occur to allow for recovery, story telling, performance comparison and good natured razzing. All this adds up to some serious miles when the general tempo of the group is high and everyone gets the recovery they need and feel included in the group.

   Cycling has always been about give and take. It is the nature of the sport at the most basic level, and it transfers to any kind of riding. The give is the time we give to our bikes, our rides,our friends and our teammates. The work we do in a group ride or as we cruise those amazing mountain roads. The take is the ability to sit in the group even when our fitness is not the best or the ability to sit in the group as our teammates do the work in the local criterium. The take can even be that wonderful espresso your buddies buy you at the halfway mark of the local weekend ride. Training camps can be the definition of the cycling give and take, and an amazing team building experience for riders of all levels