Le Domestique

Le Domestique (Taylor Gunman) gives us insights into the recent Madison Genesis team camp in Calp, Spain....

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Pre-season training camps offer a unique opportunity both for riders and their teams. The riders benefit from new equipment, clothing, nutrition and everything else that comes along with the team. And for management, this is the only time during the season they’ll have the entire team in the same place.

The Spanish seaside town of Calp is part of the history-filled Alicante province, and became a popular port for the Romans during their conquest of Spain in the 2nd century BC. In modern times, its main attractions are abundant sunshine and soft, sandy beaches, making it a popular summer destination for those who wish to tan. During what’s considered the off season, the cycling community keeps alive what would otherwise be a seasonally dormant town.

Calp is a popular destination for many cyclists—from the World Tour to everyday riders—who appreciate its stable weather, dry roads, and reliable sun. It provides incredibly diverse terrain, almost perfectly tailored for the cyclist, and a chance for pro riders to get a good block of training, in better weather, and without distraction. In early spring, the roads are covered with mini-pelotons, each closely followed by a caravan of team support vehicles, all maximising conditions before the summer onslaught of tour buses. We are, as my partner would jokingly say, avoiding any real world duties. Bike riding is life.

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These Spanish roads can only be compared to a 5 am ride on Tamaki Drive in Auckland. Riding fast is easy, but riding hard is almost too fast; you won’t often find training camp riders looking for an extra 10 kilometres because the route for the day was finished 20 minutes too soon. Each climb conquered seems purpose-built, closely hugging the contours of the hillside whilst projecting a view of the village left behind. You experience zonation first-hand: at lower elevation, the mountainside begins with big orange trees loaded with ripened fruit ready for harvest, then winds toward the desolate top, where only the occasional vine clings to life.

Have you ever had the luxury of training with a follow car behind? That’s probably the part of training camp we riders appreciate the most. Knowing that just over your shoulder, the team vehicle is watching your back, and is—more importantly—full of sandwiches, lollies and dry clothes to help make even the toughest ride pass by in no time. You can easily reach for the lifesaving black elixir that is Coke, plus a handful of Haribo Gummy Bears, to help nurse you home.

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Being a continental team, Madison Genesis is a bit more relaxed during training camp. The team rents a villa in Calp, which helps create the feel of a family spring vacation. Bunk beds and dinner served in tin foil trays, long tables with bench seats crammed in: it’s almost like a Kiwi summer holiday. Night-time is team bonding time. A narrated game of “Mafia” (a murder mystery mix of charades and Cluedo) became a regular occurrence for Madison Genesis this past year. As lying and deceiving your fellow teammates was the key to success, this was a somewhat controversial game. However, getting the entire team involved meant it was a great way for everyone to quickly get comfortable and relax into the start of the new season.

I personally find rest day to be, by far,  the most rewarding day. It’s what you strive for as you throw your leg over the bike each difficult training day. Most cyclists would agree their main objective is to aim for the cafe at ride’s end. I must admit we have been guilty of taking over a cafe, bathing in the sun, drinking our lattes and justifying that piece of cake we definitely earned. (I once had the biggest slice of carrot cake, along with two decent flat whites, at D·Origen, a now-infamous cafe for cyclists in Altea.)

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Training camp is basically a boys’ trip, but instead of drinking beers and sitting by the pool, we’re spending hours in the saddle and smashing protein shakes. To those of us who love bikes, it’s the ultimate type of fun.


Words & Images: Taylor Gunman & Madison Genesis

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