I spent last weekend at my first cycle team ‘concentration’ (the term here for ‘training camp’) in Valencia, Spain. I found out on Thursday night that I had been accepted into the Control Pack race team and 24 hours later was packed into a team mate’s car for the long drive south from Girona. I am not a professional cyclist and do have a full time job, although I prefer to fit in work around cycling than the other way around. Getting on a cycle race team, even at amateur level, is a funny game. Winning races clearly helps to get on a good team and heck even progress to a paid position, but also equally important is who you know and what they think of you.
I started racing late in life and have ridden for several clubs and race teams so can only speak from my amateur experience. Here in Girona I am lucky to rub shoulders with a few pros and have picked their brains about paid life on the road. For me, I have not been blessed with the ability to just turn up and win. I train hard and work hard in races and occasionally have won, but I am fighting for the top positions. If you know somebody on a team they can normally put in a good word for you. This is what has happened here in Catalonia. I dropped into the Catalan amateur racing scene earlier this year in 40 something degrees heat, 130Km races with upwards of 2000m of climbing. I actually like these kinds of races, but safe to say I haven’t won any of them – yet. So when I met somebody in a good team it was time to get a recommendation from a pro friend of mine. It worked a treat.
At the concentration camp the average age was around half of mine. Yes they looked like boys off the bike but when we rode out on the Saturday they soon became A-class racers. The positioning in the peleton, riding style and pace was all impeccable. On the first climb of the day the pace picked up and I rolled up my sleeves to get stuck in. A small group broke off the front for the last Km and I stuck with them, without passing. Surprisingly when I looked back, the trail of riders was sprung out down the mountain. The second climb heated up even more, this time I nearly missed the attack (several riders in front detached from the peleton) so I had to sprint sprint out of the saddle to get back on. Again I rode over the top in the first several riders, feeling good. The last climb of the day got harder and the surface was rough, but I hung on! After that it was back to base for a well earnt 3 course lunch consisting of the best paella in Valencia (rabbit, chicken and green beans) and probably in Spain. I am in heaven, I thought.
This year the management team of Control Pack achieved 5 riders being promoted to professional level, so it’s a really good team. It is a great step for me with the chance to race at a high level, to train with riders faster than me and push myself to my limits. Sometimes I do envy the pro rider, actually getting paid for the sweat and tears that I love to endure on the bike, however other times I think I have achieved a great balance of loads of cycling, paid work and loads of cycling.
As the pros complete their first training camps before Christmas, I had my own, if not tamed-down experience. All the same it was amazing, I met loads of new friends and rode some new roads. The passion, drive and ambition of amateur cyclists never fails to amaze me. The 2016 season is shaping up to be my biggest yet…