Road cycling training camps 2020/2021: what you need to know
Thinking about booking a trip away with your bike for some road cycling training before the start of the season?
Not sure whether to go down the route of organised road cycling training camp, guided riding or DIY?
How do you decide where to go?
Which are the best operators out there?
How do you go about organising your own cycling training camp?
We have answers! This article provides an in-depth look at road cycling camps, including the benefits, when to go, what type to choose and some of the best locations.
What is a winter cycling training camp?
A cycling training camp is a dedicated period of time, generally away from home, focused on riding your bike.
Most commonly they’re used by avid cyclists who want to escape autumn and winter weather at home and head to warmer climes with better roads and the opportunity to prepare for the forthcoming cycling season. However, with the Covid-19 situation making this difficult, many cyclists will be considering a camp closer to home - we've got ideas on this below.
There are also plenty of cycling training camps for beginners and ways to train abroad but in a less intense manner. These offer the chance to have a holiday while also getting some riding in in beautiful surroundings. There are more details below, or read our article on choosing the right bike holiday for you.
What form the “camp” takes is pretty fluid, but just to be clear, it generally doesn’t involve camping!
Bike training camps can be anything from fully supported training sessions run out of a nice hotel with everything taken care of to a week of riding with friends based out of a self-catered villa (see What type of training camp do you want? below).
What all training camps have in common is the reason you’re there.
Why go on a cycling camp?
For a passionate cyclist, very little beats a winter training camp. Sunny skies, smooth roads, quiet towns - what’s not to like?
The main purpose is to get fitter, faster and stronger. You’re surrounded by other passionate cyclists and you can focus on your cycling in surroundings that are totally geared up for cyclists.
They are particularly valuable for anyone preparing for a sportive like the Marmotte or Etape du Tour, as you can ride routes and climbs of a similar length.
As well as helping ensure you are fit enough, a bike training camp gives you the chance to get used to hours in the saddle.
Camps are also great for motivation. If you're able to travel abroad, getting a spring trip booked will likely fill your winter with thoughts of warm rides on incredible roads and this may make you more likely to stick with the turbo sessions and cold, wet winter training. Once you’re out there and have ditched the heavy winter kit, the sun on your face will keep you going through the long, tough rides. Plus there’s the motivation of knowing you’re going to be returning super strong and ready to kill your local climbs.
A final benefit: if you’ve got some areas that you really want to focus on, you may well get that opportunity. Many winter cycling training camps offer specialist sessions on skills like ascending, descending and sprinting.
When to go?
This is probably the most important question you have to decide. It comes down to what your goal is. If you want to target a particular race, work back from that race and decide when you’ll get the most out of a winter cycling training camp. You’ll obviously want to speak to your coach about this before booking, but we would leave at least four weeks between the end of the camp and the race we were targeting. That ensures you have time to taper and that the form you’ve had from the big training block will benefit you in the race.
Most organised winter cycling training camps take place between January and May with the late February to early April slot being the busiest. Pros start a bit earlier: you’ll hear about their camps in November/December. The reason for this is that they have a longer season than us amateurs - plus the capacity to start training earlier and still hold their form.
Want more detail? Watch our interview with time trial legend and coach extraordinaire, Matt Bottrill, in which he gives his advice for how to decide when to go on a training camp to get the most from it:
What type of cycle training camp do you want?
A bike training camp doesn’t have to be an official, organised weekend or week away in a particular hotel with lots of other cyclists - but, if you’re serious about achieving specific training goals, you’re probably more likely to do it that way.
If you’re more about enjoying the riding and just getting some miles in, consider a DIY holiday with or without some supported riding bolted on. Going DIY will definitely make your break less regimented and it can be a good option if you’re with friends and family that don’t want to be talking about bikes 24/7.
More details below!
Organised bicycle camps
Can ride alone or in groups, but focus is group riding.
Typically three or four groups that do different speeds and distances.
Varying levels of support but might include ride leaders, coaching advice and massages.
Meetings each evening help you decide which group is best for you.
Maximising your chance of achieving your training objectives.
Groups of different abilities as there is good training for everyone and can spend time together off the bike.
People travelling alone, as always someone to ride with.
Can be quite intense, with little respite from bikes, riding and training.
Can be expensive.
Supported cycling holiday
You can ride as much as you want.
Could take the form of a point to point tour or just booking a guide for a certain number of days riding.
Combining the flexibility of a DIY holiday with the benefits of someone to show you the routes and tell you about the local area.
You may need to decide in advance how much guiding you want to be sure you’ll get your guide.
A private guide can be an expensive option.
Quality of guides is variable.
Organise your own flights, accommodation and riding.
Having a relaxing holiday.
Holidays with cycling friends of similar level and objectives.
Takes time to plan where to go, stay and routes (unless you’ve seen our destination and ride guides of course!).
May be variety of training goals within your group so everyone needs to be happy on what they’re trying to achieve and how that will be done.
May be tendency to over-train. Conversely, can be tough to keep motivated to keep riding. Having a plan from your coach can help.
Where to go? The best cycling training camp destinations 2020/2021
Bike camps are a global phenomena and you’ll find companies offering them all over the world.
Our destination and ride guides give you loads of information on what the cycling is like in most of the world’s best cycling destinations. You’ll find ride inspiration, route guides and downloads, tips on where to stay and when to go.
Looking for a more high level overview of the best cycling camp destinations in Europe? These are our pick:
Mallorca is the heartland of cycling training camps thanks to its two hour flight time from the UK and reputation for good quality roads, varied terrains, long climbs and culture of embracing cycling. Come the period between December and February and you’ll likely see pro teams out training. The only downside to a trip at that time of year is you may well encounter some rain or even snow.
Read our Mallorca destination and ride guides for more information on cycling in Mallorca and Mallorca cycling training camps.
A mere hour from Alicante airport, Calpe has become a cycling mecca for pro teams and amateurs alike. It offers warm daytime temperatures and low rainfall during the winter months and quiet roads over terrain including both long and steady and short and steep climbs and routes that weave along the coast.
Read our Calpe destination and ride guides for more information.
Girona is close to Barcelona, which has excellent flight connections. It's home to countless pros, has mountain rides that are open in winter (though it’s best in Spring and Autumn), and a good variety of terrain: from mountains to coastal rides along the Costa Brava. It's a great choice if you want to be based in a buzzy town with lots of coffee shops and restaurants to explore all year around.
Read our Girona destination and ride guides for more information.
It's a quick flight to Nice from the UK and the airport is close to the city, which makes it super accessible. Nice is good for pro spotting, has great weather all year around (though can be chilly early in the year) and has good riding even in mid winter: you can often still ride the Col de la Madone (926m) and Col d’Eze (502m) when there’s snow higher up. There’s also the coast route to Italy or west into the L’Esterel National Park. Nice is a good option if you’re with non cyclists as it's is such a cosmopolitan city.
Read our Nice and Côte d'Azur cycling guides for more information.
It’s four hours flight from the UK, but for that you get reliable weather year-round: its nickname is the Island of Eternal Spring. It is famous for Mount Teide, home to the longest continuous climb in Europe and the pros that stay at over 2,000m over winter and train from the hotel door. Needless to say Tenerife is great for hill training as it’s mostly around 5-6%. There is very little flat.
Read our Tenerife destination and ride guide for more information on cycling Tenerife, including Tenerife cycling training camps.
At four hours from the UK, like Tenerife, Lanzarote is a bit less convenient than some destinations. Its greatest sell is probably its excellent temperatures in December-March when other European destinations can be cold (though the often-present wind can be a bit frustrating). Its highly distinctive volcanic landscape offers varied cycling terrain including decent climbs and there is good support for cyclists in terms of bike shops and mechanics.
Read our guide on cycling in Lanzarote for more information.
For those who fancy a longer plane ride from Europe or who are based in the USA, cycling camps in California are a great choice. The climate is kind all year around and the road cycling is fantastic. We visited the Malibu area and Santa Barbara region and found excellent roads and plenty of organisations offering cycle training camps.
Read our guide on cycling in California for more information.
A staycation, UK based training camp is not normally top of most cyclist's wish list. Quite a big part of the attraction of a training camp is the prospect of getting somewhere warmer where you can ride in a better climate. However, with Covid-19 having played havoc with many people's ability to travel outside the UK, this year you might need to make do with a UK-based training camp.
After all, you'll still get the benefit of a dedicated training block away from distractions. It's just the weather might not always play ball!
We've got guides to cycling in many parts of the UK, and these should help you plan.
Which bike training camp to book?
Each of our destination and ride guides contain detailed bike hire information. Many of these companies offer training camps and/or guiding and so are an excellent first port of call for your research. Take a look and see what you think.
When you’re deciding who to go with, make sure you’ve considered these points before booking.
1. Boring but important things
2. Does the camp offer what you need?
3. When does the camp start?
Sounds obvious but there’s lots to think about before you book:
4. Where is the camp based?
Even once you’ve decided which country you want to be in (see above), you need to think about the camp’s location:
How to get the most from your training camp
Whichever type of training camp you decide to go for, here are our top tips for making the most of it.
1. Choose the right camp
Make sure it’s at a time that will allow you to benefit in whatever cycling races or sportives you’re targeting (check the advice from Matt Bottrill on this (above) if you missed it). Match the terrain to your training needs and racing goals. If there’s something you particularly want to improve, like climbing or descending, make sure there will be the opportunity for that.
2. Have clear goals for the camp, and each ride
Having a training plan will ensure you don’t push your training into the red and do more harm than good. If you’re on a fully supported camp, communicate your goals to the team so they can help you and tailor sessions.
3. Train for CYCLE training campS
Going to a training camp on zero training is really not a good idea. Suddenly doing loads of miles is likely to leave you exhausted, ill, injured - or a combination of all three. If your fitness is low and you haven’t done very much riding before you arrive you will need more recovery time when you are on the camp i.e. less riding on the camp which is when you really want to be doing more.
4. Take care of yourself
If you want to help your recovery, take it easy when you’re off the bike. Think carefully about your nutrition. You might want to book some post-ride massages too, especially if you get any niggles. When you’re putting in the training it’s also particularly important to practice good hygiene (like washing your hands frequently, cleaning out your water bottles and avoiding sunburn). The last thing you want is to get ill.
5. Take the right kit.
Pack for the weather you’re likely to encounter, and don’t be too optimistic! Even in a hot climate, you’ll always need a thin jacket for descents. And always, always have rain gear! Check out our ultimate packing guide for more tips.
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OVER TO YOU!
Want more inspiration for where to go? Don't miss our destinations page - from here you can find inspiration for cycling in countries around the world!
Been on a cycling training camp? How did it go? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments below!
Got a question we haven’t answered? Drop us a line in the comments below.
Photo credits: Banner photo: stolen goat; Photo 2: Biovanni G/Shutterstock.com.