The annual team training camp was destined for Calpe for 2019. Heading out were team riders Justin Belcher, Jered Allcock, Gareth Harvey, James Beechey, Peter Dumbreck, Jos Busby, and new rider Bobby Bd.
After the ups and down of last year, mostly involving the weather, the team were looking forward to some summer sun and long climbs to test the legs.
Day 1 - 81km - 1,345m climbing
Having arrived at the villa at around lunch time the first riders on station decided to waste no time and get out on the bikes. First test was the 20min CV-745 climb over to Benissa from the villa near Moraira. With it being the first day Justin, Pete, Gareth and Jos stuck together up the climb and dropped into Benissa for the first tostada con tomate of the week. One of many!
Over lunch a very short debate was held over the route after lunch, after 3s of thought the team decided to head straight to the areas most famous climb. The Coll De Rates is a popular climb with amateur and pro rider alike with world tour riders littering the Strava leaderboard. Rising up to 620m this 6.5km climb stands above the towns of Tarbena and Parcent inviting riders to test themselves over a 20min effort. All 4 first day riders fancied a new PB time up and it didn't take long for the gaps to start to grow.
Once regrouped at the top the group descended all the way back down to sea level at Altea before taking the coastal road back to the villa. Curry for dinner at The Kathmandu and home to bed.
Day 2 - 174km - 2,951m climbing
With James and Bobby arriving during the day on this day our 4 riders headed out early for the first long ride of the week. Peter didn't get the memo and decided to come out without having any breakfast... An enforced stop at Benissa again to feed our intrepid Scotsman. From Benissa the team headed East to tackle the entertainingly named Pinos climb. Starting gently this climb has a severe sting in the tail, ramping up to a nightmarish 18%. Bizarrely it wasn't the climb that put the gaps in the group! Descending back down towards Benissa, racing driver Peter lead the way and pushed on taking Gareth with him. Justin sat a few seconds back and Jos brought up the rear. After that it was attempt 2 up the Coll de Rates. With a long day in the saddle all 4 riders agreed not to push it up the climb... then swiftly ignored their own advice and nailed it up there anyway! Small regroup at the top and on they went heading further east up the massive Puerto de Confridites. At 20.5km long and 700m of elevation change this climb takes a good hour to complete. All 4 riders stuck together and ploughed up the climb for a solid 1 hour 47mins! With all that climbing done the final 60km was all down hill! Thank god! None of the team fancied cooking so it was out to La Ruta for pizza and an early night!
Day 3 - 111km - 1,570m climbing
With the arrival of Bobby and James, Pete decided he'd much prefer to play golf and drink beer... so he did leaving the 5 of us to ride out together. Because they hadn't done it yet, obviously the team decided to allow the pair a chance to test themselves up the Coll de Rates. They took off quickly starting and getting a gap on the tired legs of Gareth, Justin and Jos. Typically James and Bobby weren't going to be allowed it all their own way so Gareth set the pace for Justin pegging the gap up to James and Bobby at around 30s. Close to the top Justin made his move and powered up to Bobby, past him an on towards James. He didn't quite catch him though and only Jos remained sensible keeping his pace slightly easier than flat out. Small regrouping again at the top before riding over the top and down into the valley to head back. The team diverted across to Xabia for lunch before heading back to the villa for dinner.
Day 4 - 162km - 2,964m climbing
Another climb to tick off the 'must see' list for Calpe planned in for this ride. The group gains a pair of legs with cat 2 racer and Shutt Ridley RT powerhouse Jered joining in for this trip. The group headed inland, up and over the Coll De Rates (again!) before heading south towards Finestrat. Anyone familiar with the area will know where this road leads. So the group of 6 riders start the huge climb of Port De Tudons. 15km averaging 5% this is a big climb. In a turnaround of form Bobby slipped off the back with Gareth, Jered took off at pace and James was left tapping out the rhythm for Justin and Jos. Gareth wasn't yet done though and held firm with his effort to drag himself up to the group. The 4 stuck together for a short distance before Jos, now nicknamed 'The Attackapotamus' put in a trademark dig. That split the group with James pulling himself and Justin clear after Jered and Gareth bringing Jos to the top. Bobby rallied round to follow up shortly after. A good climb done it was time time to descend down for lunch, then all the way down to the coast at Calpe and back to the villa
Day 5 - 98km (60km/43km) - 1,677m (1,000m/671m)
Time for an easy day. At least for some of us. The group split between those wanting to keep the miles coming in and those wanting an easier day to allow the last couple of rides to be a bit more manageable. Jos and Justin decided to do another 100km, James and Bobby eased back to 60km and Gareth went straight for the cafe and did an easy 40km. The big boys hit the Pinos climb again before stopping for lunch at Velosol, a cafe run for cyclists and a great place to stop for food. Then Jos and Justin, with questionable intelligence, decided to take on the Cumbre Del Sol. This climb, used as a finishing climb in the Vuelta A Espana in 2015 and 2017, is very steep with ramps of 21% all the way to the top which stands 447m above sea level, where the road starts. I can tell you that booth Jos and Justin were extremely happy to arrive at the bar the rest of the group were at, with heavy legs, as it closed... Some rest day!
Day 6 - 163km - 2,869m climbing - 1 trip to hospital
With some tired legs in the group another 100 mile ride was obviously on the cards again... This time heading slightly further north towards the Val De Ebo. Climbing for nearly 8km at an average of 6% above the town of Pego this climb is as beautiful as any the team had ever ridden and with no car traffic at all for the duration of the climb it is a cyclists dream! On the ride were Justin, Jos, Bobby, James, Gareth and Peter, none of whom were feeling too fresh on the day. At the bottom the team bumped into UK based cat 1 racer Luke Barfoot who joined in for the ride. Gareth set the early pace keeping everyone together on the earlier slopes. The pace soon started to tell as Gareth kept a solid tempo going and before too long Jos and Bobby had dropped to their own pace. At this point around 2/3 of the way up Luke decided to take the pace up a bit... Justin was able to follow and Gareth went along to keep them company for a bit. Justin spied a new PR time and kicked on for the final couple of hundred meters to the top dragging Gareth with him. Both took minutes off their previous best times up the climb from last year and were delighted with their efforts.
Regrouping at the top and with a few guests in the group, namely a small group of Danes, the team rode on over the top and onto the valley road. Cue some absolutely stunning views and rolling terrain with nothing too challenging as the miles rolled by. The team stopped for lunch in Benimarfull at a deserted cafe with adjacent pool, a good opportunity for some pictures of our cat 4 team modelling the new team kit. Then with full stomachs and the photoshoot complete the team started the ride home back toward the Coll De Rates, this time for a descent of its now familiar turns.
Then with around 35km left to go disaster struck! Justin suddenly found himself off the road and crashed heavily into a rock wall. Trip to a Spanish hospital in Benidorm and an overnight stay for observation for Justin and a slightly subdued team finished the ride. Justin was able to fly home 2 days later and is recovering from concussion now. No long lasting effects from the crash are anticipated and we wish him well!
Day 7 - 58km - 697m climbing
With Justin laid up in hospital the team decided to keep it short today and just head out for lunch before packing up for home. Easy ride up the coast road to Xabia for lunch before taking the road inland to Benissa and home. Starting to think about returning to the UK the team kept it steady and sensible... right up until the final little climb our of Benissa heading back to the Villa. Gareth took advantage of tired legs by powering clear on the flat section just before the final climb and then managed to hold off a chasing James to roll down to the villa off the front. Most of the group were too sensible to play along but Gareth seemed to enjoy himself immensely.
Day 8 - 20km - 450m climbing
Most of the team headed home early today so it was just Bobby and James who had just enough time to take on the Cumbre Del Sol before packing up and heading home. Bobby in particular had a great time on the 20% slopes if his post ride comments were anything to go by.