Surviving my First Training Camp

Cycling, Mallorca

You should all know by now that I like throwing myself in at the deep end. Like entering a triathlon without actually being able to swim. Not a runner, but enter London Marathon on a whim. Well this time it was joining a RAF Cycling training camp in Mallorca with next to no training all over winter. A civilian thrown into the military way of doing things. This should be interesting…

On arriving at the hotel there was no kicking back and relaxing, but a flurry of bike building followed by a familiarisation ride. It was only 12 miles, but my head still turned to mush when I was suddenly riding in a group of 20 riders. I didn’t realise how much I’d got used to riding on my own, or in a small group.

When Tuesday came, in true Ryan Morley Coaching style, things were kicked off with an FTP test. This was fine for most, except I’d ridden at way above my FTP on the way there…too busy chatting when I was meant to be riding easy. Note to self: You’re meant to be on a training camp, Lucy, wise up.

Cycling, Mallorca

By the time I got to the Col de Femenia everyone had gone off at their own pace and I had no idea where I was meant to start, so just ended up riding hard(ish) for 20 minutes. The ‘focus’ I normally have at races just wasn’t up for turning up that day, so I just gritted through it for 20 minutes. I must have tried relatively hard though, because apparently I rode past Coryn Rivera on the way down but didn’t even notice. You know, the professional cyclist who is the reason I bought a Liv bike in the first place…

Legs snookered already we made our way over to Gran Cafe 1919 in Pollenca, which is a firm favourite of Ryan’s. Last time I was there, Ryan got me to try one of their famous hot chocolates. Unfortunately there was no hot chocolate for me this time, but an amazing club sandwich instead. With a metabolism like mine, I needed to basically eat like a Tour de France rider all week if I was going to survive it. It was at the cafe I found out about the chain gang we’d be doing on the way back to the hotel. Chain gangs were not something I was familiar with…yikes!

Cycling, Mallorca

On what everyone knew as the Marshes road things quickly sped up. Suddenly I was trying to find some extra capacity in my lungs and power in my legs in order to not get dropped as we were steaming along at 25mph. Everything got very quick very…well…quickly. One minute I was pushing hard on the front, next thing I was desperately trying to hang onto the back. A continuous rotation of hell. I had no clue how far we had left on this never-ending road. It was only for one of the girls shouting out, “nearly there!”, that I found one last burst of energy. Then just like that, everyone sat up. Thank god I thought as my body tried to recover in some roundabout way. It was almost like when you wake up from a rather bizarre dream and wonder what the hell just happened. That was a day when I hung my bike up on the rack and ran…ha.

Wednesday was the day I was looking forward to most and I tried to keep my chimp, Matilda, at bay. Which reminds me, I really need to read the Chimp Paradox again at some point. Wednesday was Sa Calobra day, which was a climb that was a massive achievement for me back in 2018. Back then it was difficult to turn the pedals as the 5.8 mile climb got steeper. It was when Ryan stomped the pedals and went off ahead whilst I just chugged along stubborn enough to just get to the top without stopping.

Cycling, Mallorca

This time I was with one of the other RAF Cycling girls as we started off together, but it quickly became clear it was a climb that required your own headspace. Despite having my legs battered the day before I seemed to find my rhythm.

Mallorca Cycling Training Camp

So far it had been a rather eye-opening trip just purely down to the fact my anxiety seemed to ease. My bike went off on the conveyor belt at the airport and I just dropped it off and went to security no bother. I was fairly chill during the flight and the landing wasn’t an issue. I wasn’t use to my brain not kicking off at just about anything. I just took it all in my stride.

Despite all of the things that had been filling my head for the past weeks and months, I was taking the beauty of the scenery in. It had been a long time since I just lived in the moment. My attitude at the time was that what happens, happens. But this right now, climbing up Sa Calobra in the sun, was what life was about.

I remember the point where Ryan had ridden back to me 2 years ago, but I knew he was just a bit further up the climb taking photos on the Corkscrew part of the climb. It was fortunate he was there really, because I had no clue where the official peak of the climb was. Passing the top of the climb where the scenery opened up onto more mountainous views, I was slightly tired but getting up the climb had given me a massive boost. I didn’t even need to check Strava to know that I’d gone up it quicker than 2018, but if I’m honest that wasn’t something I was too bothered about. I got a bit emotional back at the Orange Seller, but thankfully the mirrored lens on my glasses hid that.

After a hug off Ryan, we made our way back to the ‘Petrol Station’ for food. If you’ve only ever ridden in the UK, you’d probably think we were mad going to a petrol station for food, but it’s a petrol station come cafe. Your just sat there at the top of some pretty amazing climbs eating a baguette like there’s not a problem in the world. You get carried away chatting before you realise you’ve sat still in the sun for a little too long. From here we followed a winding decent to Selva, which made me realise my descending on a road bike is rather awful right now. Something I need to work on I guess.

71 miles later, that was the longest ride I’d done since the last time I was in Mallorca. That time I thought it was a good idea to do Sa Calobra and Puig Major in one ride. I was obviously feeling it, but it was such a huge achievement for me. The RAF Cycling group I was riding with were incredibly patient. I hope I didn’t hold them up too much.

Mallorca Cycling Training Camp

How I was meant to get on my bike the next day I don’t know. I was expecting my body to be a bit worse for wear already, but I’d found some endurance from somewhere. And well…there was cake half way round Thursday’s ride, so I was naturally not going to miss that ride was I. Saying that, maybe it was more FOMO than endurance…ha.

This ride was different to what I had experienced so far in Mallorca. Mallorca to me so far had been a lot of ‘up’. This ride was more comparable to the Cheshire lanes I was familiar with. Granted I was still surrounded by views of the mountains, 30 degree heat and blue skies, but hopefully you get my drift. It was rolling with a sharp climb in the middle somewhere on the way there. Then we rolled into a traditional Spanish village for the most amazing cake and surprisingly Fanta rather than coffee. I felt like I was going against everything linked to being a cyclist, but the speedy pace of riding made this girl thirsty. And let’s face it, Fanta always tastes better abroad.

Mallorca Cycling Training Camp

With now around 150 miles in my legs, I was waiting for my body to turn round and just be like nope, no more. Luckily Friday was the Recovery Ride day that meant I could actually ride easy. Until I deciding to get a bit too keen and drop 600 watts to do my turn on the front, which was fab when I was the one saying I might do my recovery ride on my own so I could ride at my own ‘slow’ pace. Nice one, Lucy.

Not one to sit by the pool for too long, come the afternoon and back at the hotel after our recovery ride, we were playing a very competitive game of mini-golf. 9 holes made of concrete, there were golf balls flying everywhere. I somehow scored a hole in one on the most difficult hole, so I was slightly smug about that.

Mallorca Cycling Training Camp

Saturday had been at the back of my mind all week. I knew this was the day one group would do a 100 mile ride ascending three Monastery climbs. A ride I’d secretly wanted to do whilst in Mallorca, even if it was the only one I did. Not feeling as confident as I did in Belgium to ride on my own, it’s a ride that’s still on my Cycling Bucket List. With no racing going on, I’m hoping I can still tackle a 100 mile ride at home though.

Despite not going on the Monasteries ride, we still did a pretty epic ride to the top of Randa. The views were uninterrupted and I got a bit excited for all of the Instagram photos I could take. It was just something you wouldn’t get anywhere else. A cafe set in the most amazing Spanish architecture. Fashion magazines must have done photoshoots there at some point, and if they haven’t they should.

Randa, Mallorca

It was this point I was starting to feel it in my legs. My Clif bars and shot blocks were slowly starting to become something I relied on to keep my legs turning. It was a long ride back for me. My legs were starting to hurt, but I’ve come to realise once I let myself think I’m tired that’s when it all falls apart. That’s when my body gives up. I didn’t want to be the rider that made everyone stop.

Another Mallorca climb achieved, it was clear their climbs were on another level, but then I guess that ride back in Wales was a beast too…

Randa, Mallorca

I didn’t know it at the time, but Randa ended up being my last proper ride in Mallorca and I’d somehow clocked 318 miles. My biggest weekly mileage on my bike had previously been 150 miles, so it’s safe to say it was quite a big jump up from what I was use to. I’ve said it so many times that the marathon changed my perception on how long I  can sustain exercising for, but Mallorca proved to me that I can ride a lot further than I thought. Even at high-speeds. Yes, it helped being out in the heat and riding my racing bike, but I can’t wait to get back to riding in the UK now my approach to riding might be slightly different. It doesn’t have to be one cafe stop. I can even look for little village shops to stop at. All of the places I’ve wanted to ride to for ages now seem a little bit more achievable.

As a civilian in a group of military personnel, I certainly felt out of my depth at times. I hadn’t trained all winter. Probably rode 30 miles at the most in the run up. Never ridden in a chain gang.

RAF Cycling don’t mess around. I’m just glad they let me tag along.

Whatever happens, I’ll be happy if I can just ride my bike.

Want to read a bit more?

RAF Cycling and the CiCLE Classic

Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca Cycling Holiday

Lighthouse of Cap de Formentor


Getting To Know: Chris Mann

Cycling Interview

Carrying the title of National Junior Hill Climb Champion, you wouldn’t think Chris Mann started cycling as a way to get fit after breaking his knees. Writing this I can’t quite believe it myself with how much success the North Wales rider has achieved. With inspiration also coming from his Dad and brother, Chris went along to a Go-Ride session run by British Cycling and now teammate Dave Williams. With the sessions triggering Chris’ competitive side, he first started racing at the age of 15. Rising through the youth ranks you’d find Chris attending Wrexham Road Club Time Trials, regional Time Trials as well as criterium races. Chris commented on his Junior career, “my Junior career has been mixed, some really good time trials and road races, but much of the time struggling with illness and injury, but I did have a strong end to the 2019 season.”.

Looking back to the start of the 2019 season, Chris was balancing training with A-Level revision. “I was balancing it with A-Level revision, so training wasn’t great. I managed some good rides in the CTT Classic Series by winning two rounds, but also getting 2nd place at the Welsh National TT Champs.”

Towards the latter part of the season Chris turned his focus to hill climbs. “I had good support with starting at Bangor University and training for the hill climbs. I retained my Welsh Junior Hill Climb Champion title and took the National Junior title down in Devon. That was the highlight of the year for me.”

When asked how he approached the National Hill Climb, “it was just a matter of getting the prep for the race spot on. I needed to know how to pace the climb and where to push hard. The 13/14 minute climb really suited me! The Nationals is always such a good event and a prestigious award to win, so to have my name up there with some of the best in the country feels amazing.”.

A few months into studying Sports Science at Bangor University, Chris is certainly settled into balancing training and studying now. “It’s actually a really good environment to train at Uni, especially studying Sports Science. It is almost expected for you to do a sport. Having the Sports Science department behind me really helps with training. It’s just a good place to be for training and becoming as fit as I can be.”

Chris Mann 2019

With Bangor being located in north-west Wales, Chris has the Snowdonia National Park and Anglesey as his training grounds. “Bangor is such a good location for cycling. The terrain is so versatile. Snowdonia mountains to the south and across the Menai Bridge for some flat roads.” The roads around Bangor certainly played a part in Chris’ decision to study at Bangor University, but he was influenced by some other things too. “Talking to the lecturers and the staff at Bangor just cemented my decision as they are all really understanding with training commitment. Being lectured by those who are amongst the top academically in their fields is also an added bonus.”

Chris spent the first few months of Winter training simply settling into training and studying, but come the start of 2019 he began looking for a coach. Deciding on Ryan Morley Coaching, Chris is excited to see what happens this season. “Having a coach has basically brought my fitness up to way above what it has ever been before. I was smashing my power PB’s in February only 6 weeks into being coached, which is very promising. Ryan has been really good with the approach to the start of this season. With how my training is currently going, I should be smashing the races I’ve got planned. It has been a lot of time spent on the turbo and Wattbike, but when I can get out for an endurance ride it is a great opportunity to see how I’m going up the climbs and really testing the legs. I’m just itching to get racing!.”

Flying the flag for Velotik Racing Team in 2020, Chris is excited to be road racing and time trialling throughout the season now he’s moving up into the U23 category. “I’m really looking forward to doing some Team Time Trials again in 2020, and hopefully smashing some National Time Trials. I’ll hopefully be doing some hard National B road races and just trying to get as good as I can as a first year Under-23.”

With studying at University, the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) events now come into play on Chris’ racing calendar. Through March and April will see the young rider take part in TTT events, as well as 10 and 20 mile Time Trials. Criterium and road races will start to pop up in April and obviously finishing the season with some hill climbs. Talking about the BUCS events coming up, “I’ll be competing against other Universities in the UK, so that should show for some pretty exciting racing.”

On a final comment, Chris mentions how he feels now the race season is approaching, “The move to Senior will be a big jump, but after this strong Winter I feel ready for racing now.”

Keep up to date with Chris’ season by following him over on Instagram, or give the Velotik Facebook page a like. 

Want to share your cycling achievements and goals? Feel free to drop me a message and we’ll get an interview sorted!

Find me over on Instagram and Facebook.

My Latest Cafe Stop: Durham Heifer Cafe

My Latest Cafe Stop

Well it’s a stark difference to last weekend isn’t it?

When the little sun icon popped up on the weather app on my phone, I was hopeful the sunshine would actually materialise. Quite hypocritical after my blog post from last weekend, but you can’t ignore a chance to ride outside can you?

With a new cafe on my radar and cycling routes limited due to flooding, I decided to head out towards Cheshire with the Durham Heifer being the cafe stop. Ryan was going to walk the dog nearby and we’d meet for lunch.

Sandstone Trail

My enthusiasm to head out on my bike was much stronger than last week. Ryan had given my Liv Envie an overhaul, so it was ready for the summer. With the weather it was the perfect opportunity to head out on it to stretch the gear cable and make sure everything was working as it should. Within the first pedal stroke I had a smile on my face with out powerful my legs suddenly felt. My Liv just has ‘it’ when it comes to bikes. It can be aggressive and is obviously a lot more responsive than my winter bike. My winter bike does the job, but my Liv just makes me want to get out and ride.

Making my way through the country lanes I started on my route to Old Ma’s Cafe near Tattenhall, but took a turning to Bolesworth instead of heading back home. This lead to some rather juicy climbs I wasn’t expecting. Before heading out Ryan said “now don’t get excited and ride along a 25mph”, but you’ll have probably already guessed that was exactly what I had done. Meaning those hills were quite a shock when I wasn’t expecting them…ooops. I got up them, but it took a little digging to get to the top.

Cheshire Cafe

I wasn’t the only cyclist making the most of the weather as the roads were full of them. I’d try and make sure I’d say hello if I wasn’t holding onto the handlebars for dear life every time I went past a hole in a hedge meaning the wind would blow me sideways. Eventually I popped out on the road near my cafe, which wasn’t far from Broxton Roundabout.

Durham Heifer, Cheshire

Pulling up to the Durham Heifer was a little nostalgic as when it was a pub I’d ask to go there for my birthday every year. I have no clue as to why, but I’d go there for sausage and mash every birthday. I’ve always been a creature of habit I guess. Back in November it got turned into a cafe and is a welcome addition to cafe’s in the area. Being dog-friendly as well as cyclist friendly, I feel it’s going to be another firm favourite of mine. I imagine come the Summer it will be full of Sandstone Trail walkers and cyclists.

Durham Heifer Cafe

Hearing about what chaos Elfyn had been causing over some lovely food and coffee, it was certainly a relaxed way to spend a Sunday. As much as it was tempting to get a lift home with Ryan, I really did want to ride my Liv that little bit more. With a fairly simple route home, it felt odd not having to rely on the Navigation setting on my Garmin. I was just riding and seeing how my legs felt with each junction. With my rather speed demon approach on the way out, I made sure to take a more relaxed approach on my way home. Especially with cafe legs that felt like concrete.

So despite only making the plan this morning, it turned out to be a pretty good Sunday. I finally felt like I had a good road ride in my legs, rather than just the Wattbike. Hang in there, Spring isn’t too far away!

To all my Welsh readers, Happy Saint David’s Day too!