Mallorca is one of the cycling capitals in the world, so what happened when I went there for my first cycling training camp?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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