By Cycling Dad:
Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I got selected as one of the amateur riders to join Team Alpecin for one cycling season. So far, I received a bike worth more than I would ever have on my bank account, a professional bike fitting and support along the entire way to the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon in August and Endura Alpentraum in September.
This post is about the next goodie on the seemingly endless list of benefits for the chosen few. As part of the 2013 Team Alpecin package, I had a chance to spend one week in April along with eleven other lucky team riders at the Robinson Club Cala Serena on Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest island of the Spanish Balearic Islands archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and has a reputation for being the Eldorado for road cyclists from all over Europe, because of its climate and diverse topography. After one week of riding on this beautiful island, I must agree. You’ll see why – but let’s start at the beginning of the trip.
You would not necessarily have to bring your own bike to Mallorca. There are dozen of rental stations all over the island that rent out everything from beginner’s to current high-end models. As a member of the 2013 Team Alpecin however, of course I wanted to bring the team bike along .
As I did not travel a lot by air with my bike so far, I had to get some sort of transport box first. There are tons of choices available, but I figured the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from the local bike shop. In my case, I rented an EVOC bike travel bag from Bernhard Kohl’s bike store in Vienna. Time for a mini-review:
The EVOC is a huge soft-shell bag on wheels with reinforcements in strategic locations to protect your bike from impact during transport. You essentially have to take off the saddle, the pedals, rear derailleur, handlebar and take out the wheels. The wheels are secured in two separate compartments on the side of the bag, again with paddings and special reinforcements. It took me less than 30 minutes to get the bike disassembled and packed into the bag. As there still was a lot of space left in the bag, I also packed all my regular check-in baggage to the bike bag. Nice!
I took the Air Berlin Tuesday noon flight from Vienna to Palma de Mallorca and arrived to blue skies and 25 degrees temperature. What a bliss after a long, cold and dark winter! Mallorca, here I come!
It took a bit of waiting at the baggage claim, but after an hour or so the bike finally arrived. Next, I met Kei Uwe, my roommate for the week, at the airport. Before coming to Mallorca, we already worked out a nifty model for the rest of the day that would allow us to save money (airport shuttle would have cost 60 EUR per person) and spend time on the bike at the same time. Here’s how. First, we rented a car for half a day. Then we went to the hotel to assemble the bikes, drop off the bike boxes and change into cycling gear. We then headed back to the airport to return the car, taking the bikes with us. The ride back to the hotel already got us 70k on the very first day. The transfer set us back by 30 EUR in total expenses. Not bad.
We arrived to the hotel a bit late, immediately plundered the buffet and got to bed. The days ahead would be packed with activities!
I felt a bit guilty, as I lay there in the big hotel bed – slowly sinking into a restful sleep. Everything was quiet around me. My last thoughts were with Alex, who was struggling alone with our lively toddler Konstantin and newborn Johanna at home. Live is not fair.
Before I left, Alex reminded me time and again that I owe her a favor from this day. The day would come, and no matter what the request, I would have to grant her this favor. She seemed pretty serious about that… ah well, for now – good night world .
8 hours of deep, deep sleep. Again, I woke up feeling a bit guilty thinking about the family at home. I made a short call to Alex. Her night was horrible. Both kids conquered the bed and gave her a tough night. Check out H is for Hell, provided by HowToBeADad.com for a remote visual reference… Alex then told me the fifth time that the day will come when she’ll ask me that one favor. Whatever it is… has to be done… shudder…
I decided to make the best of the current situation and joined Kei Uwe for breakfast. We met quite a few of the last few year’s riders at the buffet, who have been invited to come along from the team managers. Sort of a Team Alpecin Alumni Club! We also met our Sportive Director Jörg Ludewig and former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich. Wow, what a start – we were completely starstruck!
At first we were expecting being introduced to the harsh dietary prescription of a cycling team in training camp. But there’s nothing further from that. Yes, there were epic tales of hunger during training camp from the former pros, including hotel room raids for hidden snacks and athletes eating directly from the buffet so that the team coaches could not count the calories. But at the same time Jan and Lude stunned us with their healthy appetites. We decided to join then and shuttled to and fro the buffet tables. The food at Robinson Club was absolutely amazing and I think I can proudly claim to have overeaten on every single meal that followed during the week. As it would later turn out, the training camp cost me 2 kilos on the scale… but it was worth it .
After breakfast we got ready and went for a first ride with the team and our special guest Jan Ullrich. What an experience, riding next to him and chatting along. I can confirm that Jan is an all-around normal guy, apart maybe from his supernatural cycling talent. I am sure that even without any training he would be able to beat me up in any race.
The rest of the team arrived in the meantime, so I finally got the chance to get to know everybody. They assembled their bikes after lunch and we went on another group ride that same afternoon. We only covered roughly 40k, in order to get everyone acquainted to the new conditions. Time flew, as we rode and chatted the afternoon away. Soon, we were back at the hotel, got fresh, had a huge dinner and our first daily team meeting. The team management introduced us to our trainers Tim Böhme and Stefan Zelle from Radlabor.de along with the schedule for the coming days. During the first two days, there would not be much time for riding as we’d be busy taking pictures for RoadBIKE magazine and other media outlets. The rest of the week would be free for longer rides, a visit to the RoadBIKE festival in Playa de Muro and technical training. Happy and overeaten, we retired to our rooms and were looking forward to the next days like kids before their first day of school.
The third day started with another novum. Probably as a result of watching our eating habits, our trainers decided that we all needed to strengthen our core muscles. This was most likely in order to keep us from bursting apart after another sumptuous meal. Our trainers Tim and Stefan showed us some basic positions for strengthening the core body muscles and we followed their moves. We would repeat this early morning activity almost every day of the training camp. Needless to say that most of us were rewarded with sores from our neglected core muscles. However, professional experience and anecdotal evidence from the hobby athletes shows that well trained core muscles will be a key success factor during our epic ten-hour rides during the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and the Endura Alpentraum Transalp Cycle Marathon.
As announced during the team meeting, we spent third and fourth day of the training camp with photo shootings. Unfortunately I can’t post the professional photos as they are not released yet. But I can assure you that they look stunning. They will be used in the upcoming RoadBIKE Magazine articles, and maybe I will be able to share them all with you in a few months. In any case, we had tons of time to enjoy the sunshine and hang out.
During the entire time, we were extremely well taken care of by our sponsors. Not only were we dressed head to toe in the finest Assos clothing, riding the 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge on devilish Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels, but there was also a seemingly unlimited supply of Squeezy Sports Nutrition to be consumed at will. Great stuff – I’ll post a detailed review soon.
Also, we had a team of world-class bike mechanics from Lightweight on service to help us make all final adjustments on our bikes and overhaul the bikes on first sign of wear. The mechanics service was also offered to the team Alpecin riders of the previous years who joined us during the training camp. It was absolutely splendid, and I need to take a moment to give a huge personal thank you to our team mechanics Oliver and Daniel. You guys are magicians on the wrenches !
Once the photo sessions were done, we spent the rest of the training camp with some long rides that mainly focused on building base endurance. However, we also spent a few climbing sessions on Puig Sant Salvador, which is a large, beautiful hill in the South of the island with guesthouse-turned ancient monastery on top.
The road leading to the top is stunningly beautiful and first meanders through pine forest before giving a view across the island and the Mediterranean Sea.
The trainers introduced us to various interval training techniques and practiced fast descending with us, which was fun and gave everyone insights into ways how to safely improve the speed downhill. It was amazing to watch Jörg Ludewig taking on tight turns at high speeds, using skills honed in countless pro races. Also, we had a celebrity commentator with us as sprinter legend Marcel Wüst stopped by to share some of his wisdom with us.
On Friday, April 19th we went on one of our longest rides – 150k from Cala Serena to the RoadBIKE Festival in Playa de Muro and back through the heart of Mallorca. The scenery along the way was stunning and we rode in three large groups with a lot of the previous years’ Team Alpecin members. Jan Ullrich again joined this ride and there was a chance for everybody to have a picture taken next to him.
The RoadBIKE festival itself is a three-day, pop-up consumer fair right in the heart of Playa de Muro, one of the (Geman-speaking) cycling tourism hotspots on Mallorca. The big tour operators like Max Hürzeler Cycling Holidays have their main bases here. Some of the big brands in cycling give consumers a chance to experience their products first hand here, including Specialized, Sigma, Continental, Squeezy and Canyon to name but a view. Also, visitors have a chance to meet cycling stars first hand, including Eric Zabel and of course Jan Ullrich. It is quite a nice event, but what I found stunning (also considering that I am running an Austrian-based, English-language blog) was the fact that all communication on site was conducted in German. No sign of English or Spanish whatsoever. I wonder how many non-German speakers were lost along the way.
The rest of the week in the training camp brought more long rides, and a chance to enjoy the amenities of the Robinson club, including a splendid wellness area and the beautiful coastline. This place must be great for swimming during summer, but at this time of the year still was a bit chilly…
Also, there was a glitch in the secret cover-up operations of the secret billionaire lifestyle of a certain Swiss member of our team. The crew brought the yacht too close to the shoreline, so the rest of the team could catch a glimpse and establish the logical association to the owner. As a result, we all received personal invitations to his royal mansion in Switzerland for high-altitude training. We’re all looking forward to it, Matthias Count of Niederhäuser !
For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this extremely long post, here’s a special goodie for you – a short video sum-up of some of our rides. It gives you the chance to experience parts of the training camp from the participant’s point of view. We had an amazing time. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, and of course our families at home who missed one week with their dads, husbands or girlfriends.
P.S.: I started writing this post on April 16. The date of publishing, today, is May 13. In other words, it took me almost a month to finish this post – a striking evidence of the challenge to manage family, profession, training and blogging next to each other. No wonder that there aren’t that many bike bloggers around. To those of you who can manage everything at the same time, here’s my respect and deep appreciation. You guys rock!