Tenerife Training Camp
Taking a step back before Romandie, I had spent 12 nights sleeping at 2200m above sea level for some altitude training. We were staying in a Hotel at the top of El Teide, which happens to be the most frequented national park in Spain, thanks to it’s warm climate, interesting landscape, and Volcano which sits at 3600m above sea level. (Even though Tenerife is much closer to the shores of Africa than it is Spain)
There are always lot’s of different studies and articles discussing altitude and what is or what is not optimal. 12 days is pushing it on the minimum side of time spent to see some type of adaptations, with about 3 weeks being ideal. What I do know is that crashing on the last day of Pais Vasco and spending the entire time at altitude with a body trying to heal itself from road rash and bruises is definitely not ideal.
It made doing things like stretching, body conditioning, and simply getting a good night sleep a little bit more difficult. In fact, sleeping at altitude can be difficult in the first place. If you’ve ever stayed somewhere above 2200m for a prolonged period of time, maybe you know the feeling? There was a sauna and pool at the hotel which I couldn’t enjoy, and with so much downtime in the afternoons, it was a bit of a shame. Instead, I spent most of my afternoon watching the Netflix series Casa de Paper (House of paper) AKA Money Heist.
The main reason for training at altitude is the adaptation the body receives when living with reduced levels of oxygen saturation in the air. The desired response is to increase the level of Hematocrit (& changes to hemoglobin) in the body, which is the percentage of red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen around the body to the muscles. Besides the altitude benefits, going somewhere such as Tenerife for training also provides an environment where training quality can be really high, along with a change in terrain.
And there definitely was a change of terrain. Im sure you all know what a Volcano is, so there’s not much need to point out that if you sleep near the top of a Volcano the only way to start your ride is going downhill. And for a long time. As a result, every ride clocked up a lot of vertical metres gained with the ride mostly consisting of climbing and descending, with some of the steepest roads I’ve encountered. Some of the little side roads and streets we took through towns were staggeringly steep, and I’m sure there are hundreds of them that have yet to be explored by bike.
The longest ride we did was just under 6 hours with mostly general endurance riding but finished off with 2 x 16 minute upper Z3 (solid tempo intensity) with some Z5 spikes (hard accelerations) throughout. We clocked up a total of 4200m climbing for the day in 155km, which is up there with some of the most elevation I’ve done in a training ride. The Victorian 3 peaks Challenge I completed with Ed in 2013 was 230km long and had slightly over 4000 metres of climbing as a comparison. I remember stopping on the beach at nearly 4 hours into that ride for a coffee, thinking that we ‘just’ had one more climb to go up to our hotel of 2200m!
Training, in general, was moderate. Nothing too extreme, but it wasn’t a holiday. We clocked up 17 hours during the first week (after a very relaxed first couple of days to help acclimatize – which I was very thankful for with my sore body) and 14.5 hours in the first 4 days of the following week before our flight off the island. You need to be careful staying at altitude because sometimes doing too much can ‘cook’ your body, meaning you come back home more tired and in worse shape than when you arrived. Things like Iron supplements and staying on top of nutrition is very important too, as the body can’t adapt properly to the altitude with deficiencies.
We had our dietician Nigel Mitchell fly over and see us for a couple of days initially, and took some body composition measures such as Skinfolds to make sure we were all in decent shape and give direction for eating during out time at altitude. Typically, the body is under more stress and burning more energy at rest, which requires the consumption of my KJ’s to compensate. Who can argue with being told to eat more food? In general, lots of advice I get from people who have experience with training at altitude or knowledge of performance and nutrition have mostly all said trying to diet and lose weight whilst training at altitude is not a good idea! Although weight loss can sometimes be a natural result of staying and training at elevated levels above sea level anyway…
So as for my diet, things didn’t change too much and we ate at the hotel restaurant for breakfast lunch and dinner.
For the rest of the support crew, we had performance director Tim Kennaugh planning out training and following us in a car, along with one soigneur (caretaker) to help with massages, and day to day operations for the three riders who were on the camp. (Myself, Nate Brown and Joe Dombrowski). We didn’t have a mechanic, but I was able to get another team mechanic to help build and tune the bike. The hotel can be booked by anyone, but when we first arrived it was completely booked with professional cyclists from other teams all preparing for the upcoming Ardenne Classics and final preparation for the Giro D’Italia. There are many other places in Europe you can stay and train for altitude, but during this time of year, the weather in Tenerife is the best. Overall that was the purpose of our camp – preparation for the Giro D’Italia – but unfortunately, my program was altered and I didn’t make it to the start list.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and would be happy to go back there again for another training camp down the track. Tour of Fjords is just around the corner, and we fly on Sunday to start the race on Tuesday. Looking forward to pinning a number on again!