Majorca Training Camps Review
March & October 2003
It may seem strange that a training camp is included in the Products of the Year (especially as the first 2003/2004 entry), but this was perhaps one of biggest undertakings made during the year and had a major impact on fitness so, it merits inclusion. A training camp may not be a tangible piece of kit, but looking after yourself is as important and making sure your wheels are true, or that your chain is oiled, so the decision has been taken to include these excellent training camps.
On two occasions last year, WomensCycling.net took the training camp plunge and headed off to Majorca, off the Spanish coast for a week's training. So impressed were we with the first trip in March, that we returned in October for the "Release Week" / "Beginner's Week". The trips were both run by SportActiveMajorca.
SportActiveMajorca is run by Davy McCall and Martin Birney - both formidable cycling names, with years of top-rate experience between them. Majorca is Davy's second home - he has been training and racing on the island for over 20 years. In addition, the March trips have been running for several years now, with repeat customers time after time - a true test of customer satisfaction!
Whichever trip you choose, travel is fully arranged by SportActiveMajorca and ALL riders are met at the airport by either Davy or Martin. Your departure airport is usually your nearest airport with flights to Majorca - this means that groups from different parts of the UK (and other departure points in Europe, including Ireland) have the convenience of a short trip to their local airport, not a tiring pre-journey to a prescribed departure point. Transfers are by minibus, with facility to carry bike bags and cases.
This was the first trip and a baptism of fire - a real gear-up for the forthcoming season and a serious cycling week. The noticeable difference between this trip and others around the island was the attention to individual needs throughout the week. Each day, each ride was accompanied by a leader and noone was left to ride on their own.
This meant that, unlike other trips, which we spotted during the week, where paying customers were left to test their map reading skills, a leader took the group around a pre-agreed route - usually a circuit and where possible, different ability groups met for lunch or coffee. The leaders had so much knowledge of Majorca that they were able to customise the rides for the fitness / tiredness of those in the groups and in accordance with the weather conditions on the day.
The facilities on offer in the hotel were also excellent - each pair of riders had an apartment consisting kitchenette, bathroom (with bath and shower), living room (with cable TV - Eurosport included and BBC news channel) and a separate bedroom - no converting the sofa into a bed on a SportActiveMajorca trip! The hotel has an internet station for those wishing to catch up on webmail etc and the bar is a great place to unwind after dinner for a coffee or even a beer.
Bikes are accommodated in an allocated bike store, where bike bags are also kept. There is not the worry of being first home / buried bike next day; hooks are provided for vertical storage of bikes. If there are problems during the week, SportActiveMajorca are able to arrange spares / repairs for these in need - the guys go out of their way to make sure that you can ride at every opportunity. If you don't want to take your own bike, they make available various sizes of bike for hire - excellent quality and well-spec'd at a reasonable rate.
The food was unlimited 'half board' - buffet breakfasts and dinners. In the hotel dining room, tables are reserved for the SportActiveMajorca party and all guests are encouraged to sample local recipes and international fayre as well as digging into the mountains of pasta and rice dishes, different ones are available every night. There are vegetarian options and endless supplies of salad and fruit. The highlight for us, though, was the dessert buffet table - superb!
The March trip was hard work for all riders. By the end of the week, legs had done enough, but it is not a trip where people are encouraged to 'rip the legs' out of each other - although hard, it is measured and several of those on this trip went home to compete in high profile and international events successfully, everyone went home fitter and ready for the season ahead. No-one that I heard of succumbed to that dread of all those on such trips - getting home and catching colds / flu - we'd all worked hard, but were encouraged not to overdo it.
Weather in March is good and warm - there was one wet day, but that had cleared through by lunchtime and so an abridged ride was possible. Temperatures were in the high 60's / low 70's and the breeze was pleasantly warm......
Possibly the last thing you can imagine at the end of a long season is heading off to a training camp. What a crazy idea?! Maybe, but a time-honoured way of settling in to a winter of riding and preparation for the next season and also a great way of taking time out with cycling pals to enjoy their company and have a wonderful time generally. The first thing noted about this trip was the relaxed nature of it. Once more, Davy and Martin ensured that each group each day had a leader. They also made sure that individual needs were catered for - again, making adjustments to the programme on a daily basis to account for the state of the weather or of legs.
This trip was also an introduction to serious cycling for several members of the group - some had not ridden for more than a couple of hours before, whilst others had not ridden for more than 2 days in a row before.
As in March, we were met at the airport by Davy and the transfer to the top of the island took less than an hour. Although it was late when we got to our rooms, there was a platter of salads and cold meats waiting the apartment fridge and the SportActiveMajorca guys had arranged for a slightly later start the next day. This allowed a sleep-in and then bike-fitting session for those on rental bikes and putting-together time for those who had brought their own.
There were 2 groups for this week and because it was relatively relaxed, the more experienced riders moved between the two in line with their social as well as riding requirements, whilst the beginner's group contained the core first-timers all week. The pace was relaxed in the beginner's group and for those on the "release week", mileage was reduced compared to March. The sociable nature of the week was apparent, lunch was arranged on most days so that both rides met up. On some days, the beginners went straight to the lunch stop and rode a route home which included another stop; other days they stopped for coffee part way to lunch and took the direct route home. On one day, both rides converged for lunch, went their separate ways and then met up to ride back the final 20km together - the final 5km being ridden as an unofficial Australian Pursuit - giving the beginners a chance to test their speed for the first time and for the others to be frustrated by their inability to catch their foe.
The roads in Majorca are generally very well surfaced and drivers (especially in the North of the island) are courteous. The €1 tourist tax per person per day is used to maintain the roads and develop other facilities which tourists make use of.
The beauty of a SportActiveMajorca training camp is that regardless of ability, all riders are shown the backlanes of this beautiful island - allowing them to appreciate the historic and rural features, which also usually means less traffic too. Rides to particularly historic sites and coffee stops at small village cafes give an insight to Majorca which most tourists usually miss out on. Davy and Martin's knowledge of the island and its hidden treasures means that rides always contain some highlight or other. One of our favourites was the ride which included a view of Michael Schumacher's mansion. The F1 World Champion was not in residence - his helipad's Ferrari windsock / balloon was not flying when we passed......
At the end of the week, the beginners had enjoyed a taste of cycling which they'd never get in the UK (or on the back-end of a club run anywhere), riding high quality rental bikes for up to 50 miles in a day and gaining an insight into cycling culture and etiquette which will stand them in good stead when they return home and join a club, or even continue to venture out on their own. Those on the "release week" had switched off from the season, enjoyed some fine rides and taken the time to stop and look at views which they'd swished past in March. All-in-all, there's not too much else to be said, except that this had been a second excellent week and that WomensCycling.net will be back for future SportActiveMajorca trips as soon as diaries permit.
There is still time to get yourself on a 2004 trip - click onto SportActiveMajorca and have a look. March trips are still available and are, of course, excellent value if you're looking to kickstart your season. For WomensCycling.net, its off to the Australian Madison Championships and the Great Melbourne Bike ride instead this year. There may even be a quick trip to New Zealand too. Wherever, thoughts will turn to Alcudia and the SportActiveMajorca group in late March.....
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