I’m writing this on Friday morning at our British Cycling training camp in California where, I’m relieved to say, it’s a rest day - relieved because there’s a good smattering of snow outside our window right now!
That gives you an idea of how high we are here at Big Bear, a ski resort a few hours drive from LA, where we landed on Monday afternoon. We’re at about 2,200 metres here and, while the weather has generally been good and it was 31-32 degrees celsius down at sea level the other day, it was one degree here yesterday and cloudy. This morning, we woke up to a Christmas card scene outside!
But it’s been a great week so far and, hopefully, the perfect preparation for riding the Tour of California with Team WIGGINS next week, and beyond.
Monday was a big travel day, straight after the Tour of Yorkshire finished. A 6am start and 24 hour journey, door to door, to our place here.
I know a lot of people will have ridden bikes at this sort of altitude in the Alps and Pyrenees, for example, and you’ll know that it takes a couple of days to get used to it. At first, even walking up a flight of stairs leaves you out of breath. I remember, last year, I would come to altitude and not be able to even put out 100 watts without my heart rate going ridiculous. Here, we’ve been as high as 2,500 metres so far, and it took me a day to get used to that kind of elevation again but, as everyone knows, the longer you stay at altitude, the more you adapt to it and the more good it does you.
Luckily, because of my fatigue after Yorkshire and the Tour of Croatia the week before, I was allowed Tuesday as a rest day and the first couple of training days were pretty steady which was just as well with Brad and Cav here because they like pressing on - Cav especially!
It’s really about trying to maximise the gains of riding at altitude but also not digging yourself into a hole that you can’t get out of, by over-doing it. Sometimes, it’s just a case of trying to ride as easy as you can and minimise the damage you’re doing to yourself.
Riders often ask me what our camps are like and so I thought I’d give you a quick thumbnail sketch of what our schedule is like out here.
At the moment, it’s a case of getting up and doing 20 minutes on the turbo before breakfast - a bit of a warm-up for the day ahead and also some fat-burning - then breakfast which, for me, is pretty much porridge and eggs every day. We have our own cooks out here with us and they’re fantastic - my favourite breakfast meal at the moment is baked eggs which they make with spinach, onions, peppers …
Then, by 10.30am, we’re out on the bikes for a ride which, over the first three days here, progressed from four to five to six hours. Within those rides, we’ll also work on aspects like time trial efforts, threshold efforts, sprints.
Yesterday, for example, was the five-hour ride and we did some sprints in that session. Then we might do a three or four-hour ride with an hour's worth of threshold efforts thrown in. Then one day, I think we’re having a split day with some team time trial efforts - through and off type stuff - in the morning and another session in the afternoon. We’ll have a rest day, then repeat the pattern. The sort of efforts we do get tweaked as we go along, but generally that’s a rough plan of what we ride.
So, if it’s an longer ride, there may be chance for a cafe stop on the way but, generally, we’re back by 3-ish for a protein shake then lunch.
This is when our life gets really exciting. After that, it’s bed and the laptop to watch Sky Go or Netflix until dinner, around 7.30-8pm, then back to the room for more Sky Go! I wish I could catch up on some reading on these camps but, to be completely honest, I’m so constantly tired that I don’t have the energy to concentrate on a book. I used to try, read four pages of “Harry Potter” or something and then realise I couldn’t remember a single word of what I had just read! So, reading is too much effort, and instead I’ve been playing a game called “The Room” on my iPhone, which I’ve nearly completed since I’ve been here.
But I’m not complaining about being tired, it’s a pretty natural state for any cyclist, and, on the flip side, it’s been a great week for us as a squad.
Unusually for this sort of trip, we’re not in a hotel but a self-catering houses. So the staff have been brilliant, looking after us, and it’s been a great laugh on and off the bikes. It’s a bit like the Big Brother house … without the stress! It’s also been sunny most of the time which, after last weekend in Yorkshire, has been welcome.
Now, if we can just do something about that snow ….