– By Mike Carter –
You have been pouring your blood sweat and tears into training, and feel like you are missing something. You just don’t seem to be making the progress you want. Or, you are so new to the sport, that you realize the need of going to the “experts” for advice on just how to spend your valuable time on the bike. Since the sport is infamously anti-social, you want to maximize your efforts – all that blood sweat and tears have to count for something, and that something should be more than what you are getting on your own. After all, your friends, family and loved ones are all a bit taken aback by how little time you have for them lately. If you are going to swing your leg over that saddle, you are going to make it count – from now on!
So you decide to head to a training camp and there you are, on the first group ride. There are people you have never met before at the camp. You’re excited about being in a new environment, and you know that you are about to acquire a ton of information that will help you to become a better cyclist. But you are not the only one who is excited. You are cruising down the road, obeying the laws of the road, riding two by two, when just as you hit a small rise in the road, the guy or gal next to you attacks! Being competitive in nature, the riders behind you all decide that hey, they can’t be out done, see this attack as a challenge. Everyone chases after the attacker, who is soon caught, but has now stirred up a whole hornets’ nest of counterattacks!
There you are, wondering what the heck is going on. You were thinking that everyone would ride together, stay together and get in a good group ride. Now you’re off the back, the coaches are having to sprint up to that rabid bunch of crazed cyclists, only to watch the pack miss the turn back to the hotel! What a mess! You’re with a few of the other more sane riders in the group, who all head back to the hotel, while another coach chases down the other bunch. Since the schedule for the day included a few “How to’s…” there is now no way to go over that part of the schedule, at least, not until the other crazies are rounded up and herded back. So you wait and wait for the others to return, which happens to be about dinner time, and now the program has to be changed.
The lesson from this? If you are going to a camp, keep in mind a few things on the rides. There is a program built in to the rides. There are probably objectives that the coaches would like to cover on the ride. If the group separates, that tends to make it a bit more difficult to cover the objectives. Also, not everyone is not at the same level of conditioning. So you need to ride with the idea that you need to be aware of how others in the group are doing. Do not force the pace, do not half wheel your partner, obey the traffic rules, and don’t attack the group. Of course, there may be a time set aside for letting everyone run wild, but the coaches will let you know when and where. Check out all the pictures of the professional training camps. They are always riding two by two, in an organized fashion. They do that for a reason, mainly that you are more effective as a group on the road and specific workouts to improve your fitness should be done on your own time.
Be aware of others. Don’t be an annoyance. We are a slightly crazed bunch any way, and it does not take much to stimulate the competitive nature in us. You owe it to the group to ride steady, stay together, point out debris on the road and watch out for each other.
There is a time and a place for everything. The camp is a time for instruction, building friendships and having a great time. Make the most of it! But remember that everyone else there has poured their blood, sweat tears and money into the sport too.
Mike Carter is a former top level pro, having ridden in the Tours de France, Italy, and Spain, 5 World Championships and countless other international events. Mike is now a certified cycling coach and trainer, and works with AthletiCamps