What's Cool In Road Cycling

Travel: Winter Camp In Sunny San Diego

It’s only 7am on a February day in San Diego, California, but cyclists at the Cycling Camp San Diego (CCSD) Base Training Camp don’t seem to mind. Beneath their bleary morning eyes, there are smiles.

The average temperature for the day is going to be in the mid-70s F with lots of sunshine in store. They also know that Cycling Camp San Diego has one of its premiere rides lined up for the day’s adventure—the well-loved, but rarely trodden (even by local cyclists), Cleveland Forest Loop.

Palm tress and sunshine – San Diego has plenty of both- even in January.

This is the last ride of a week of spectacular weather and riding. The previous day, the cyclists tackled the famed Mount Palomar, upcoming home of the last stage of the 2009 Tour of California, testing their mettle on the same 21 switchbacks touched by the wheels of riders like Chris Horner, Lance Armstrong, and Floyd Landis. At the top of 5,300 foot Palomar, with already over 200 miles under their belts and 15,000 feet of total elevation climbed, they’re fitness had paid off. They completed that day by easing into a nice rolling ride out by the pastures and apple orchards of Mesa Grande, topping it off with a piece of locally made Julian apple pie.

Getting Into Gear
As the day begins, and throughout refueling stops during on-the-road breaks, guests find the most popular place to be is around Jeff Clark, professional mechanic, who is seen yearly in the Mavic support cars trailing the Pros at the Tour of California. Jeff always has a kind word, large smile, and bit of mechanical advice for each cyclist. He ensures that cyclists’ machines are in top running order from the start of camp through the finish. If your bike fit is off, Jeff is there to get you flying straight with power.

The second most popular place is the service and gear vehicle. In the service vehicle, campers find a variety of energy bars, gels, and drinks provided by ClifBar, along with fresh local produce from the farmland of North County. Cyclists know they have to be quick, though, because local culinary expert and fellow cyclist Peggy McCloskey is always sending up fresh and super healthy baked goods for the cyclists to snack on while traversing the mountains of San Diego County.

Cyclists will also find the ever-popular Bobby Carter near the ride start bringing some West Texas personality to the morning’s proceedings. An accomplished National level Master’s racer, who is not afraid of newer, bigger, and longer cycling challenges, Bobby dishes out the cycling wisdom upon request, and also provides some great stories on the road.

Assembly and Departure
Robert Panzera, owner and operator of CCSD, gathers the cyclists at 8am for a quick route explanation and to dispense any coaching advice for the day ahead. The goal of this day, the fifth day of endurance miles with a couple of good climbs in store, is pacing. Robert encourages the campers to have a long warm-up, as 80 miles and 6,000 feet of total climbing await them.

Cat 1s and serious long-distance cyclists alike are among the CCSD cyclists. With the route design and varied ride leaders, all cyclists have the ability to maximize the potential of their riding at CCSD camps.

The campers roll out with Jeff nearby in the service vehicle in case of mechanical issues or if any of the cyclists need to perform a clothing swap as the temperature builds throughout the day. By day 5, riders become so pampered with the Pro experience of the follow vehicle that they do not even carry pumps or saddle bags, and there’s no need to fill pockets with clothing or food. The SAG is there when they need it for breaks and refueling.

Open Roads
The great thing about San Diego riding is that the open roads are endless. After a couple of traffic lights and one stop sign, the CCSD cyclists are away from civilization. The low-traffic De Luz Road winds around the back of Camp Pendleton. Occasionally a small car will pass, as farmers move among their orchards, but, otherwise, the only motor to be heard is that of the service vehicle.

The sun rises high in the sky and the cyclists embrace the warmth. They know back home it is raining, snowing, or bitter cold, but they allow themselves the indulgence of riding without arm or knee warmers, because they can. The buddies at home are jealous.

On-the-Road Coaching
As the cyclists move through De Luz Road and onto its tree-line side roads, they are coached as needed, but confident in their new found abilities. Earlier in the week, Robert and Bobby held individual clinics on climbing, descending, cornering, nutrition, and pacing. In addition, on the mid-week recovery ride along the Pacific Ocean, Neil Shirley and Cody Stevenson of Jittery Joe’s Professional Cycling Team dispensed Pro tips and advice. Their approachability, easy-going personalities, and friendly nature allowed all campers to grab a chat about racing and training.

Robert and Bobby are there to answer questions as asked and dispense advice as needed, so that the cyclists, no matter what their ability, leave the camp stronger and with a solid season agenda to build upon their knowledge and physical base.

Today Janel Holcomb of Webcor Professional Women’s Cycling Team is along to help keep people on pace and climbing comfortably. Janel’s charming personality, good ear for a joke, and boisterous laugh keep everyone in high spirits and motivated as the distance and challenge of the ride increase.

Regrouping and Refueling
One of the day’s 3 regrouping points is right before a particularly challenging climb called Los Gatos. CCSD recommends a minimum 39-27 cassette, even for the studs, for a reason, and Los Gatos puts those with higher gears to the test. The low ocean fog has sunk in this morning, keeping the temperature cool, but comfortable for climbing. After refueling, Bobby gives a quick coaching lesson on tackling nasty climbs.

The Piиce de Rйsistance
After cresting Los Gatos, the cyclists are in for a treat, because the light patchy fog, which sits in the valley, is below them. Here in the Santa Rosa Nature Preserve, a plateau settled by coyotes and deer, the California sun is in full effect, and as the cyclists don their shades, they start to think, “I could get used to this.”

Los Gatos is the gateway to the piиce de rйsistance: the closed-to-cars Cleveland Forest Loop. This 20-mile closed paved road winds through one of the largest state park systems in California. Cyclists who have ridden in Europe comment that it reminds them of Spain. Experiencing the Loop’s long, winding climb and twisty single-lane descent, the cyclists are in winter training heaven.

Cleveland Forest is to be paced, as it gains over 2,000 feet in elevation over the 20 miles, placing riders on the ridge above Lake Elsinore. The San Jacinto Mountains separating San Diego County from the valley where Palm Springs resides rise to over 10,000 feet in the distance, and the fact that they are snowcapped is a reminder of the season.

The Descent and Return Home
The 13-mile descent into Lake Elsinore is made more dramatic by its twisty route, which hugs the ridge of the Cleveland Forest mesa. As the lake comes into view, cyclists are rewarded for all the day’s climbing.

They know that a few rollers on the way home are the only thing separating them from the end of 5 days, over 300 miles, and over 20,000 feet climbed. With this winter-training accomplishment under their belts, the cyclists smile as they know they are in for their best racing season yet.

• Jan 26-30, 2009, Alpine, CA
• Feb 9-13, 2009, Fallbrook, CA
• Feb 23-27, 2009, Fallbrook, CA

For more info and to book your space – see

2009 Base Camp Fee $399 (returning campers pay $349):
Camp Fee includes shuttle from San Diego to the designated home-base hotel, dinner on night before start of camp, unlimited energy drink, limited energy gels and bars, handouts, talks, and coaching.

Other cost considerations:
Hotel (w/roommate) ~250*
Flight ~$300*
Cash (in hand) ~$200*
*approximate cost of these items
Hotel rate is based on having a roommate and spending 5 nights—includes continental breakfast buffet each morning.
Flight price is based on roundtrip flight from NYC to San Diego (prices may vary and please check airline cost for traveling with bike).
Cash (in hand) is a high approximation of money you may spend on lunch, dinner, and snacks over 5 days of riding.

Approximate TOTAL for 5 days: $1150

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