It might sound a bit strange, but the goal behind all my training this year (so far) was to get myself into a good shape for the upcoming cycling holidays. While most of my cycling buddies (and here I mean those who are also taking part in amateur – but quite serious – competitions, known as the toeristenkoersen) went to Mallorca to put the last hundreds of kilometres into their legs before the competition season stars, I went there knowing that this might easily be the week where my season peaks (since now, two weeks later, I am not going to be able to train for almost a full month), so I wanted to be in top shape.
A few years ago I probably would have said, that I did a quite amazing amount of training leading up to Mallorca, but now, having many friends both in real life and on Strava who are at least as crazy about road cycling as I am, and who might have twice as many kilometres in the saddle by the end of the year, now I can only say that I did a quite respectable amount of training, but nothing exceptional. Time changes your perspective… Also, everything is relative. If you look at people who do not race, then this mileage is very good. It’s just that I know, that to be able to keep up with the best amateurs and race, I would need to train twice as much as I do, and I just don’t think I could do that and still enjoy it. And at the end, that is what matters to me.
I want to be able to keep up with the stronger guys, but I must respect my boundaries. The key is finding the right balance between how good I wish I was, and how good I can be without an overwhelming training load. Especially that training is not only physical, but also a psychological challenge. It is not easy to go out every day, in bad weather, alone against the strong wind, especially when in the middle of February you feel weak (or, to be honest, you feel like a piece of crap), and to skip the afternoon snacks just to loose those two extra kilos after Christmas. It is mentally difficult. Telling yourself day after day, that you put yourself through all this pain to be good somewhen in the future (no pain no gain, as we all know) – which at that very moment in the middle of February seems extremely far away. Planning your days such that you make time between work and family for training, in one way or another, is not trivial. But then, after many cold and dark winter rides spent swearing into the headwind, usually around mid March, when it finally becomes warm enough to go out in shorts (even if with the extra protection of arm and leg warmers) for an intensive ride, you start to feel strong. And that ride, that ride is worth training for. Because after that ride you start to believe that you can do this, that given three more weeks of training you will kick ass. And that’s always a nice feeling. (Long transatlantic flights are good for letting your mind go.)
So this year, we (a few people from WTCOOL – my local cycling team – and some girlfriends, most importantly Clio of course) spent a week on Mallorca with the Fred Rompelberg Cycling team. In practice this meant that around a hundred cyclists occupied a significant amount of the Grupotel Taurus Park, and each day we had group rides to choose from matching our individual fitness levels. Also, there were rental bikes provided on spot (Isaac Graviton Ultegra), so we did not need to go through the hassle of travelling with our own ones. After the first five days, based on the ridden kilometres, they gave the title of kilometre-king and kilometre-queen to the most worthy riders, which came with a small trophy too. I can already tell you, that the author of this post brought home a shared (with another Peter from WTCOOL) kilometre-king title! So how did that happen?
For this achievement, we – first of all – always went with the fastest group (the speed group, or the fast tour group), and if the daily distance was less that 150 kilometres, then we (Peter and I) did a bit of extra. Then on Wednesday – which, by the way, was supposed to be the rest day – we did over 200 kilometres over a scenic route I planned across the island all the way to the northeastern cliffs. And to have a nice ending, on Saturday we did another 150 kilometres, which had more elevation gain than any other ride before. So actually the two hardest rides were the ones we made for ourselves. Although in terms of intensity, the first day was quite brutal. Then we went with a speed group of only 5 people, and thanks to the low number of riders, the crazy pace, and my rear brake rubbing for a half hour, we were all happy the next day to join the larger tour group instead… This training volume and intensity combined meant that we had to eat every evening as much as possible, which turned our dinners into quite a struggle too… (Same goes for the breakfasts…)
In terms of form, I did well, although there were a few guys (especially Peter) who were better (especially climbers). But I was in the top 5, and I was very much satisfied with that. I finished the week with 962 kilometres, 9939 meters of elevation gain, and 34h 52m in the saddle, which if by far my best week on the road bike ever. At the end of the week, I was in the top 10 of Belgian Strava users! This of course made this April my best month on the bike too (1532 km, 11371 m+, 53h 53m).
We know that all nice things must come to an end, but when we arrived home we encountered something worse than expected. While we were on Mallorca, some people broke into our storage room in the basement, and stole our mountain bikes… (We got to know this from a mail in our mailbox – you can imagine how we felt: just arriving home, putting down our luggage, and reading our post…) Luckily it turned out, that thanks to someone reporting suspicious activity during the night when all of this happened, the police caught the bad guys, and had our bikes waiting for us to collect at the police station. So everything ended relatively well, the bikes were more or less unhurt, and soon we will have more secure doors installed (which by the way we have already ordered before all of this happened). As one would say in Hungarian: “Itt sincs kolbászból a kerítés“…