Having just got back from an awesome 5 days of riding in Tenerife, I thought that would be a good place to start writing for this blog.
A lot of you will have already been out to train on the island, following in the cycle tracks of Wiggo et al. Having now tried it myself I am completely convinced of its place as the winter training destination of choice for European cyclists. For those of you who are planning on heading out, here are a few tips and things to definitely do.
1. Take your own bike
There's a lot of debate over whether to rent a bike or take your own. Let me tell you, I am fully on the side of taking your own ride. For a start there's your position. Your body is used to it, and that is important when you're spending 6 hours riding up and down mountains. Yeah the bike rental places will try and match your position, and yeah you can do some tweaking yourself if you take your own measurements, but it still isn't the same. What about the length of the stem? You might have the reach set up to your standard but top tubes vary in length and the ride quality is totally affected by having a different length stem to the one you're used to. Same goes for the size and shape of the bars. One of our guys was given a bike with really thin, round bars, and just didn't feel at home on them.
Also your bike deserves the trip as much as you. If you're like me, your nice summer/race bike has barely seen life outside the turbo since October. Why not treat it to some sun and some mountains?
Also it works out cheaper. It was only £25 each way to take my ride on the plane. Just make sure you've got a decent bike box and you know how to use it. Also, practice putting your bike in it well before you leave. Don't discover your seatpost is seized the night before you are due to leave as I did before a trip to Italy. Man there was some swearing.
2. Look Good.
Same as with your summer bike, this is time for your summer clothes. Boy does it feel good to break out the fluo kit that belongs in the sun. Under no circumstances wear any pro kit as you're likely to end up bumping into the very people that get paid to wear it. Try having a conversation with them at a Cafe stop and at the very least looks a bit creepy.
Like I just said, you're pretty likely to bump into some professional riders, and guess what? They're just guys who like riding their bikes like you and me. They also don't mind having a chat. We shared a coffee with JLT Condor's Graham Briggs who was doing some pretty intense interval sessions up and down the climb between Grenadilla and Villaflor. Nice guy. Hope to see him have another big season like he did in 2014.
Not every professional is recognisable so it's ok to ask who they are, who they ride for, and if they're a pro. The lad all decked out in Trek-Segafredo kit on a team issue bike turned out not to be a pro after all. He's excused for wearing all the gear, though as he turned out to be Gregory Rast's brother. Sorry for dropping you.
I'm no expert on nutrition, and to be honest I don't need to be. A few extra carbs the night before a race, no boozing, and gels taken at the right time always tends to serve me well. When you're smashing out 5 hour rides everyday, and burning 2500-3500 calories, nutrition starts to become a little bit more than an afterthought. Food in Tenerife is hit and miss thanks to the abundance of restaurants catering to the Brits abroad crowd. I'd suggest staying somewhere where you can cook and making sure you cane a load of pasta every night, and plenty of carbs before your ride. Also make sure you hit some protein pretty soon after each ride. I find that is key when it comes to recovery.
5. Ride the Ostrich Road
This descent is awesome. The road seems to have been freshly laid and it is super quiet. You get onto it towards the bottom part of the descent from Granadilla to El Medano. I suck at descending but we had some serious fun on this road. Just be careful of the one bend where the surface appears to have been forgotten about. It's right in front a very jagged rock face. Perfect place to ruin yourself.
6. Don't Put Off Riding Teide
A few in our group waited days to ride up Mount Teide, which is the main thing to tick off if you're riding on Tenerife, but they found it was closed on the day they tried it. It might be over 20 degrees down by the coast, but up at 2500m it can get a bit nippy. When we went up Teide it was a beautiful warm day, but there was still plenty of snow around. It might be rare to have really bad snow, but it does happen. Make sure you check the forecast so you don't miss out on riding to the top. On the bright side it gives you an excuse to go back as soon as you can.
If you can make it to the top then you're in for a treat. It is the most stunning climb with a beautiful fast descent into the crater before it kicks up once more. I'd advise turning around at the cafe and coming straight down. It's a bit of a dump and you can get cold pretty quick. Much better to descend back to Villaflor for that well deserved coffee.
7. Meet Up At The End Of The Day
On all but the hardest, smashfest group rides, it's pretty easy to stay together as a team. That all goes out the window on long climbs. Some of the goats will be arriving at the summit a long time before the sprinters (over an hour on Teide). So arrange your meeting points for the end of the day so that no one is having to wait, getting cold and cramping up. It's also demoralising to know that someone is having to wait for you. Much better to pick a location at the end of the ride and all meet there to tell the story of your day.
8. Taper The Week Before
It's not a race but you still don't want to be turning up with your legs shot to pieces. Knock the hard training on the head for the week before and just do some spins or short sessions. I did 3 hour long turbo sessions but I still felt leggy on the first ride. That probably has a lot to do with sitting on a plane for four and half hours.
9. Remember You're On Holiday
I don't mean bang on a sombrero and have top shelf alcohol poured down your neck whilst you're strapped to a dentist chair; but at the same time you are here to enjoy yourself. Don't take it too seriously, you can do your interval drills when you're back on the shitty roads at home. On Tenerife just climb, descend and enjoy yourself. Trust me you'll get a lot more out of it and you'll come back ready to kick ass in your next crit.
10. Don't Be A Dick.
I always need to remind myself of this as being a dick is in my D.N.A. But seriously, leave the dickishness alone when you're out there. One big lad who would be straight out the back of a Cat 4 race, cut me up on a high speed descent as he tried to keep up with a group of other lads, It was right near the road junction too. Don't be like that guy.
So that's 10 things but I'd be negligent if I didn't mention that the roads are a bit weird. A lot of them run parallel to motorways and you're constantly in fear that they're actually slip roads that'll lead you to your death. Took me the full 5 days to get used to them. Also make sure you put on sunscreen and drink at least a bottle an hour. Very easy to mess yourself up if you don't do that. Cycling rules. Peace.