Cycling to New Heights: My Alicante Training Camp Kicked Off

By Kasia Niewiadoma

We are already a few weeks into a brand new year, and I’m excited to share the exciting start to my training camp experience in Alicante, Spain — as our team gears up for the 2024 season. While half of our team is tearing up the tracks in Australia, the rest of us, the classic race riders, are in Spain, immersed in a unique training environment.

Setting the altitude stage

A few days ago, I joined the team at Syncrosfera Hotel in Alicante, where we started the final preparations for the 2024 season. With the rest of my team’s Classics riders, I’m aiming to get my body in top form to tackle the upcoming racing calendar. We’re staying in Hypoxic rooms that simulate high altitude, allowing us to gain even more from every training session. It’s my first time at simulated altitude, so I’m interested in how my body will react to it! Usually, I have great benefits from training and sleeping in thin air, yet this is something different, so I just put my trust in the team, and hopefully, everything goes smoothly for the next two weeks.

Setting goals: strength, precision, and recovery

My main goals are to get the best out of each training session regarding strength build-up and recovery. When at home, you get easily distracted with a lot of house chores or meet-ups with friends. In contrast, at the camp, you only focus on your job, meaning you train very hard, eat precisely, and work on your weight if needed. You put even more attention on recovery: massages, treatments, compression boots, sauna, spa, etc. It is a very short period, two weeks of complete focus, so when you come back home, you know that hard work has been done, and hopefully, you feel strong and confident.

Physical and mental preparation before camp

Before leaving for a camp like this I make sure that I take enough rest days — meaning I reduce my training load from 4-5 hours riding to 1-2 for at least three days. I also prioritise family and friends time, so once I leave, I feel like I gave enough love to people around me and can be gone for the needed time without too much guilt.

The training camp, in some ways, is challenging because we spend very condensed time with many people we don’t necessarily know, and that can be a little energy draining. But with enough rest beforehand, you can flow with each tightly scheduled day. I definitely struggle sometimes with being home and following my routine for a couple of weeks and then having to adjust to a hectic day planned by a team filled with hard training, media, sponsors, etc. But once you break that barrier in your head, everything starts to flow.

An atmosphere to build bonds and honesty

At training camps, there are always new people around, new riders, staff members, etc. So, for those on the team already, it’s a time to make everyone feel welcomed and understood. It takes a few days before the whole team warms up to each other and feels at home.

From a rider’s point of view, we have a powerful bond with each other that was built through many years of ups and downs, tears and laughs. So, I would for sure say that the atmosphere amongst us is uplifting, supportive, and loving. We look after each other, and stay honest. Our main mantra is always to speak honestly and never bottle any feelings that later turn into negative thoughts. It’s not always easy, but we are constantly working on trying to be better versions of ourselves for others.

Training endurance and strength

This camp is about building endurance and a solid shape base for upcoming intervals and race days. We ride for 4-6 hours with some lower-intensity efforts from 5-30 minutes. I enjoy rides like that as we see so many beautiful and remote places, while accumulating a lot of solid km for the legs.

Unexpected challenges and solutions

Of course, when you’re training with such intensity, there can be hiccups. For example, it sometimes happens that somebody gets sick or gets injured. Of course, we do everything in our power to prevent that from happening. You don’t want to spend days in bed at a camp because you feel like you are wasting precious time. That said, challenges can present themselves in the from fatigue, and riders can break mentally, but that’s why we try to create a safe space for everyone to talk and to help them lift the emotional weight off their shoulders.

Bonding beyond biking

There are some moments of lightness, too. The best memories are always created after a long, exhausting day on a bike. Last December, we were in California for a gravel camp where my bike didn’t arrive, and I had to ride a road bike on an MTB trail. Riders created a 100km loop, of which 30km was meant for hikers only. We spent all day on bikes trying to chase the sunset, fighting fatigue and jet lag. It was a day where, as a team, we bonded strongly because everyone had to take care of each other and put their own needs to the side.

Carrying lessons forward

The experience of giving it all at a training camp is always humbling. When at home, I tend to underestimate the importance of recovery, but these camps make me realise why I train hard and why recovery is so crucial to overall improvement. I see my whole team working hard for our success, which adds motivation to do the right things collectively, so that we will ultimately achieve our goals and be able to celebrate together as a result. There is a lot of hard work that awaits me in the coming days, but I am glad to be here with a crew of people I have so much respect for and I can already tell that the 2024 season is off to a great start!