Living the Dream of Training with Pros: What’s It Like to Join Team EoloKometa at Their Training Camp?

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

What cycling fan doesn’t dream of riding with the pros on the same cutting-edge bike they use, if only for a day or two? Well, thanks to We Love Cycling, Škoda and Alberto Contador’s Eolo–Kometa team, Erik Aibast had the chance to live that dream. The 50-year-old Estonian from Keila, Estonia was one of two winners, out of nearly 53,000 participants, to win the Strava Challenge organised by We Love Cycling and spent three days riding and training with the team in Valencia, Spain.

“We felt very welcome from the very first moment, and we felt like a part of the team right away,” Erik said by email. He said the three days he spent at the team camp were more or less similar, starting with the wakeup call at 8 a.m. and then breakfast, with training with the team starting between 10:30 and 11. “A normal training ride lasts 3-5 hours for the team,” he said. “We had a bit shorter rides. We were able to hang on with the pros for the first hour. After that, we made our own way back to the hotel.”

He said that it certainly helped that he was given a team clothing kit and an Aurum Magma bike for training. “The bike was great from the very first pedal push – light, stiff but still comfortable enough so that you could go on for hours. Maybe the team mechanics had such a good eye on me that the bike setting was great before I even jumped on the saddle.”

Erik Aibast
Erik Aibast (R) with Alberto Contador

This was followed by a quick lunch and then free time when Erik had the chance to meet team officials, mechanics, sporting directors and coaches. “We also visited the team cars and the bus and tasted their special coffee and snacks. Dinner was at 8 p.m. and the whole team was together then.” He said the food at the hotel, which was prepared by team nutritionists and hotel chefs, “was pretty simple but well prepared and tasted good. Every meal had a big variety of food. But maybe the coffee was better on the team bus,” Erik added, with a smiley face emoji.

Asked to describe the best part of his experience in Spain, Erik said it was all great. “The chance to live one day (actually three) as a professional cyclist, to eat, sleep and train in the best possible environment was the best. Also to meet some of the very best people in the cycling world – the team owners and Grand Tour winners Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso, the mechanics and coaches. Even the president of the main sponsor. It’s always great and very insightful to meet top-level people from different fields.”

Erik said he was surprised by how well-organized and yet relaxed every training session was. “Even easy rides are done in groups and have a concrete plan,” he said. “Even at the professional level, the atmosphere in training and around it feels pretty relaxed and cool. Everybody loves what they are doing.”

He has been cycling for about 20 years and turned to the sport “to find some more motivation to do sport besides running. Cycling is a very social activity; group rides are a very fun thing to do.” He said he has taken part in the L’Étape du Tour de France – an organized cycling event that allows amateur cyclists to race over the same route as a Tour de France stage – five times. During those events, he climbed the Alpe d’Huez, the Col du Galibier, the Col d’Izoard, the Col de la Croix de Fer and some other iconic climbs. But it wasn’t easy. “Coming from a flat country like Estonia, those climbs make the route a bit too hard for me and especially in the summer heat, it was a festival of suffering. I would prefer some nice Gran Fondos on lower climbs as in Italy or Czechia.”

Asked who his favourite rider was, Erik said, “It’s very hard to [name] a particular cyclist as there are so many great athletes in the cycling world. I fancy particular performances, such as the latest I can recall: Mathieu van der Poel in the 2023 road worlds, Matej Mohoric on Milan-SanRemo 2022, Tom Pidcock in his TdF stage win on the Alpe d’Huez in 2022, Sonny Colbrelli in the 2022 Paris-Roubaix.”