I had a great team camp with the guys in January. It was the second time that my team Mitchelton-Scott has organised this camp for the guys and the goal was to accumulate time on the bike – and it was very challenging.
It was my sports director Gene Bates' idea that I join the guys at the camp. He made the suggestion last October or November, when I was still sitting at home in a chair with my leg straight because of my knee injury. He knew that I was disappointed because I couldn't go to Australia this year, but he said the guys were going to do an awesome training camp, and that maybe I should join them. I liked the idea because it sounded like an adventure-style training camp.
We started in Portugal and made our way day-by-day towards Andalucia, just like a stage race. On average, we rode about 200km per day over the course of nine days, which was 1,800 kilometres in total, with 30,000 metres of climbing.
During the camp we took two rest days: we had four days of training and then the first rest day, then three days of training followed by the second rest day, and then we trained the last two days, which were epic, with 230km of riding and almost 5,000 metres of altitude gain.
I was also able to use my time trial bike at the camp, which was the first time I've been on it since the World Championships in Innsbruck. It felt like nothing had changed, and so that was good. I had nice feelings. I was curious to see how it would go, but I didn't have any limitations, and I was able to get in about 300km on the time trial bike.
My goal was to see how I would go and how my knee would feel after coming back from my injury. I had only been training for six weeks when I joined the guys for this epic camp, and so initially I was afraid that it might be too much, but it was good.
I felt very welcome at the camp, too. The team organised it for the guys, but I still felt very welcomed by the riders and the staff. After the first few days, the team organised an extra follow-car for me, because I would drop back on the climbs. Obviously Simon and Adam Yates, Mikel Nieve and all the guys were climbing uphill faster than me. I don't think it's realistic, even normally, for me to ride up the climbs with them, but given that I'm not at my best shape, it was even harder. But still, I enjoyed it a lot. It was an epic ride, and the best thing was that my knee didn't react.
I did all the planned kilometres and all the planned altitude metres, and only sometimes a little bit slower because I would drop off the back of the rides a little bit earlier. I often saw them again, and at the halfway point we would have a lunch stop; the staff would go ahead and organise lunch so that it was all ready for us in advance. It was very relaxed because there was no hurry to continue, and, of course, on a 240km day, a lunch stop broke the ride in half.
The training camp was also good for me mentally. I had a hard time in December, coming back from the injury, and cycling wasn't going so well. But the camp was a chance to do something entirely different and a big challenge for me. I like challenges; maybe more so when I'm a bit fitter, but, in general, it was a really good thing.
There was a lot of great energy. The cool part was that we had 11 riders, including me, and 10 different nationalities. It was a good bunch, a good group of guys, and it was nice to get to know them a little bit better. It was super organised, too. It's easier for a team to hold a camp in one location, for example in Calpe at a hotel where everything is arranged, and then let the riders do long rides from there. But this camp gave us the feeling of doing something different. We saw a lot of nice things, good stuff on the road, and it was nice to see that the guys paid attention to it all and talked about all the things we saw during the rides.
I then spent a week at home where it was super bad weather in the Netherlands, but I was able to catch up with friends and family. I didn't ride my bike for three days in a row as the weather wasn't great, and I also didn't feel like riding. I also knew that I was going to be at altitude again in Tenerife, where I am right now, and I needed nine days to focus on recovery.
Altitude training in Tenerife
I started training last week in what were my first long rides in Tenerife. It's a very popular place here, especially during the winter, because it's the only place to go where you know it will for sure be good weather. Almost the whole of the men's peloton is here.
There were also three other women riders here, but they left just as I arrived: one from Hitec and two from Virtu Cycling, so that was a bit sad, but usually I'm the only woman here, so it was good to see them, too.
The goal here is to train more. It's at altitude, but I just needed to escape the not-so-good weather in the Netherlands. I know that I have some work to do, and some hours to do on the bike. I like to train here, too, because it's always nice and sunny.
I can join the guys, too, although because I'm not so fit this time, it's a bit hard, but at least I can start the rides with them. We always have to climb for two hours, or so – about 45km – back up the volcano to get back to the hotel, which is at an altitude of 2,100 metres. So today I just went to sea level and then climbed back for two-and-half hours to the hotel. That also requires mental training!
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) astounded the cycling world during the 2018 season, winning a second consecutive world title in the individual time trial and securing top honours in the overall standings of both the Women's WorldTour and the UCI World Ranking – making her the number one rider in the world. You can visit her website here.
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