The time for warm-weather holidays, unhealthy eating and award ceremonies are over. With two months to the start of the 2022 season, it's time to get serious.
December training camps are usually the only time the whole team will gather together before hitting the road for a new season. The only justified absences are those riders in Australia or New Zealand, with even most South American riders expected to travel to Europe to spend time with their teammates.
The week ahead sees a huge number of teams travel to Spain to start their first winter training camp and their first structured step towards success in 2022.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport recently highlighted, all of the 18 men's WorldTour teams already confirmed for 2022 will hold December camps of some kind in Spain. Many will head to Altea, Calpe, Alicante and Valencia on the central Mediterranean coast for a block of 10 to 14 days.
Ineos Grenadiers will be back in Mallorca between December 10-17, with some riders arriving earlier, while Team DSM's men's and women's teams will gather near Girona after their virtual team presentation on December 10. EF Education-Nippo have more informal plans, with some riders staying in the USA, while others will train near their Girona Service Course.
The central east coast of Spain near Calpe has attracted a growing number of teams in recent years due to the usually dry and mild weather. Leg warmers might be needed but an average maximum daytime temperature of 17°C and only four days of rain on average in December make for excellent training conditions.
Many ProTeams and women's teams will also be in the area, especially in January, with the likes of Remco Evenepoel opting to rent an apartment in the region for the whole winter to escape the cold and controversy of cycling-mad Flanders.
The south of France, Tuscany or the Ligurian coast was once the preferred location for training camps but Spain has become more attractive, offering teams cheaper or free accommodation, while the roads are considered to be safer because there are few tourists at this time of the year. The different terrain along the coast and into the hills is ideal for winter training, with the six-kilometre long Coll de Rates one of several climbs used for testing and specific workouts.
According to Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli, the Kazakhstani team has a hotel deal that costs just €60 per person per day for full accommodation. Their usual four-star hotel is packed in summer but deserted in December apart from a gaggle of cycling teams. It has a gym, meeting rooms, flexible dining times and a large car park for the mechanic trucks. Air travel to the area is easy from most parts of Europe.
During their stay in Spain, riders will begin to clock up some serious hours in the saddle and also spend long hours in meeting rooms, with directeurs sportif to thrash out their 2022 race programme, undergo testing and core stability workouts, sessions with the dietitian, doctors and biomechanics.
The riders and staff, especially new signings, will also spend time with sponsors and technical partners as they dial in their equipment and understand what they all do. Christmas comes early with riders and staff being given suitcases full of new equipment and clothing for the 2022 season.
While some brands are struggling to supply bikes and components due to the global shortage, most riders will be able to test their 2022 bikes at the December camp even if they can't post images on social media. The Ineos Grenadiers riders are likely to make the switch to disc brakes.
Most official team photographs are taken at the December camps, with rider shots done indoors and outdoors. New signings are careful to ensure they are not seen on their new bikes and in their new colours to avoid a fine from their current team, who as per UCI contract rules, pay them until December 31.
Some riders may be injured or busy with cyclo-cross and track racing but they will have to attend the camp. Mark Cavendish will need several weeks off the bike to make a full recovery from his injuries from a crash at the Gent Six Day. He can't fly after suffering a lung injury but team manager Patrick Lefevere made it clear Cavendish will be in Spain, where he will perhaps also sign his 2022 contract.
"Mark will be there but is not allowed to fly yet due to the injuries, so he travels to Spain by car," Lefevere said, explaining the importance of the December camp.
"The riders have a programme of activity from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with obligations, exercises and tests. During the first few days they'll hardly ride their bikes but we want him to be there."
Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl, as Deceuninck-QuickStep will be known in 2022, will be one of the first teams to set up camp in Spain this year. Julian Alaphilippe, Cavendish, Evenepoel, Kasper Asgreen and the rest will again be in Calpe for much of December to lay the foundations to their 2022 season.
Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates teammates will be in Alicante from January 5, while Bahrain Victorious will be north of the Calpe headline in Oliva from December 12. BikeExchange will also spend time in the area, as will Trek-Segafredo, Peter Sagan's TotalEnergies team, Gazprom and Intermarche.
Ineos will be in Mallorca to use the same roads they have trained on for the last decade but are expected to move to Alicante for their January camp. Filippo Ganna is trying to get a head start by spending time with his Italian track teammates in Gran Canaria, while Bernal and Richard Carapaz will travel from Colombia and Ecuador.
The December get together is likely to see a final decision on their Grand Tour ambitions for 2022. According to reports in Italy, both would like to be team leaders for the Tour, with Bernal preferring to be the sole leader. Carapaz could be directed towards the Giro d'Italia where there are limited time trials, with Tom Pidcock already confirming he will ride the Corsa Rosa in 2022.
Astana held their team presentation in Kazakhstan on Friday and will travel directly to Spain for a camp in Altea until December 20, where Vincenzo Nibali, Gianni Moscon and Joe Dombrowski will spend time with their new teammates.
Jumbo-Visma have opted to stay near Girona in December between December 13-21. Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos made their cyclo-cross debut this weekend in Belgium but will travel to the team camp after racing the World Cup in Val di Sole on the snow of northern Italy on December 12.
Pidcock and Van der Poel will also mix road training with cyclo-cross racing. Pidcock made his cyclo-cross debut in Boom and then travelled to Mallorca for a block of five days of road training. He will then fly to Italy for the Val di Sole race and then perhaps back to Mallorca before heading to Belgium for an intense block of raving over the holidays. He will attend the Ineos Grenadiers January camp before two final European cyclo-cross races and the world championships in Fayetteville in the USA on January 30.
December marks the start of preparations for the new season and there will be little respite until the end of October and the final races of the 2022 road season.
Training camp plans
- Alpecin-Fenix - December 1-10, Benicassim
- Astana Qazaqstan - December 6-20, Altea
- Bahrain Victorious - December 12, Altea
- BikeExchange - December 11-13, Valencia
- TotalEnergies - December 7-17, Calpe
- DSM - December 9
- EF Education-TIBCO-SVB - February, Calpe
- FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope - December 12-21, Alicante
- Human Powered Health - January 10, Portugal
- Intermarché-Wanty - January 14, Alicante
- Jumbo-Visma - December 13-21, Girona
- Movistar - December, Spain
- Trek-Segafredo - December 14 in Altea
- UAE Team Emirates - January, Alicante
- Uno-X Women - January, Altea
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