Burgos-BH have kicked off what is undoubtedly one of the more unusual early-season training camps. The Spanish Professional Continental squad are serving a team-wide suspension and will use the time at a two-week camp where they will spend the mornings riding while in the afternoon they will participate in discussions related to ethics, cycling's battle against doping and best professional practice hosted by team doctors and a priest.
Burgos-BH decided to suspend themselves after failed doping tests for three of their riders: Igor Merino, Ibai Salas and, previously, David Belda. The team's decision to stop racing was subsequently confirmed by the UCI in December as an official suspension for three weeks.
The entire team are spending part of this period, which runs until February 5, in a hotel in the Spanish Mediterranean resort of Almuñecar, for a period of reflection and education.
"It all comes down to what happened last year, we thought it was wisest to bring the team together," team manager Julio Andrés Izquierdo told Cyclingnews.
"And to make them [the riders] appreciate that sport has to be clean and that sooner or later you'll get caught for what you don't achieve cleanly, through hard work and motivation.
"We've got the whole team here for nearly three weeks, and then after the early races of the years, they'll be back here, again."
Burgos-BH's 2019 peloton already received similar classes before Christmas, Izquierdo said, "because we want to have a clean family [team] and that this sport has to be clean, too."
Izquierdo said he had then explained the idea of the January training camp to one of the team's sponsors, the Helios hotel chain, "and although we'd normally go to Benidorm, the hotel there is being rebuilt, so the sponsor invited us to come to their hotel in Almuñecar, covering the expenses themselves. This way we get a change of air, too."
As for who will be running the afternoon program, Izquierdo explains that both medical advice and something closer to spiritual guidance towards staying on the straight and narrow in cycling's anti-doping battle will be provided.
"This week, for example, the [team] doctors will be giving the classes…and then we've got a priest coming, who is a keen cyclist and friend of some of the riders, and I'd like a UCI anti-doping commissaire to come too."
Izquierdo explains that the doctors "have looked after football teams in the past. They're young and they are keen fans of clean sport."
As for the priest, who comes from Burgos, like the team's main sponsor, where he teaches religion classes in a school, Izquierdo explains that is not the first time he and the riders have met.
"He talks to them from time to time, and he's going to be with them a bit more. He's going to give them his talk again, about how to mentalize yourself for clean sport and the rules of clean sport."
The team was due to take part in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, which starts today in Gabon and the Mallorca Challenge series of one-day races that run from January 31 to February 3. Instead, Burgos-BH's first race will be the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana, running from February 6 - 10. Originally, formed in 2006, the team took one win last year, a stage of the Tour of Quinghai Lake.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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