Where’s my neon green bus with snacks? Or, some of the differences between a cycling holiday and training camp

To get fast you need to ride with faster people.

That’s true. This week I rode with lots of them. (And I think I got faster. Wheee! Zoom!)

Well truth be told my group was just 10 of the many. And I wasn’t slowest in all settings. On the flats I can usually hold my own and I always surprise people when it comes time to sprint. But it’s hilly at camp (very hilly!) and given my size and the hills, I’m the slowest.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll know that’s why I’d love to be smaller. See more on that theme in this recent post.

Somebody has to be the slowest. I tell that to all my friends who are new to riding. (Hi Tracy!) But this week I needed to listen to my own advice.

Where exactly was I that I was the slowest rider? Coach Chris’s Training camp. It’s held every spring in Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. We weren’t the only Canadian cyclists there. Indeed, we saw at least four other organized training groups–all from Canada, all seeking warm weather, bare roads, hills, and a chance to get a head start on the spring cycling season.

There are people who take time off work to go on cycling holidays and people who take time off work to go to training camp. For all of my life so far I’ve been the former. (I’ve blogged lots about cycling holidays and you can read about my most recent one here.)

When I tell fellow cyclists that I’ve been visiting Arizona with my bike, they often ask, oh how was camp? You see I’ve been on cycling holidays to Arizona twice but before this year never to bike camp.

Yes, I’ve heard of training camp. Pre-season camp is a bit of a cycling tradition. See Bicycling Magazine’s Best Winter Cycling Camps.

Here’s Top 10 Tips for Training Camp:

More common is the kind organized by a local cycling team, club, or coach. Indeed I’ve been invited to this sort often. The Vikings in Canberra, Australia have their training camp near Bright, a small town in the Australian alps. Twice I’ve been invited and twice I’ve needed to stay home with kids. But my kids are now almost adults and that excuse is wearing thin. So this year I packed my bike into the car, drove 1350 kms to South Carolina, and got to see what cycling camp is all about.

What are the differences between a cycling holiday and training camp?

Neon green bus that accompanied us on our Arizona cycling tour, full of snacks, bike tools, and spare clothes





John from Southwest Trekking dispenses snacks and hugs on our bike tour



Caesar’s Head is said to be George Hincapie’s favourite climb.

“Ask most cyclists in Greenville, South Carolina, what their favorite local ride is, and the answer you usually get is the Bakery Ride to Saluda, for sticky buns at the Wildflour Bakery. But George Hincapie says, “The climb isn’t hard enough. Plus, those sticky buns are like a thousand calories.” His favorite: Caesars Head, which has what he calls “one of the hardest climbs in the area.” The ride crosses part of the Mountain Bridge State Natural Area near the North Carolina border, then heads back over Paris Mountain. You start casually, pedaling out of Greenville and through the tree-lined mall of Furman University. After 15 minutes, Hincapie says, you’ll hit the rolling hills, rivers and old farms of South Carolina’s Upcountry, then the 6-mile Caesars Head climb, which averages about 7 percent. Just before the summit, at 3,266 feet, there’s a chocolate shop on the left. Hincapie skips it. But everyone should stop at the crest to gawk at Table Rock and the Blue Ridge Mountains. In mid-September to November, watch for migrating birds flying through the valley below.”

Short version, I loved it. Nice to start the cycling season this way.

(Now, I also liked my cycling holidays. And I’ll do those again too.)

See you next year South Carolina! I’ll be back.

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