My name is Ben McIntosh and I’m 18. I’m currently an assistant buyer at PBK, but I’ll soon be moving to Belgium to live and race with XELtexitel VDB Steenhouwerjj who are a development team made up of Elite/Under 23’s. Over the next seven months I will be posting updates about living and training within the toughest race scene around.
Here is an account of my first training camp with the team in Valencia.
Day 1 – The Adventure Begins
As I arrived in Valencia everything began to feel real. I picked up my bike box and luggage from the carousel at the airport and as instructed called the Team masseur, who would be my taxi to the hotel. No answer. What do I do? I didn’t know what anybody in the team looked like; didn’t speak the language and I was stranded in Spain! After walking around the airport aimlessly, I finally found the masseur and we were on our way, 55 minutes in a car with someone I had never met. Luckily the masseur could speak English and the conversation flowed, I had arrived! I walked through the hotel main entrance feeling apprehensive, curious and excited. The team were sat down waiting for my arrival to begin eating, I walked towards the table and every member of Xeltextiel stood up, shook my hand and attempted to speak English! I was welcomed with open arms and all apprehension had disappeared. I was comfortable.
The food – During the training camp, all the food was the same every day. It consisted of pasta, chicken and tomato sauce – lucky I’m not vegetarian. Every breakfast was oats with raisins and semi skimmed milk.
Day 2 – Early start and off to the beach
At 6:50 am the alarm went off, up and out of bed within ten minutes for a team walk by the beach. I wrapped up with my base layer, leg warmers and normal clothes just to keep warm at 5 degrees Celsius, to this day I still don’t understand why we did this.
Onto the ride, the day was an easy spin-off in order to prepare ourselves for the week ahead, we did three hours around the surrounding local villages, creeping into the mountains on a few occasions. It was a good time to really meet each rider individually, pickinup some Flemish on the way (nothing I can go home and tell my mum). It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and the scenery was jaw dropping, however it was still too cold for just short sleeves and bib shorts. At the end of the day we managed 20.5mph (32.8kmh) for this easy ride, then we got back to the hotel and relaxed in the Jacuzzi preparing ourselves for the next day.
Day 3 -Hard riding
A 7am wake up again, and ready to hit the hills. We had a 9 km climb with an average gradient of around 7% to do three times. It was a test from the manager to see where each rider is at in terms of fitness, somehow a fat bloke like me managed to be in the top three all three times, which for me was a good sign. As you can see from the pictures I managed to go up in full summer kit, whilst others deemed it too cold for short sleeves. It was probably the hardest ride in terms of effort all week so a recovery ride was needed in the evening. Just two hours spinning the legs off and having a good laugh.
Nutrition – I took MyProtein ENER:GEL + Caffeine Gels, MyProtein Recovery XS, and MyProtein Impact Whey. I felt pretty good all week, I didn’t bonk so the gels and the food I was eating were providing a sufficient amount of energy. I also seemed to get stronger as the week went on, so the way I was recovering in the evening with my nutrition and compression tights must have helped.
Day 4 – Cold weather
Another lie in until 7:30 am giving us the extra 30 minutes from the previous day. Four hours in the saddle and an easy spin on the flat roads, unfortunately it was wet and windy all morning and therefore too dangerous to ride, so we delayed our ride to the afternoon. Even with setting off in the afternoon, none of us had come prepared for the cold and the wet. 30 minutes in and none of us could feel our fingers, for some reason I didn’t pack winter gloves.
Day 5 – Circuits
“Ben get up” is not always the nicest way to be woken up in the morning. My roommate was probably sick and tired of waking me up each morning. Four hours in the windy hills in a chain gang, I could see myself getting through this one. It was an hour to the circuit we were going to ride, with four huge lumps to conquer and tricky descents, the circuit was built to split us all up. On the descents we headed into a headwind, through and off at 50 mph. Fast. On one of the hills, one of the best riders who was driving the pace snapped his chain, I don’t think anyone had been so happy for another rider to snap his chain!
Five and a half hours today, most people at this point were already walking irregularly, so five and a half hours in the saddle today was certainly not going to help. Most people go to Spain for a relaxing holiday, a sit down by the pool and a bit of a sunbathe on the beach but us we do 2500 meters of climbing in the Spanish mountains. Personally I prefer the latter but I’m “not normal”. Another day with stunning views of my team mates rear wheels and the Spanish scenery. Paradise.
Day 6 & 7 – A long haul
The last day of riding included a nice little treat from the manager: “six hours today lads in the hills like yesterday”, obviously he spoke in Flemish. From what the manager said to what I was translated was a bit like Chinese whispers. However, the team managed to translate pretty well, as six hours and 2600 metres of climbing later we arrived at the hotel. Then we filled our faces and relaxed for the evening – our training was complete.
On the departure day, it wasn’t as cliché as some may have liked it to be, we literally said goodbye and boarded our planes – it seems strange but that’s just the nature of the people in the team.