Training Camp 2022

CUCC General Secretary 2021-22 Matt Bryan reports back from the club’s annual trip to the sunny roads of Spain…

After two long years, CUCC was once again able to return to Calpe for its annual training camp at the start of January. Situated on Spain’s stunningly beautiful Costa Blanca, the area is one of the most popular cycling destinations globally, and as a result attracts a huge number of riders, from professionals to Cambridgeshire-based choppers. Whilst the area is known for beachside resorts like Benidorm (and its unique culture), CUCC’s finest were there with strict goals in mind: get faster, eat a lot, have fun whilst doing it. We can confirm that at least two of the three were achieved.

The trip started very early in a dark and miserable England (or Amsterdam if you are CUCC’s resident European), but just a few hours later we reconvened in the bright and sunny baggage claim of Alicante airport. After sitting around for a good 20 minutes waiting for Zoe’s bike box to materialise despite it having already come off the conveyor belt long before we arrived, we made our way to the first cafe of the trip (even on holiday, CUCC has its priorities straight). Having re-energised and devoured the first bocadillo jamon of many, we were met by our very smiley transfer driver, who helped load our bikes and bags into the Green Machine. The Green Machine felt a very apt name for the retina-damaging lime-green Mercedes sprinter with a huge trailer that whisked us an hour down the coast to the villas.

Enjoying the sun on Day 1

Having settled into the two huge conjoined villas that would be our base for the week, and acquainted ourselves with the hire bikes, we headed out to the local supermercado whilst Joe, Tom, Hugo & Zoe continued to bodge their bikes together. For me, the foreign supermarket is the most enthralling part of any holiday; so familiar yet so alien. What is this vegetable? Can you buy sliced bread? How cheap is the alcohol? We promptly answered all these questions, but this is also probably why this trip to the shops took a good 90 minutes. With daylight fading at a welcome 6pm, we snuck out for a quick 45km with more climbing than the average rower does in their lifetime. The roads were smooth, drivers friendly, views immense – we had truly arrived in a cyclist’s paradise.

On our return, naturally, we did what any Brit would do in the depths of January; have a big old fashioned barbeque. Luckily we realised that Sam was vegetarian beforehand, so prepared him a delightfully solid veggie burger that more resembled a NHL-grade hockey puck than food. It was at this point that a fantastic idea (which I will take full credit for) was born – CUCC does Come Dine with Me on tour. 6 nights, 6 hastily organised couples prepare a two-course meal and entertainment and compete for the most points – what could go wrong? After a couple of isotonic IPAs and fermented apple juices, we retired for the night. The next day brought the first proper day of riding, which we all unanimously agreed was Day 2. At first 82km seemed like a bit of a joke – ‘that’s less than 3 hours surely?’. Oh how wrong we were. The major issue was the ascent of the Puerto de Tudons, all 17.5km of it, taking us nearly 900m upwards. Unsurprisingly, this took a while, but less time for Joe Adlam-Cook who pulled an absolute classic Joe move and attacked almost instantly. Well, it was more of a case of cruising to the front of the train, asking how long it was to the top, and just going anyway. Rather unsurprisingly, this took everyone with him and it was every man and woman for themselves from there on in. The Tudons climb was featured on Stage 20 of the 2016 Vuelta, and I can tell you for one that I did not resemble Nairo Quintana on the way up, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, especially the descent into the mountain town that would be our lunch stop that followed.

A stop in Guadalest for the CUCC peloton with a view to the coast

In Guadalest, CUCC did what it did best – eat a lot of food, including lasagne and cheesecake, perfect training fuel – before cruising down the valley. In this section we were pursued by a couple of friendly DSM riders who particularly enjoyed it when Zoe sprinted past them on the descent. This took us down to the beach where Sam almost had a head-on with an irate QuickStep rider (which might have made the Classic season a bit more interesting). Here we enjoyed a refreshing drink and the end of an Arsenal game, how wonderfully British. Back home, Joe & Joris prepared a hearty serving of traditional paella and a roscon de reyes for dessert, a Spanish Christmas cake thing with lucky beans inside. Turns out these beans aren’t edible, and neither is the weird little porcelain Jesus figurine. Just a heads up for you all.

Rizzo questioning why a ‘Grenadier’ was riding with us

Day 3: we felt very at home in Spain, mostly due to the 35mph crosswind gusts. After sailing down the coast, James initiated a devastating attack on some Belgian juniors on a climb out of Calpe. But of course, karma meant that after breaking a few children’s dreams, Matt Davison was once again plagued with bad luck and broke a few spokes. Luckily Russ was on hand to lend some of his mechanical expertise (and to prevent any of the engineers on the trip from making it worse) and trued the wheel in a layby – impressive. Following yet another indulgent lunch stop, we went up the Coll de Rates, the most famous training climb in the area, only slightly weighed down by a couple of burgers and innumerable cortados. Matt Rizzo-Naudi launched a devastating attack whilst taking some photos, showing his climbing and vlogging dominance. The group split with 6 (nutters) taking the concrete path to the very top, and the rest of us (sensible people) cruised down the windy descent home, pursued by a couple of FDJ riders.

CUCC Training Camp 2022 at the top of the Coll de Rates

Day 4 and Rizzo, Joe, Joris, James, Sam, Tom & Matt D were already eager to do a 100mile ride – especially disgusting when it is difficult to plan one with less than 3,500m of climbing. The day started off with a winding climb up to Guadalest, joined by Martin, an expat and an absolute beast of a climber. As soon as Joris dropped a chain at the bottom of the climb, Martin knew it was the perfect time to attack, and put in an absolute stinger in the saddle, stringing the group out immediately. Apparently, he is infamous round there for exactly this move, but it caught us all completely off guard. January 6th is the traditional Spanish Christmas Day, but we still managed to find a great mountain top cafe that was still open and enjoyed some bread and coffee in the sun. Once again we split off, with a few of us climbing out of the valley (where Martin once again rode as if he was on a Zwift ramp test), and the rest heading down towards the coast for another waffle-based cafe stop and the remainder of the 100 miles.

It’s pink sock day! Continuing the tradition of training camp socks. They’ll look very sharp paired with the new Le Col kit

Day 5 was supposedly the ‘rest day’, but Rizzo assured us that his 45km route was easy. Little did we know that the locals refer to the way he chose out of town as something like the ‘Devil’s Climb’ – restful. The rest of us ambled down to the coast bathed in sunshine and had a rather relaxing lunch break before heading along the coast through one of the national park areas – relaxing. Having reconvened over an exquisite espresso or two, the rest of us got a cab home, which inadvertently began the great Rest Day KOM War of 2022. Turns out a Toyota Avensis can do the hill climb segment we made in 34 seconds. This immediately meant that Joe and Tom went to go and give it another crack, beating the taxi by another second. The segment was difficult to pace double-ramp, complete with plenty of speed bumps and a 15% max gradient. Having planned and thoroughly scoped out the course, Jake and I teamed up – him giving me a stonking leadout, getting air over the bumps and hitting the bottom of the first ramp at 49kmh, and me launching off of this and trying to maintain the speed. The result was a 30s run. This of course meant that Joe had to go out again, but alas, his sad face upon his return with daylight fading told the whole story.

Sam admiring the Quick-step train

Day 6 and we were all back in business. No huge climbs, but instead we had three large ones to contend with. Once again Joe went storming up Vall D’Ebo after a local rider rather foolishly tried to press on past the CUCC train. Panic hit however when we struggled to find a cafe in the ghost towns below, but we settled for an authentic ‘hole in the wall’ bar – a good pick in the end as Jonas Vingegaard went by us shortly after. James clattered a rock and punctured on the next descent, but luckily half the Quick-Step went by and the team car offered to help, to which he replied with the usual universal ‘I’m alright mate cheers’ – I wouldn’t have minded a bottle and/or a Roval wheel. At the real lunch stop, we soaked in the sun and Spanish bread, which put us in a prime view for when Pogacar bunny-hopped a speed bump and screamed ‘yahoo’ on the way through. Overall a very good day of pro-spotting, that we duly wrapped up with another ascent of the dreaded ‘Coll de Rates 2.0 Killer Climb’ all the way up to the radio tower. Pogacar was obviously taking notes from CUCC, as only the next day he set a new blistering KOM with Juan Ayuso (although we reckon Joris would still take him round Botty).

The view from the top of the Coll de Rates 2.0

A selection of the finest pizzas that Spanish supermarkets have to offer brought us on to the final day of riding. Day 7 brought the fiercest challenge yet: La Torre de les Macanes, a long long climb that doesn’t look too bad, until you realise that half of its 14km is essentially flat, peppered with a healthy couple of kilometre rises of 10% – ouch. But then it couldn’t have been too bad as Mark Cavendish made it over a minute or so behind us (sorry Mark, we love you really). The Macanes was one of those really unrelenting climbs that make you wonder why you ride; pair the 16% maximum gradient with a stonking headwind and dead legs and you really start to ponder life’s great questions. Sam Lewin was obviously feeling philosophical that day and so put in a massive shift on the front – perhaps ‘why on earth have I spent all this time rowing when I could have been cycling?’. After James shamelessly scrounged a Quick-Step bottle after missing the chance the day before, we proceeded onto the caf, where he even more shamelessly asked Jip van den Bos for a cheeky picture (he has since tried to slide into her DMs – we will keep you up to date on the situation). We piled on the cake to aid with the 17.5km long Tudons descent, and it obviously helped – we were only 20 seconds slower than the Quick-Step lot who were shooting a promo video at the top.

However the final night brought what everyone was really waiting for – the results of CUCC Does Come Dine with Me. James and Matt Davison triumphed with their ‘Taste of the West Country’ paella followed by a helping of Tiramisu (apparently it was quite difficult to source pasties on the Costa Blanca). After this followed the Tour de France style awards as follows:

  • Super Combatif – Joe Adlam-Cook: for always kicking it off on the front, even when entirely inappropriate.
  • Queen of the Mountains – Zoe Burrell: for absolutely storming it up the hills and receiving compliments from Quick-Step on her riding!
  • King of the Mountains – Matt Rizzo-Naudi: for his effortless attacks and pulling though so hard that he dropped most of the group.
  • Yellow Jersey – Joris Witstok: for the best overall performance over the week.
  • King of the Calories – Joris Witstok: for having at least 5 meals a day and 3 courses at breakfast.
  • Best Descender – Russ: for never once considering using the drops despite the hairpins and 80kmh straights.
  • Closest to Death – James Cummins: a 20m skid on the decent of the Rates earnt this award

Finally, I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Russell and Frankie of Ciclo Magic ( for making our week so easy and enjoyable, and for knowing the local area and customs far better than even designated Spanish speaker Rizzo. Also, a massive thank you goes to CUCC President George, for his organisation despite the fact that his MPhil course start date meant that he couldn’t come with us. Probably a good thing for us to be honest, I certainly wouldn’t have stood a chance on the hills with him around. Overall, we had an absolutely fantastic week, and can’t wait to get riding again abroad soon!

A video compilation of our time on the Costa Blanca, kindly filmed and edited by Russ and Frankie

Here’s a selection of the climbs we did:

Posted in Touring.