It has now become the norm in the UK for amateur cyclists to pack their bikes onto an aeroplane and fly abroad to places such as Tenerife, Calpe and Lanzarote to indulge in a sun fuelled bike holiday that everyone calls their training camp each spring. These camps used to be for pro's looking to sharpen up pre-season but now amateur riders spend in excess of £500 to head to these camps in the hope that they will make them stronger and faster. But do you really need to spend that much money to train? I decided that you don't need to spend that much money to train and so with my friend Nick I headed to the Lake District for a week to see if I could conjure up a good week of training without needed to go abroad. So commenced the great British training camp.
The downside of training in the UK in March is definitely the weather; unlike Spain I had two days of sunshine and three days of rain and wind but what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger and the wind is definitely your friend when you're training. In March you can't expect glorious weather in the UK. Luckily we got a few days of sunshine but these were evened out by the monster headwind and heavy rain for the rest of the week.
Most training camps abroad cover roughly 400 miles and over 40,000ft of climbing which is pretty tough to replicate in the UK given all our climbs are pretty short but nevertheless I managed to cram nearly 32,000ft into my week away including the famous Wrynose and Hardknott climbs. The most notable climb being Great Dun fell - a stunning Cat 2 alpine-esque climb on a closed road towards the edge of the pennines. These short sharp climbs are brilliant for making you stronger and are the sort of climbs you will tackle in the UK on a daily basis whereas abroad the longer climbs are great for fitness but not as steep so don't really replicate the riding you will do in the UK.
Despite the wet weather we still covered 500 miles in the week. The key to this was getting out of the door early each morning around 8am to make sure we were more than half way around the ride when the rain came so that we wouldn't be too cold for too long. This is still beneficial as it means you get the whole afternoon to spend pottering around the local village or eating copious amounts of cake. The lake district was a brilliant setting to get the miles in with so many different roads to take and such a variety of landscapes making it easy to choose new routes for every day.
So with all the miles, smiles and hills in sight the only thing left is the accommodation. There is not point in booking an amazing four star hotel when you'll be on the road for so much of the day that you can't truly appreciate it's merits. We booked into YHA Patterdale on the edge of the lakes. A perfect place for any training camp. They have a drying room, a secure bike storage room and you don't need to worry about taking your mucky shoes off on the front door step. At £35pp for three nights it's a drop in the ocean compared to hotel costs. The only downside is it won't be quite as comfortable as your handwoven feather pillows in a hotel.
Overall we spent about £130 per person on the week including petrol, accommodation, food and cafe stops and enjoyed it just as much as a holiday abroad.
Our stats for the week though looked a little like this:
Distance: 500 miles
Time: 31 hours