It seems like a chance to ride in shorts and get some long days in the saddle early in the season.
Previously we've headed to Lanzarote for open water swimming camps that gave plenty of free time to ride. Warm weather couldn't be guaranteed in the Canary Islands early February but it was better than most of the northern hemisphere, and certainly better than home.
This year I waited a month and in March went on a cycle training camp in Andalucia, Spain. I wrote about why I went here, but briefly I wanted to see the city of Seville, ride somewhere different to normal, and didn't want to go to Majorca.
This piece is not an overview of cycling in Andalucia. I did just four rides in a Spanish Province that's bigger (33,694 square miles) than Scotland (30,090 square miles) the country in which I live. Trying to summarise all the cycling opportunities would be daft and ill informed.
But I can share some information which might be useful to anyone thinking of heading to a cycle training camp there. I found five providers and I've marked their bases on this map. They are, Andalucian Cycling Experience, Wheels in Wheels, Epic Cycling, Cycle Sierra Nevada, and Custom Cycle Coaching.
Weather: Good weather in Spain is not guaranteed in February and March. As I write, London is warmer than Madrid. I regularly visited the Costa Blanca for forty years and made this mad-March-mistake several times (I really should learn!). One March I had to abandon a week-long hike through the coastal mountains because thunder and lightning storms caused serious flooding.
|That's not a lake, it's a flooded field|
So what is a 'training camp'? There doesn't seem to be one accepted format. The Openwater Swim Camps and Triathlon Camps I've done at Club La Santa are highly structured and pretty much ran to timetable. A high level of coaching was mixed with fitness training, plus evening talks. Knowledge and technique was imparted along with fitness.
I did my first Cycle Training Camp in Spain way back in 2012 and as you can read, it was not what I expected.
|Denia cycle camp, 2012|
The contrast with my recent Andalucian Camp couldn't have been greater, because I was the only rider there! I was expecting to be one of thirty again, yet I was all alone. Two others, a couple, had booked on the 'camp' but postponed. (Yet the owners, Ashley and Claire still charged me a single room supplement, which I felt was a little harsh).
|All by myself...|
What about the riding? The area in which Andalucian Cycling Experience operates offers fantastic cycling. I've put links to my four GPS tracks below along with a link to a Relive video fly-through.
Remember, these are not the Sierra Nevada mountains. From the base in Montecorto they can go south-west to the mountain climbs of the Sierra de Grazalema or north east to the (very steeply) rolling roads through cultivated land. The whole place is surprisingly green, party due to the time of year and partly due to the heavy rain. That said, this is cattle country, the home of bull-flighting.
|Setenil de las Bodegas|
|Las Palomas climb|
beautiful sinuous road climb to Puerto de Las Palomas, a notch in the Sierra de Grazalema, was followed by a drop into Grazalema town for coffee and cakes. Tucked in the rain-shadow of peaks, and close to the Atlantic, it is apparently the wettest town in Spain.