Following on from the Nationals I awaited the call regarding the Academy, not only was it going to let me know whether I would be training with BC for the next year but it also left me the immediate decision of Manchester or Mallorca. The email came, and unfortunately, it was not the news I had hoped for, I had not been successful on making the cut of four for the Junior Academy. Disappointed I reflected on the decision. I was devastated to be honest, I had worked hard, so hard and yet it was not to be. I got it, I did understand why, but still it hurt.
It was now time to think what next.
The next day I called the Academy coach and we had a chat. My results at Nationals had not been quite of the level, but … he recognised I had a rough few months; illness prior to Christmas and an enforced break from training had not helped, some misjudgements on gear selections in the Nationals and a bit of bad luck had put in me in a place that was close but not there … yet. I was still invited to guest on the programme and prove that I was still a genuine contender. For now I needed to get out there, enjoy my racing, get some results and have some fun.
So decision made, my consolation a week in Mallorca!
I had never been warm weather training before, prior to this it was the cold lanes of Essex or the even colder moors of Yorkshire, but following the Nationals it was time to swap the boards and the humidity of the Velodrome for the sun and clean air of Mallorca. My club LVYCC have run trips to Mallorca for many years now, heading out at February Half-Term with Juniors and Youths to undertake guided rides on some of the famous climbs of the island. It sounded amazing.
I was hopeful of good conditions but having watched some highlights of the recent Challenge Mallorca, where the snow fell and the riders rode in full arms, legs and rain jackets, I was sceptical to say the least. Thankfully, the day after my 17th birthday we flew from Stansted to Palma and were greeted with 20 degrees, clear blue skies, and that little seen thing in England. The Sun!
On arrival, we quickly unpacked the Bike Box and headed out up the coast, meeting at Café 1919 I managed to pick up another teammate and we smashed it out to the Lighthouse at Formentor. Wow this felt good, the sun on my back, the effort of the climb, the sweeping descent, this was awesome.
Back to the hotel and the buffet feast that would await every morning and evening. This was truly heaven!
The next day was the mountains day. 2500m planned over 140 km. Taking in Orient, Soller, and Puig Major, a big day to say the least. We headed off at 10. A couple of back lanes later, we were at the bottom of Col d’Orient, the first big climb of the day. Staying as a group we tempo’d up the climb and had a little sprint for the sign at the top. We descended back down the other side to the bottom of Col d’Honor. We had a proper hit out up this, as it was short enough for us all to have a proper race. I came second, mostly due to the fact I didn’t know where the top was.
On the descent, Sam took a corner too quick and hit the deck, but was up quickly, and we were off again. This descent took us to the bottom of Col de Soller, a beautiful, sweeping climb. We kept it easy up here, taking in the views, and preparing ourselves for the big one, Puig Major. One sketchy descent later, we were in Port de Soller. We stopped at a café on the waterfront, one of the nicest café stops I’ve ever had, and then we set off up Puig.
If you ask someone how they found the ascent up Puig Major, they will most likely describe it as long, hard, and tiring. These words are perfect to describe the 14 kilometres of arduous climbing. A very good time is less than 40 minutes, a more typical time an hour.
There was an excited nervousness in the air at the base, everyone wanting to go as hard as they could, but knowing the climb would take a long time to get up. It would show who had fuelled properly, and who hadn’t. Unfortunately, as we started climbing, I found out that I was a member of the latter group. It took me 45 minutes get up it. At least the descent back down from Lluc was fun, one of my favourite descents on the island. We made it back to the hotel as the sun was setting, on another great day.
The next day was 90km cruise down to Petra, and then back up to Café 1919 at Port de Pollença. Nothing much happened, and it was just another nice day on the island, with the legs feeling better by the day.
The day after we did a very similar route, but including a time trial with a very similar profile to the Junior Tour of Wales TT, flat then up a steep hill to finish. I ended up 4th, 30 seconds off Tom, and very happy with my performance. From there we cruised to Petra, before heading south to the hilltop monastery of Sant Salvador. The views from the top were absolutely incredible, we could see almost all of the island! A tailwind home made it another great day in cycling paradise.
On the Friday we headed out as one big group and got into a chain gang round a 10km circuit. We did three laps, at an average of 41kph. Not bad for a set of tired legs! After this we headed up through the lanes to a climb called Coll de Sa Batalla, which takes you up to LLuc. Sam had brought his camera, and as we climbed as a team, he worked his magic with the shutter. There are some fantastic photos on the Lee Valley Junior Team Instagram page, so a massive thanks to Sam for that. That was the last ride for many, as most of the team were flying back on Saturday.
Those of us left on Saturday morning rode out on the flats to Petra, before heading north, where those flying back that evening headed back to the hotel, and the rest of us carried on up Sa Batalla again.
The final day there were just five of us left. We decided to go and have another crack at Puig Major. We went direct to Bunyola and refreshed before hitting Soller, the descent, cold damp and sketchy and then to Sea Level to make the effort again.
This time knowing the climb and fuelling properly, I decided to measure my effort on the lower slopes and then hit out after about 5km. I felt super strong and pushed on, making the top in 35 minutes, not far off the fastest climbers in my team. Happy days.
We then swept back down the Lluc descent and back to Alcudia, an amazing week with top mates and great climbs. Ready for the spring season in Belgium and to see if I had managed to put some good endurance miles into the legs.
It was an amazing trip and would not have been possible without the support of my sponsors. Thanks to Matt at Matts Auto Repairs for the Sponsorship that has supported this training camp, it is hugely appreciated. Thanks also to the club and the leaders for putting on such an amazing camp. To Highway Cycles, my bike sponsor. TLC Live, Saffron Walden Round Table and Fosters Schoolwear for their on-going support and finally thanks to Thomas, for the bike box and all the other bits of support that he constantly gives, a real top man. Thank you