NFCC Training Camp 15th-23rd April 2023

This years training camp took place over 8 nights in Serinya near Girona, Spain with 12 members taking place. Most of us flew to Barcelona airport and were couriered with our bags from there to the hotel, a few nutters and flight-dodgers made their own way overland, arriving early. We stayed at a very spacious cycling orientated hotel in the countryside with morning yoga available and a 25 metre pool. As far as I can remember we arrived without issues, settled into our rooms, rebuilt our bikes and prepared for the off.

Day 1.

The first day of the NFCC Girona training camp kicked off on a sunny Sunday with a late morning start. Riders had ample time to reassemble their bikes and even indulge in the complimentary “cyclists yoga” before breakfast. The energy was high and the excitement palpable as everyone geared up for the week ahead.
With the weather perfect for cycling at a comfortable 20 degrees, the group set out on a picturesque 75km route through the rolling hills of the Garrotxa volcanic park. The course was an ideal warm-up, allowing everyone to acclimatise their legs to the hilly days ahead. Halfway through, we made a pit stop in the town of Olot for some coffee and a delectable slice of cake that earned unanimous praise from the group.

Upon returning to the hotel, most of the riders relaxed on the terrace, with snacks and a couple of cold beers. However, there was no stopping Mark Cowling, who immediately laced up his running shoes and went for a 45-minute run! – Phill G.

Day 2.

With all in an agreement of a 10am start to allow the morning sun to burn through, the riders set off on the 100km ride towards the beach of Santi Martí. With the NFCC jerseys on show the route out was fairly flat with a slight headwind so little if any takers for the front of the peloton.
On arrival at the beach a few couldn’t resist dipping their toes into the sea as the temperatures started to rise. Prior to heading out Matthew and Luke had done their research and found ‘La Terrassa’ a pizza restaurant situated on the route. Which as you can imagine went down well, without any thought of the hilly return to base camp!

So after the filling pit stop the riders set off back inland with more headwinds on offer but this time more riders started to break ranks to help out on the front. With the taste of pizza the group seemed to mostly remain as one as the hills came thick and fast. Which in turn the headwinds reduced only for the heat to intensify.
As the riders got back to familiar territory and Banyoles was navigated with a couple of wrong turns, thoughts started turning towards the big rides that lay in the week ahead.” – Michael J

Day 3.

Our third day in Girona started with sunshine and Yoga. The BBC weather forecast of heavy rain in the afternoon eas pop-pop’s (after all what do the BBC know about Spanish weather?)
Nevertheless we all headed off from Serinya with waterproof jackets just in case. After a couple of hours cycling we passed through Santa Coloma for the 15k climb to St Hilari and the drizzle started. It was short lived and progress up the climb was made in relatively dry weather where cakes and boccadillo’s were washed down with hot cafe solo and cafe con leche.

Mid-way down the descent Matthew Knight on the rear of the lead group hit a rock, resulting in ripped sidewall of his tubeless tyre and badly dented carbon rim. Fortunately he was uninjured and after ‘booting’ the tyre he was able to get going again, albeit cautiously. Heading for a bike shop in Girona the heavens opened up and after passing a ‘sensible’ cyclist taking shelter at a remote bus stop and a car that had overturned in the rain we took shelter on the outskirts of the town just as the rain stopped. Once in Girona and baulking at €3000 for a set of replacement wheels we had coffee and got warmed up in the toilets before leaving Matthew in the cafe to be picked up later by Jon in his hire car.

Bill Mayes found his second wind and led us through the obstacle course that were the roadworks in a closed off section of the motorway that we had successfully negotiated earlier except that now rain had left us with a water jump to negotiate resulting in six of the remaining eight cyclists suffering punctures and Bill a damaged rim. The scene with broken bikes and roadwork debris resembled a war zone but after getting everyone back on the road we all made it back to the hotel safely for a well earned, if late, supper. – Allan Wooller

Day 4.

The day commenced with repairs to a number of bikes, the loan of a new rear wheel and the purchase of new inner tubes following a somewhat hard and damp ride the day before. 9 riders set out in the breezy sunshine in the early afternoon for what as was billed as a recovery ride. The previous days’ weather struck again when di2 newbie Luke Robinson suffered a front derailleur failure on his hire bike. Despite seeking assistance from the hotel and the best endeavours of the group looking up the problem on YouTube, Luke proceeded with only the small chain ring. The difficulties were eventually diagnosed later as battery failure exacerbated by the previous day’s downpours. An early café stop was made at Le Syndicat café in the pleasant hamlet of Llado. Despite confirming that no food was available, a plentiful supply of regular Spanish fare (bocadillos, muffins and café con leche) were supplied.

A strong pace followed in a windy then hilly loop back to the hotel with a total of 60 km and 713m of elevation. The pace was described as more like an interval session that a recovery ride! We concluded the day with tapas in Al Born restaurant in Banyoles. – Matthew Knight

Day 5.

Having seen the YouTube video, many riders had been looking forward to this day and Vallter did not disappoint. Unfortunately, 2 riders were forced to sit this one out due to illness. This was always going to be a long day, so an agreed steady pace was set, and egos left in the accommodation. Most of the first 60km provided a steady ascent with a little kicker up to Sant Pau de Seguries to test legs and spirit. After coffee in Camprodon it was time to climb the big one with the initial drag splitting the group in two, allowing the stronger riders a shot at the Strava title. As the gradient increased, the second group was whittled further until Phil Jones became the sweeper and showed dogged determination to reach the top come what may. Having climbed some 1200m in 24km there was little time for celebrations and a photo before hypothermia set in.

The return to Camprodon was exhilarating with Phil Jones demonstrating his descending skills and leaving the climbers in his wake. With some 70km and 1000m of climbing still to go we opted for a food stop and were royally hosted despite declining the 3 course set menu. Having started the day in glorious sunshine, many were now regretting the decision not to take rain jackets. As we departed Camprodon the heavens opened, providing the second soaking of the week and more cautious riding on what would have been perfect surfaces for fast descending.
Total distance 175km, Total elevation 3154m, Ride time 8hr 24min. – Mark Cowling

Day 6.

We had originally planned to make day 6 an 80K hilly one but with the majority of riders utterly cream-crackered after Day 5’s excessive exertions and conditions most decided that a lie in and extra round of pancakes was in order. We did eventually set out for a very easy ride down to Banyoles for a banquet of salty chips and to practice our now almost fluent Spanish on the wildly impressed waiting staff. Weather was perfect for a lazy recovery day.

Day 7.

Began with 9 riders in the peloton (John having left early to catch his flight home and Alan and Graham both opting to begin their taper for Mallorca 312). Phil J and Bill left a little early to get ahead of the game. The ride to the bottom of the Rocacorba climb was gentle enough but the start of the Strava segment signalled the gun for Phil G, Luke and Mark to race off. The climb was steeper in places than earlier in the week but everyone duly gathered at the top for the group photo.

Back in Banyoles we sat down by the lake in the sun for leisurely Sunday coffee and cakes at the rowing club. Bill and Luke returned to the hotel while the remaining seven began the 25km ride to the foot of the final climb of the week. Around 10km into the climb the road forked right for the last and hardest section or left for the return home. Most of us decided to complete the ride up to the 1,100m Mare de Deu del Mont and were rewarded not just with stunning views but also the welcome sight of a cafe serving cold Cokes – bliss.

The day was not yet over and on the tricky descent Phil J suffered the final mechanical of the week when his back tyre came off the rim and eventually lead to one last puncture. On the run in most were looking forward to a well earned beer but Mark announced that he was off for another 40 minutes to complete his day’s schedule! Bikes packed, we all left in mini buses for Banyoles once more to enjoy a feast and celebration of a great week in our favourite lake side restaurant. – Neil Stevenson

Day 8.

Having packed our bikes the evening before it was a leisurely wait for the 9.00 a.m coach, a comfy trip to the airport and an even comfier return on the flight for those of us in business class (Thanks Bill). Return leg was somewhat marred by British airways losing most of our bikes and baggage which were to everyone’s relief returned to us the following day. I think everyone enjoyed the trip, and it was great to see members who hadn’t previously done this kind of thing before, like Luke and Michael surprise themselves (if not others) by coping so well with the climbing and high mileage.
I’ll be taking expressions of interest for next years camp soon so if you fancy it… – Phil H

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