So why Limoux? A question we often get asked every time we get ready to fly to this lovely little French town for our team training camp. The answer is simple really, it’s the best place to train in Europe in our opinion, but I’ll explain in a little more detail.
The Rides and Roads – Largely traffic free, with smooth surfaces and with views to blow your mind. The area is in the heart of the Aude region, and being away from the major city of Carcassonne you’re never faced with many vehicles. The drivers have an understanding and respect of bike riders and safety. You get your space, and can enjoy the smooth tarmac as you look at the views which never fail to enchant people.
Our focus on the rides are about getting quality hours on the bikes and combining that with all the elements you’d expect from a training camp. Riders need to learn confidence in each other, see other riders strengths and weaknesses, and they need to carry out race simulation drills depending on the date of the camp. TTT, ITT, lead-out, descending, attacking; all areas that need to be covered. But coming here to Limoux, we can do all of that in an environment that makes us feel safe and secure.
The Hills – You finish a ride feeling challenged, tired, but happy with your achievements. You always climb more than you think in this region, due to the constant undulation. With hills that usually average between 4% and 9%, it never feels like you’re climbing the Mur de Huy, which helps training groups stick together when they are doing endurance rides. The sheer variety of hills means that on an interval or structured day, you can find climbs that suit your efforts within a short ride of Limoux. In fact, if you want to be more specific, you can actually find many climbs that replicate “famous” climbs to ensure you can tailor your training to very specific requirements.
Our focus on the hills relates to race simulation. For a women’s team, why spend weeks training in the mountains, when there are very few races in the mountains on the world calendar for women. Most races have hills, not mountains. Our climbers need to be able to race the hills, our sprinters need to be able to survive the hills. We feel that taking a focus on real race situations into training will help performance.
The Weather – Much is made of going to Majorca for a training camp, it’s the thing to do I guess. But as I sit here typing this, I read about snow falling in Majorca. Sure, it can snow here, but a generally dry climate and predictable weather patterns mean that a ride of 4 to 5 hours every day in the dry is achievable throughout January, February and March. There aren’t many rainy day, so you can plan your training beforehand and it’s rare the weather would make you change plans.
Our focus on the weather takes into consideration it not being too hot. That might seem odd as we all see Instagram feeds of riders sunning themselves at training camps in the winter. But we feel returning from those conditions, and going straight into classic style races in northern Europe, in classic style weather conditions can lead to illness and poor performance. It’s between 14 degrees and 20 degrees most days here in Limoux during the early months of the year. A much easy drop to handle when you hit the early Kermesse races of the season.
Home from Home – We stay in houses here, set up as homes. With each rider having their own room, a desk to study, wifi in all areas, and other items we consider essential. A full kitchen, washing and drying facilities, bike racks, a dishwasher to avoid standing up for ages cleaning up after a big group of riders after a long day in the saddle. There are even hundreds (I don’t exaggerate) of box sets of DVD’s to help riders relax after putting in long days on the bike.
Our focus on home from home relates to two key areas. Firstly we are taking riders out of their home and familiar environment and putting them into a new world, with new riders, often being the first time they have met. We run several camps, and there are often different riders on each camp. We want them to have personal space, but also a common area. That common area needs to be more inviting that a hotel reception seating area.
Secondly it relates to being about to continue your home life. All our riders have different circumstances. Some are on their first major trip away from home without their previous mentors or family, some are studying, some are introvert, some are extrovert. We want our riders to be able to study, develop, train, recover, and simply exist in the most comfort possible. We don’t feel you get that in a hotel environment. We have enough of that during the summer months.