Freddy Ovett:

“Six  lessons from  the Kittel/Haas/Brammeier mini-camp”

A Few Lessons from Mini-Camp con Haas, Kittel & Brammeier: I spent my off season (pre season) with the peloton’s finest this year.  As the numbers dwindle down in Girona, those who remain tend to stick together.  Well I had a few fantastic weeks training with these seasoned pros, and I’m happy to be able to pass on six essential lessons from these guys:

1. Never rely on one source for ride details:

Let’s be honest, cyclists are an unorganised bunch, at best. Although your standard “what riding you got tomorrow” WhatsApp message to your go to pedal-pal seems a foolproof system, there are instances of rare failures, rather dramatic ones to be exact. In our case for example, the victim was Matt Brammeier. Having ridden with Nathan and Marcel for the past week, the meeting point began at the standard place of the ‘Correos’, affectionately known to cycling locals as the ‘Postie’. After a few days, for various reasons, there was a shift of meeting point to the River-Café. The following morning there was a long ride planned to leave from there at 10am. We all met there, exchanged the usual ‘man it’s getting cold’ lines, clicked in and rolled out. 2hrs down the track at our first stop we all checked our phones to find that all of us had missed calls and messages from Brammeier. It was pretty clear at that point from Marcel’s expletives that he was the reason for whatever dilemma Matt was in. “#$#@! I told him we were meeting at the Postie!”. So, as we were all rolling out of town, all pretty happy with ourselves about the fact we were going to get a good long ride in with good company, Matt was stood at the Postie questioning his current friendship with Marcel. Always always always double-check ride details, especially if it’s for a big day, 6hrs alone can sometimes break a man.

2. Small ride-group is best

I learned pretty quickly on this mini training camp to not invite any ‘extras’ on rides. At first, I wasn’t quite sure as to why but in the end, it made pretty perfect sense to me. Firstly, any more than say 4/5 guys, you tend to end up having quite a large portion of your ride sitting on someone’s wheel. You can go out for 5 or 6 hours, get home, and actually feel like you haven’t really done 5 or 6 hours, (sounds strange I know). Moral of the story, us 4 like pushing the wind a bit in training and we found that 4 guys was the perfect amount to share the workload and still end up with some decent training days for the books. Another aspect of this premise of having only 4 guys is that we became to know each other pretty well as we were spending almost all day every day together, whether it be sat at a boc-shop or actually riding our bikes. So, after some days we felt pretty happy with the ambience in the group and didn’t want to risk disturbing that if we could help it. Pretentious? Perhaps, but you have to be very careful with who you choose to ride with. Half-wheelers and serial trash-talkers, or the opposites, can kill a good group ride very quickly. So, choose your friends wisely.

3. New road day everyday (dirt encouraged)

Cyclists are definitely creatures of habit. In season we tend to find ourselves riding the same roads and loops pretty often, almost without even realising it. Whether that be because of certain training- sessions that demand those types of roads or the simple fact that we all know that this particular loop is usually exactly the right amount of time that we are prescribed for that particular day. Because of this, we don’t take the risk of jumping onto new roads as much as we really should. Girona has some of the most amazing roads in the world, and it’s always the ones that aren’t really well know or ridden that much that end up blowing your mind. Haasy, Brammeier and I all love getting stuck into some dirt-trails and we certainly did this November. Yeah, we got lost and hit some dead-ends most of the time, but as a result we found some absolute gem roads that we will all continue to use pretty regularly over the next years.

4. Long lunch/cafe stops

I think us four combined potentially eat more than most pelotons do. I know it goes against the whole ‘cyclists don’t actually eat that much’ premise, but yeah, that notion doesn’t fly with us. Continuing with the whole ‘easy November’ idea, we all firmly believe that every ride needs to be accompanied with a good long park-up, hopefully somewhere with as much sun as possible. Whether it be an all-out lunch feast or simply a pre-roll morning coffee and croissant, these stops became almost a ritual, if you will, for all of us. Not only do these stops break the rides up a bit but they offer a solid source of motivation and something to look forward to when you may be struggling a bit with your form this time of year. It’s amazing what a bocadillo tortilla (or two) and a café con leche can do for one’s morale. I recall Marcel was pretty close on one ride stop to downing a 1kg steak, after some thought he decided that it was perhaps not the wisest move with 60km left of riding. Would have made for a decent story… next time.

5. Sprinting for signs is a thing

Before this little camp I must have ridden past a million town signs around the greater Girona area with not even the slightest inclination to raise my speed at all. That changed pretty quickly after an hour or so on our first ride out of town together. Before I could even comprehend what was happening I’m witnessing Haasy launch for the Tossa de Mar town-sign from a pretty fair way out. Clearly Kittel had done his town-sign homework and jumped onto his wheel in one swift motion of two gear-clicks down and a couple of effortless out of the saddle revs. Meanwhile, I’m now riding solo 50 metres behind these two, pretty content with having a box-seat to watching the world’s best sprinter racing like a kid for a town-sign. Classic. Anyway, sprinting for signs, town-signs to be more precise, is still well and truly a ‘thing’. And if you happen to be riding with the world’s fastest man, then you better start getting creative. I recommend spending a good 3-4hrs on google maps doing some extensive research on some of the areas you’ll be riding the following day, make some thorough notes on town-sign points. If you’ve got to hit out on the climb 10km from the sign, then yeah, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

6. Enjoy simply just ‘riding’

November. The time of year where your Garmin’s lap-button becomes a little lonely for being left out of all the fun. In Girona, Autumnal November is a pretty special time to ride a bike. A good long- sleeved jersey is really the only wardrobe adjustment necessary, bare-legs and hands are still nowhere near the point of people turning their heads in bewilderment. Some guys still have a pretty strict training-program but most seem to have a pretty relaxed approach. With the general idea in mind to just log some good steady miles and put in place a strong foundation which we can use as a platform to hit some harder work later in the season. It’s the best time of year to simply just ‘ride’ and not have to plan rides around efforts or certain climbs become I need to do this and that effort at this certain intensity for this particular race. Enjoy your company, talk some rubbish and enjoy the pleasure of not being a slave to your bike-computer. Happy riding amigos.

Words and Images: Freddy Ovett