Thursday, 23 January 2014

Escaping - Mule Scott's tale...


I needed to escape. Even with all the waterproof and windproof goodness from my GoreBikeWear, I was getting a bit cheesed off with the persistent raging wet weather, along with all of the UK’s other cyclists (and general population). With nearly getting blown off the bike and a bad crash on black ice, it was getting a little sketchy out there. Momentary thoughts of ‘maybe I should have been a gym monkey, no need to go outside for that’ entered the mind, but then visions of pinning it along dry, dusty trails come back and I am back to where I belong, being a cyclist. Except the weather really sucks right now, and I am numb from using the turbo trainer way too much.

Jon Fearne runs Extreme Element Endurance Coaching, a multisport coaching company for those preferring the longer haul and coaching arm for MuleBar. He has a number of cyclist training camps abroad throughout the year, perfect for getting the pedaling done in warmer climates or on bigger hills. His first camps of the year were coming up, in Tenerife. One of a number of the Canary islands offering some much needed warmth. My services as a physio/massage therapist and bike fitter were accepted, so I clicked on the ‘buy now’ button for an airline seat. A last minute order to restock up with MuleBar Liquorice Allsports and Cherry gels and I was set. This I was looking forward to.

We were staying in Tenerife south, renowned for better weather than the northern end (there is a small rainforest on the island). The warmth getting off the plane was oh so welcome, knowing that I wouldn’t have to sit on a turbo for the next ten days. The warmth can will the mind into being over eager and bash out the miles on the first day, but here the climbs are of alpine proportions, and with the sudden rise in temperature can take its toll too. Jon knows this and has a good plan for the week’s riding, knowing what the clients need in terms of riding and rest. I got the aftermath of consecutive days on the bike as legs started to complain!

There, the road riding is either around the volcano or up, and there are some great climbs to be had as they switch back up the side of the volcano. And it’s up, straight up to the lava fields around the peak of El Tiede, all 30+km of it, depending on which direction you ride up from. The majority of the climbing isn’t steep though, minor sections of 10-12% and some short bursts of 15% to 20%. Those bits hurt.

Off road, and the back roads leading to the trails are consistently steeper, and rocky, and loose, testing skills and endurance. It is just a matter of finding trails which connect up, as some come to dead ends half way up, or down, but there are some cracking routes to be had, just take enough water!

It’s not all sunshine though, storms do roll in (and usually quickly out again) and low cloud can linger higher up turning a pleasantly warm descent into one requiring full windstopper gear. And that’s from experience, sat shivering in a cafe, downing cafe con leches, halfway down the volcano, trying to warm up as we waited for the others. It is a high mountain, so go prepared.

It is a stunning landscape away from the tourist towns on the coast. Jon Fearne does a cracking job of taking care of his clients, tailoring the week to their needs. The break from the rain was most welcome and it wasn’t expensive to fly out. Now it’s back to grinding it out on the turbo by the looks of it though.
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