Cycling has been forced to evolve during the pandemic. Navigating the ever-changing landscape is full of challenges but Rally Cycling's men's team is preparing the best way they know how for the 2021 season: a training camp to get the legs strong and strengthen the bonds of camaraderie.
Moving from the team's usual Southern California location, this year the riders will gather in Castellón de la Plana, Spain from February 17-28 for their pre-season preparations. It's a sign of the team's increased commitment to European racing that awaits them in 2021.
The team was set to begin their season at Spain’s Vuelta a Murcia from February 12-13 but due to its postponement, the Clasica de Almeria will serve as the 2021 opener on February 14.
Men’s team director Patrick McCarty scouted Castellón de la Plana, about a four-hour drive south of the team’s service course in Girona, Spain.
“From what I know, the riding is phenomenal and the weather is even better than in Girona. I have been looking at the maps and making ride routes for hours on end. I’m excited to finally see the roads in person.”
With the pandemic adding further complexity to travel regulations, US riders and staff now need to produce a negative Covid test result within 72 hours of their landing time in Spain, in addition to the usual visa or residency paperwork. 12 of the 17 riders are expected to attend as a small group is still tied up going through official channels.
McCarty reflected on how different it is compared to his time as a rider in Europe in the early 2000s, “When I was a bike racer in 2004, 2005, I was just flying around and just living in Girona as long as I wanted, I didn’t really face any issues.”
With the team’s usual end-of-year ‘ice-breaker’ camp unable to take place in 2020, this pre-season camp will be the first time the 2021 men’s roster has been together. With this in mind, the upcoming camp in Spain may look a little different this year with a renewed focus on team dynamics, building relationships, and setting the tone for the year ahead.
“This training camp is the first bite out of the season to try and get back to normalcy,” Pat added. “This isn’t going to be the most impressive training camp of these guys’ lives, we’re not going to destroy them and prep them for some insane season. We still need to ease into it a little bit and consider we might not be racing full gas until March or April.”
Training routes and efforts are discussed each morning during camp.
Although McCarty is confident there will be plenty of racing this year, it’s currently unknown how much of the season will play out or be delayed.
One thing the riders can look forward to though is new gear. The pre-season training camp is important in terms of getting the new sponsors’ products on the bikes, to the riders and getting them familiar with the new equipment. Even this aspect poses more problems than other years, says McCarty.
“It’s an opportunity to get everything together, get all the bikes ready, all the new equipment – which is tough these days because the pandemic has affected shipments from our partners, not just events and personal travel.”
Rally Cycling is incredibly grateful to all its sponsors, as well as its internal logistics team, for moving heaven, earth, and cranksets to get everything up and running in time for camp.
The team had to shift gears this week when their photographer and videographer were grounded due to a lockdown in the UK which forced the team to look within Spain for its content help. Rest assured, stunning images are on their way.
With racing in 2021 being unpredictable, the Rally Cycling men's team will be ready and relaxed to take on the challenge no matter what the season holds. The racing calendar will continue to be updated over the coming weeks as the women's squad is expected to hold their first training camp in mid-March.
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