‘The best kept secret in the pro-cycling world’ is how Fitness 12 describe Spain’s Mercia region, the location of their Elite Cycling retreat. Considering that Alberto Contador was kicking the Sky team into touch in the Vuelta A Murcia just a couple of weeks before I arrived this statement seems to be well founded.
The view from my plane window reveals mountain ranges, ebbing depressions and lots of smooth flat land. Tie this up with a warm Spanish climate and cool breezes floating off the Mediterranean and you’ve got the potential for some pretty perfect peddling conditions.
Fitness 12 offer a full range of retreats, all taking place at La Manga Club; detox, Spa, fitness, triathlon, and a full range of sport specific weekends. The common factor underpinning all these trips is company director Steve Halsall’s holistic approach to fitness.
No stranger to A-list clients Steve’s on the top tier of personal trainers. His training methods, combined with that special magnetic quality all too rare in his industry, forms the foundations upon which all of these weekends are built. These trips are not about being beasted to death, it’s about taking your self to the next level and taking what you have learnt home with you.
I’m hugely into bikes and cycling but a collection of almost justifiable excuses mean that my legs aren’t as nimble up those hills as they were this time last year. I have a rusty gym membership, slightly wobblier thighs than normal and the next level seems a very long way away. This weekend is just what I need.
The Cycling Retreat is built up of three rides, 45, 65 and 20 miles as well as stretching, spa hydrotherapy, core work, nutrition and some equally important down-time.
After much pain staking deliberation I decided not to bring my own bike with me and instead used Biking La Manga to hire one on site. I was amazed to be given a box fresh Dolan Hercules with accompanying scram gearset to ride. My co-riders were also provided with full carbon steeds. Despite the warm weather it was starting to feel a bit like Christmas.
Nutrition is a key element of Steve’s training methodology pre-ride prep comprises of making up isotonic sports drinks and supplying bars and gels. Bikes and nutrition sorted and it was time to follow Steve and the F12 ride guides’ rear wheels out of La Manga Club and into the hills.
The Mercian terrain does indeed make for some awesome riding. As a London commuter the consistently smooth roads and panoramic views are a real breath of fresh air. The undulations were varied ranging from long and flat to up and round, closely followed by my personal favourite, down and round.
Post ride nutrition took the shape of Steve’s custom made protein rich recovery meals, some undefined and grim tasting isotonic beverage and lots and lots of water. As with many things over the course of this weekend, this good practise is something I do… sometimes following a ride, but due to being a bit knackered, under-prepared, or just plain lazy, more often than not I just eat what ever is handy.
Falling neatly into the same category is the athlete’s best friend and worst enemy. Stretching. Being slightly too immersed in my own troubles I only briefly took the time to turn around during our stretching session but there are probably few things more hilarious than the site of a bunch of die hard cyclists attempting to touch their toes. Hindering to that masterly “Steve says” quality of Mr Halsall we followed a 30 minute stretching session with voluntarily choosing to carry out four rounds of lactate flushing plunge pool sessions in the hill top spa.
Madness though it seemed at the time, the upshot of all this was that despite my failing fitness levels I was more than capable of jumping out of bed the next day, back on the bike (god I loved that bike!) and doing it all again and then some with no aches or pains residing from the previous day out.
I was pretty gutted when the weekend drew to a close, but I’ve definitely returned to the UK with a new cycling vigour. I feel like I’m back on track with a fitness goal in place and a few new skills on board to help me carry this out.
The retreats cater for beginners and advanced riders. Beginners being open to entry level cyclists, comfortable with a couple of hours in the saddle, who might be on their first road bike and who want to improve their fitness and performance on the bike. Advanced riders are defined as riding regularly for over five hours, paying detailed attention to their bikes and having the objective of wanting to analyse their performance and recovery in detail.
• Cycling Retreats start at £435 for the weekend including airport transfers
• Long suffering non-cycling partners and friends as equally welcome and bespoke non-participation packages, rates available upon request.
For more information about this and other retreats offered by Fitness 12 contact:
Tel: 078 9991 7718 or 020 7788 4087
Katie Gormley, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine