At the start of every year the Professional cycling teams, increasingly both the men's and women's teams run team launch events ahead of their racing season, usually in Decemeber and January, alongside a winter training camp. This will often mean new riders, new sponsors and almost always new cycling kit. For good reasons, most of the Pro team choose Spain and we've twice been approached by teams looking for accommodation. We see them on the roads en masse during the winter, but regularly throughout the year between races, after the Spring Classics and ahead of the Grand tours, during the Volta Valencia race and often before and after La Vuelta Espana.
What do Pro teams do at team launch and training camps?
It's not all about riding bike! The world's cycling and sporting press will often attend launch events and camps and increasingly there may be a presence from the bike and product manufacturers and sponsors. They may also need to spend time with VIPs. There will be LOTS of photoshoots, video production, longer-form interviews for both written and digital media-based content providers. Of course, there will be some riding and being Pro's, likely some coffee and less likely cake consumed in moderation when the DS isn't around. We've had enquiries for hosting Pro teams, but the scale and professionalism of a modern Pro team operation is always somewhat surprising. Typically they may need rooms to accommodate up to 50-60 people. The riders and support staff may share, but senior management and executives are less likely to do. In short, it's a lot of rooms! And of course, all those press people need rooms too. They need lots of parking, for the team cars, buses, motorbikes and equipment vans. They need electric points for said vehicles too. They may need their own kitchens in some rarer cases.
They need large hotels with extensive facilities, secure parking and storage, close to a decent airport and with access to fantastic roads in good weather. As a Casa Rural, we are limited to 16 guests although accommodating the vehicles would not be a problem, as we have private grounds of nearly 21,000 sq.m. But, generally, this means that only large hotels at coastal resorts can accommodate the pro teams.
Where do Pro cyclists go to train in the winter? At UCI world tour level and UCI Pro team level, the majority of the teams choose Communidad Valencia for their winter training. The region includes Denia, Calpe, Gandia, Benidorm, Alcoy, Benicassim and of course Ontinyent. They come for the better weather, two good airports, fantastic riding and extensive hotel options.
Mallorca is cold in the winter, wetter and it regularly snows. Much of the island tourism business is closed from November through to Spring. Being an island makes logistics more difficult and expensive too. Some teams go Girona, but it is not as popular as resorts further south. This is chiefly because of the weather, but there not many large hotels in Girona in comparison to destinations further south. Pro teams travelling south from Service Course bases in northern Europe choose to simply drive a little further towards the sun. Gran Canaria is a great destination and we much prefer it to Lanzarote, although the flights are much longer from Northern Europe and logistically it is much more challenging to get the teams and equipment to the location. Perhaps it's no surprise teams with Billionaire backers chose here for 2021?
Lake Garda? We're confused by this one too. We'd be taking our snowboards and ski's to Northern Italy in January.
Where in the Valencia and Alicante region do Pro team stay? There are really very few hotels inland that can accommodate the teams and so large beach resort hotels in Calpe and Benidorm have become the most popular. It certainly doesn't mean that they're the best place to stay from a pure cycling perspective and for many non-Pro cyclists, we'd strongly suggest staying elsewhere if you want to explore the best riding in the region when you visit. Of the beach resorts and areas, our preference would be the Gandia, Oliva and inland of Denia area. It's somewhat less touristy then Benidorm and the surrounds and much easier to get in and out of than Calpe for example. Our guide to the climbs is a great reference for planning your trip. We've listed many of the best climbs in the region and how far they are from Ontinyent, Denia and Calpe. If you stay inland, you get to ride many of the same routes and have access to many more and often better ones, with more manageable ride distances and far less repeat mileage at the start and end of every day.
Pro training routes and rides in Valencia, Denia and Calpe region It's worth noting that pro riders, even on their training rides, are very different from most of us and what we can do on a regular basis. Pro riders tend to ride in groups with other Pro riders and this means average training speeds of 30 to 35 km/h and often faster. Winter training rides might be 4-6 hours in duration, sometimes longer and for several successive days. There are not too many amateurs riding daily distances of 150-180km's. We see the pro's on rides all over the region through the year. Of course, they head inland to the mountains (they're not here to swim in the sea after all) and away from the tourists and traffic. From Denia, classic routes to Planes and Muro via the D'Ebo and Gallinera are popular, from Gandia we've seen them in Xativa and very rarely Enguera. From Calpe and the South, Coll de Rates and Tudons are popular, but we also see them near Alcoy and Font Roja. When you're riding 150-180km in a day it's much easier to take in more of the region. Although, obviously, sightseeing and new routes are not the top priorities for the riders and teams.