Andrea Sullivan kicks off her triathlon training with a three-day bike retreat in southern Spain
Getting fit for triathlon season can be a bit of a chore in chilly Britain, so the chance to grab some training with cycle experts Fitness12retreats at La Manga in Murcia, southern Spain, is irresistible. I'm a seasoned triathlete, but I'm more than happy to dedicate three whole days in the sunshine to honing my bike ride.
The resort offers all manner of sports fitness and wellbeing breaks, so I'll enjoy the holiday vibe, too. I arrive on a beautiful warm evening. with lovely views of rolling hills and lush green countryside all around, which tomorrow I'll be cycling through.
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The aim is to cover a good 100 miles over the weekend, so unsurprisingly the group I’m to spend the next three days with are quite an experienced bunch. There’s an ultra runner, a marathon runner and plenty of regular cyclists amongst us, all keen to take advantage of the fantastic facilities here. I haven’t done as much cycling as I’d have liked and worry about holding the group back, though the two expert guides who’ll accompany us are very reassuring that no one gets left behind.
I wake up on Friday morning to brilliant sunshine – yes, it’s definitely Spain. After a light breakfast, we get kitted out at the local bike shop. Some of the best bikes on the market are available on loan to us and the opportunity to ride a top of the range women-specific bike is a real treat.
The first day’s cycling is a chance to get to know the local area. The roads really are wonderful for cycling – smooth and wide, and none of the usual pot-hole and traffic dodging I’m used to when training back home. We test our skills with some group riding and ‘through and off’, where each person takes a turn at the front. It’s a lot of fun and makes me feel like a real pro rider whizzing along in a peloton. Later we stop for a coffee in a pretty harbour full of smart boats and locals whiling the day away in the sunshine, then it’s back to La Manga, with 45 miles of glorious cycling already under our belts.
Training on a women-only La Manga cycling weekend
When we’re not on two wheels, there’s plenty to do. The resort puts on special stretch class for us cyclists, while the spa facilities the usual choice of reviving and indulgent treatments, plus there are plenty of pools for a relaxing swim. In the evenings, the group heads down to one of the restaurants in the La Manga complex.
The second day’s cycling is the ‘getting down to business’ day. Setting off up a 19km climb, I can feel my legs struggling already and at times the temptation to turn back almost proves too strong. But I push on, and when I finally arrive at the top, a well-timed puncture in the group gives me time to catch my breath. Phew.
The route back sees us tackling some serious climbs with hairpin bends that seem to go on forever. But everyone is so encouraging to each other that I manage to forget leaden tiredness in my legs. As we approach the familiar site of La Manga after 70 miles in the saddle, I’m relieved to see I’m not the only one suffering. Exhausted, yes, but definitely on a cycling high. In fact, thanks to another stretching session, I even manage to find the stamina to dance the night away with the group at a local piano bar.
It’s been an amazing three days, and homeward bound, I realise I’ve gained far more confidence in my fitness than I could have imagined on the way out. First job when I land? To get my name down for some races.
Fitness12retreats run regular three-day cycling retreats at La Manga, including women-only courses. See also lamangaclub.com and Monarch for flights to Alicante.
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