by Daphne Karagianis, Chicago Category 1 Road Racer
When leaving your house at 3:30AM on a 10° Chicago winter morning doesn’t make you grumpy, you know you are headed to something wonderful.
I was incredibly lucky to attend the ALP Cycles training camp this January in Tucson, AZ. I just started coaching with ALP in November and the opportunity to ride with my coach would prove to be extremely valuable. Not to mention all of the added knowledge that went beyond the rides. Every evening after our ride the coaches held training talks— some topics included nutrition, learning how to use TrainingPeaks, mental training, and an open Q&A for any lingering questions. These talks were seriously amazing and I have many pages filled with notes. Accompanied by these discussions was often a dinner prepared by Chef Patricia. Is it OK to go back for thirds?? Because when Chef P is cooking, you can't help it.
Our first ride was a little spin around town to loosen up the legs from our travels. All of the routing was excellent and the scenery breathtaking. After meeting everyone and getting to know new bike friends, we naturally decided to go get food. Chane (a JET Cycling rider from South Africa via L.A.) and I hopped in the back of a SUV and soaked up the views.
One of my favorite days was our trip to the Saguaro National Park. The park has a one-way 8-mile loop with a nice little climb. Alison taught us how to carry momentum through the rolling hills. It was fun to follow her wheel for a loop and see how it's really done! I looped around 3 times but could have easily stayed there all day—it didn't get old. In addition to making tons of new friends, it was great to have my Chicago Women's Elite Cycling partner in crime and fellow Chicagoan, Cathy Frampton, along for the camp. We were able to work on CWEC and get motivated for the coming season.
Becoming a more confident rider was a goal of mine for this camp. I love how ALP Cycles views bike skills as equal, if not more important, than just hammering out the power. I started racing 5 years ago and learned by trial and error. Someone telling me at the end, or during a race, what NOT to do. You may feel like you've got it all down, but there is always something to learn, no matter the level of rider. Skills day was fantastic— we practiced bottle pick up, bumping drills, cornering, and Patricia Schwager obliged our request for The Superman.
I planned my trip to stay an extra week after camp to ride with some Chicago friends and soak up a little more sunshine before heading back. This past week of riding after camp has made me appreciate how much I learned and grew as a rider, even in just one short week. I can already see direct improvement and have the wonderful coaches— Alison, Jen, and Paddy—to thank for such a great knowledge drop! Last year in January I was stuck on a trainer in Chicago, feeling crummy and wanting to be outside riding with friends and not with the TV or my playlist. I highly recommend planning a training camp (or attending the ALP Camp!) because it will lift you up during that winter slump and help you become a stronger cyclist.
GRAND TOTAL: 350 Miles, 19,812ft of climbing, 1 monster 25-mile climb, 0 flat tires, and countless delicious dinners prepared by Chef Patricia