Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Over the past 3 weeks Ben Thomas Coaching hosted coaching clients and guests in the training haven of Gran Canaria. These weeks have been a key part of our preparation for the 2018 season. Whilst I've worked for guiding companies in the past this was my first attempt at hosting a training camp as Ben Thomas Coaching. It's been great to have the opportunity to train with my clients, see the progress they are making and identify points to focus on in the future.
We completed some spectacular days of training in and around the mountains climbing from sea level to 2000 metres altitude. Off the bike we enjoyed some great laughs and relaxation time including eating some great Italian food from La Vicaria in Ingenio which is one of the top rated restaurants on the island. Each evening we had the fire roaring in the living room, enjoyed the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden and even got the wood barbecue going a couple of times.
Gran Canaria is one of the lesser known Canary Islands for cycling. Whilst many top pro teams head to Lanzarote and Tenerife they miss out on the larger selection of mountain roads on offer on Gran Canaria. Whilst we were there we did spot several pro riders and mountain bike teams including the Squadra Wilier Force 7C team, Czech National Team and jb Brunex Felt Factory Team.
The north of the island is much greener whilst the south is dry and dusty due to the more reliable weather. In the south you have around 6 different routes up to the top of the mountains, enough to ride a different route for an entire week. The north offers many more options. We stayed in Ingenio but if you want almost guaranteed sunshine stay somewhere on the south coast. We trained on the road because of the variety of options and generally good tarmac, however if you want to ride offroad there are meant to be some great trails on the south west of the island near Soria.
If you’re flying from the UK various airlines have options available including Easyjet from Gatwick most days of the week and BA from Heathrow but only on Saturday’s. I flew out to Gran Canaria on the same flight as Simon and Dan from the Global Cycling Network, both of them having never visited the island before, look out for their coverage on YouTube.
Evenings in front of the fire in our country house.
Beautiful gardens at our Training Camp house
Here's 2 of my favourite rides on the island, they are quite an adventure so you'll need your big boys or girls pants!
This 157 km ride with 3580 m’s ascent starts from our base in Ingenio but you could pick the route up at any point. Ingenio is a small authentic Canary town chosen for its close proximity to the airport, good local amenities, and various routes into the mountains. From here the route traverses around the mountains on the spectacular winding GC501 and GC65 roads to the south where we descended down the GC60 to Maspalomas, the main tourist area on the island. A short ride along the rolling sunny GC500 coast road brings you to La Playa de Arguineguin where you begin the big climb of the day up the GC505 to Soria before taking the road on your left signposted to Presa Las Ninas and San Bartolome. Engage granny gear and forgive the uneven tarmac because this ribbon of road offers some of the most spectacular climbing on the island. Once you reach the GC605 turn right and keep climbing. If the market stall is setup just after this junctions it's worth filling your bottles and grabbing some food for the final effort to the top of the mountain. On reaching the GC60 you’ve reached your maximum altitude for today, give yourself a pat on the back, you’ll have been climbing for 2 to 3 hours! From the top at the GC60 you turn right and enjoy almost 2 hours of high speed descent back to Ingenio via the GC60, GC65 and GC500. Looking for something shorter then start in Maspaolomas, ride the Soria GC505 and GC605 climb and then descend on the GC60 back to the beach.
Spectacular views where ever you look
Some of week 2's guests enjoying the descent off the mountain
If the first route isn't epic enough for you this next route will challenge anyone with 157 km’s and 4000 m’s ascent. Starting from our base in Ingenio we once again traversed the mountains on the GC501 and GC65 but this time turned right on the GC60 heading up through San Bartolome where there's a very nice bakery we can highly recommend. Exiting the village continue up the GC60 past several viewpoints. Turn left onto the GC506 to begin a thrilling magical ribbon of tarmac which I believe to be the best descent on the island. At Pie de La Cuesta which is the base of the descent turn right onto the GC200, follow this all the way to San Nicolas where I'd recommend filling your bottles in the supermarket because you are about to hit one of the hardest cycling climbs you'll ever ride. This side of the island is very different from the tourist locations in the South, San Nicolas is a central hub of crop farming on the island. The GC210 climb starts off rather inconspicuously through these farms before beginning to snake its way up through the valley towards several tough sections of switchbacks past numerous reservoirs providing ample photo opportunities. The climbing has only just begun when you reach the GC606, the Valley of Tears, 960 metres of ascent coming up in just 11 kilometres, bring your granny gears! The name says it all, this is tough but complete the challenge and you've earned a pudding or beer that night. Reaching the top turn right at the junction and enjoy almost 2 hours of high speed descent back to Ingenio via the GC60, GC65 and GC500.
The great thing with cycling is that you see so much more of the destination than just the tourist resort. This years training camp guests covered some big miles over and around the island, they can certainly say they've seen the real Gran Canaria. I'm pretty certain all the guests returned home with many memories and stories to tell after some truly epic days.
Already plans are starting to develop for next year's training camp back in the training haven of Gran Canaria, interested in coming along? Keep an eye on my coaching website for more info.
Start of training November 1st, first 2 training blocks, Christmas, another training block and then 3 week training camp in Gran Canaria. Winter has flown by and next week I'll be on the start line of Andalucia Bike Race in Spain, one of Europe's major international UCI mountain bike stage races. Coverage to follow.
Always time for cake when you're training big hours in the mountains