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Women on Wheels: A Wild Weekend on the Adventure Syndicate Training Camp

Blog written by Rachel Botterill

In my usual style, the end of 2017 saw me frantically signing away all of my spring/summer weekends to races and sportives in a desperate attempt to keep myself motivated to ride throughout the winter months. But with the dark, icy winter taking grip in the North-West, my training all but ground to a halt.  A women’s only training camp in Girona, Spain, sounded like just the antidote.
Coastal View
Little did I know that it was around 1 degree in Girona and snowing. I optimistically packed my shorts and short sleeved jerseys, only putting in some thermal tights as an afterthought. I strapped my summer road bike into a borrowed bag and flew to Barcelona in Spain, happy to be leaving behind a cold, grey February weekend.

I was joining the Adventure Syndicate’s Winter Training Camp at Hotel Mas Pelegri near Girona. Most of the other 20 or so women had already been there for 4 days so I was hoping they would be sufficiently worn out by the time I arrived that I would be able to keep up.

The camp is self guided in order to promote independence on the roads and in the mountains. There were riders from all disciplines; mountain, touring, road, cross. An eclectic mix of bikes were strewn around the workshop when I arrived. I was starting to wish I’d brought mud guards!
I have never been to a women’s only cycling event before and to be honest, I very rarely ride with women and spend most of my miles riding solo or trying desperately to keep up with super fit guys. I couldn’t wait to get out with an all female pack.
View from the window on the first morning
The first day did not disappoint. We split into smaller groups with different objectives. My group of five were aiming to get to the coast the scenic way; a 145km round trip with almost 2,000m of climbing. It was a real privilege to be able to ride in a group of strong women and we really worked together to achieve our goal. This was despite a slightly later start than anticipated and occasionally losing our bearings, although Fride from Hungary did an exceptional job of navigating. We climbed over Sant Pere de Rodes before the epic descent past the Monastery into El Port de la Selva.
Mountains on the coast

Turns out Catalonia is not a hot bed of tourist activity in early February. We circled town a couple of times looking for any cafes that might be open.  The place was dead. Luckily the local Spar didn’t let us down and we had a feast of bread, pastries, cheese and crisps, washed down with coffee and pop (the Emily Chappell School of Cycling Nutrition right there!).

With only 2 hours of daylight remaining, we grouped up and stormed it back to Hotel Mas Pelegri, arriving just as the search party were setting out to find us. What a fab adventure!

The following day we woke up to cold, grey skies.  I set out with the same crew. We were toying with the idea of riding up El Mont but first headed to Besalu for a bit of touristing. From the medieval square in the centre of Besalu we spied the towering peak of El Mont to the north. Of course we couldn’t resist and set off in earnest, the weather already turning against us. The climb up El Mont (or Mare de Deu del Mont) is 20km of steep and unrelenting tarmac from 100m to 1100m altitude. I’m sure the scenery would have been lovely if we could see anything.
Approach to El Mont
Emma and I summited in a blizzard. We shovelled in a few sweets, took the obligatory selfie with the snowman on top, and quickly got back on our bikes before the hypothermia set in. On dry roads the long descent would have been incredible. It was actually pretty hairy but a good lesson in bike handling. We got to the bottom, depleted by the cold and soaked to the skin with wet snow, for the short ride back to the hotel. A truly brilliant sufferfest!
snowy mountain path Rachel snowman bike selfie

After a hot bath and dinner, we were treated to a sneak preview of the rough cut of Lee Craigie and Rickie Cotter’s “Divided” film. If you haven’t seen this film (now being screened around the UK) you must see it.  Brilliant, hilarious, heart warming, powerful. And there was something pretty special about watching it with a room full of equally inspiring women.
Group after a meal

The week long training camp also included nightly workshops on everything from bike mechanics to saddle soreness and also a one-on-one coaching session with John Hampshire. Hotel Mas Pelegri did a great job of keeping us fed and watered and I didn’t hear a single complaint about all the damp sports bras and pants hanging on every beam and bannister.

Thanks to Adventure Syndicate for an epic weekend to kick start my 2018 training plan and for making me realise that, with great compa
ny, even the most grim of riding conditions can be enjoyable!
Adventure Syndicate training camp 2018 group picture

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