I’ve just returned from a 7 day training camp on the wonderful little island of Evia, just north east of Athens, with another 8 members of Manilla and thought I’d put a few words together of my experience.

Day 1 – started off with a very early morning drive over to Manchester to catch a 6:30am flight, the rest of the team were in high spirits at the airport with jokes being cracked all over. Onto the plane and off to Greece, landed bang on time and we were greeted by Steve from Greek Cycle Holidays almost immediately, bikes packed into the van and off we go for the hour or so drive to the villa in Eretria. Bags chucked in it was time to get the steed’s unpacked and ready for a little leg loosener up the coast before dinner, this ride was a quick blast on the flat. 23.8 miles – 780ft climb

Day 2 – the day started off great, the biggest discussion being “is it arm/leg warmer weather or not?”. Most of the team set off in shorts & jerseys with the locals all being wrapped up in full winter clothing, us crazy Brits see a tiny bit of sunshine and its “suns out – guns out” I was lied too as I was told the day was flat, flat for me is not climbing mountains (albeit not the highest the island has to offer). Leaving the villa around 10am we headed down to Chalkida and across to the mainland for the 1st little climb, supported the full day by Steve in the GCH-Bus we all got to the top and peeled off whatever layers we could as the temp was rising nicely, rolling on through the countryside we soon got to the 2nd climb of the day, a short & steep section with a few switchbacks up to a church for a 5 min breather, drop back down to the main road and another climb up to 1300ft and then a fast descent and time for a coffee stop in Chalkida. Again I was lied to and told there was a small climb on the way back – enter for the 1st time this week Theologos and a 6 mile climb up to 1700ft, then a very fast drop down to the coast and a short hop back to the villa. 76.5 miles – 5845ft climb 

Day 3 – Death by Dyrfis! Queen stage for the team and a planned 77 miles 12000ft of climb. We left the villa a little earlier today knowing what we had to get over, we slightly deviated from the plan by rolling along the coast for 3 miles before turning back as the climbing started almost immediately – straight back up the fast descent we did down Theologos the night before. I had to stop once on the way up as some of the sections were hard work, once at the top we had a long descent back down and some rolling countryside until we got to “2 Maltby Banks”, a short & brutal kick up on the road to Steni. Once into Steni and at the foot of Dyrfis we had a short break and regrouped before the climb up, 4.3 miles – Cat 2 – 8% avg – 18 switchbacks!!!! The rest of the team climbed it and got to the café half way down the other side before I reached the top, I had to stop and take a breather a number of times, my strava map showing where I zig-zagged my way up the mountain! The descent down the other side was incredibly technical and took all of the concentration you could muster to not go over the edge of a cliff! A café stop with orange cake on the way to the beach and once there, that was my day done. The climb back up to the top of Dyrfis from the beach was too much for me, 12.3 miles and HC Cat with some 25-30% kicks in, I admittedly felt massive amounts of guilt watching the rest of the guys struggle up whilst I sat in the van and took photos of their pain! Its no mean feat this day – previously only 4 people had completed the full ride without getting in the van, I’m proud to say that number is now 10 as 6 of the team made it as the light faded. 40.1 miles – 5909ft climb

Day 4 – our rest day and the worst point of the week for me as I had got a full on cold and I was really struggling. We took a short spin up the coast with a lovely tail wind, only to find ourselves all struggling on the way back into a fierce headwind. Reco rides aren’t meant to make you produce 660W for any period of time! We made it back into Eretria and stopped off for lunch in the town, pizza and a welcome beer before heading back to the villa and a bit of bike maintenance for the team as we had a few spare hours. I also opted for an hour of Reflexology which was kindly arranged by Steve and this helped me out massively as I’d started to get aches & pains as the week progressed. 33.6 miles – 1272ft climb

Day 5 – goodbye sunshine, hello monsoon! The lovely weather of the previous 4 days had well & truly left us behind and we woke up to rain…..lots of rain! The plan for the day was a 70 mile ride with a climb over and then back over another mountain, I managed a paltry 7.5 miles out from the villa and then turned around and went back. I was drenched, unable to breathe, unable to put down any power, unable to get my heart rate up and unable to generate heat. Bad day in the office but the hot tub was very welcoming when we got back to the villa! A few of the guys stayed out and got some decent miles in for the day but generally, this wasn’t a good day! 14.5 miles – 433ft climb

Day 6 – not great weather! We had planned a trip onto the mainland to climb Parnitha which is the highest mountain in Athens, unfortunately Steve informed us it was snowing on the top so we switched plans and took on the ride from Day 5 that we didn’t complete. The 1st hour wasn’t great with the roads being wet but once we got through the main towns and out of the back of Chalkida I started to warm to the day, lovely rolling countryside to the big climb of the day, a 6 mile climb at 5% avg to 2000ft elevation up to the top and the 1st time I can honestly say I enjoyed doing a climb! I made it all the way up without stopping once and felt excellent! The plan was to go over the top but we decided to get to the top and regroup in the café at the bottom. A steady ride back to the villa was interrupted by the rest of the team TTT’ing it trying to get the KOM from Chalkida back to Eretria, we didn’t quite get it but the guys had fun! 63.7 miles – 4297ft climb

Day 7 – last day and the sunshine re-appeared which put everyone in a great mood, we were also joined by 10 or so members of one of the local teams, NPO Chalkidis, for a social ride that definitely wasn’t a race whatsoever up to the highest point of the day and the climb up Seta! It absolutely was a race as the local team set a high pace from the off, bearing in mind we’d had no warm up! It was all in vain for them as we had the 1st three positions up the climb with some outstanding efforts from the team. I was dropped within the 1st 5 miles though and made my own way up but for me it was another plus point as Seta was 8.1 miles up to 2500ft at an avg of 5% and again, I completed it without stopping! My good feeling was short lived though as 20 miles after the climb I cracked and had nothing left in the tank. The rest of the team put in some solid work and again TTT’d it back to the villa with me in the van! A solid end to the week for me though and I was pleased with what I did. 42 miles – 6092ft climb

Total for the week – 294.2 miles – 24,628ft climb

The week was made even more enjoyable by our host, Steven Frost @ Greek Cycle Holidays, and his excellent villa that was our base for the week. From the food he cooked for us to the hot tub, and from the bike shed to the comfy living room where the team spent their evenings essentially making fun of everyone else all night and also from the foam rollers and protein shakes provided to aid in recovery and prepare you for the next day, it is a stunning location to base yourself for a tough training camp. Steven goes out of his way to ensure his guests are looked after properly whilst all the time leaving us to our own devices to enjoy the time we have there.

The rides are planned meticulously to ensure the routes are viable, the road surfaces away from the main towns are excellent and provide no rolling resistance whatsoever and all of the climbs are designed to give even the hardest, fittest and lightest of frames a great workout each and every day!

I, for one, cannot wait to return very soon…..and I hope to make it 11 that have completed the queen stage next year!