Professional cycling’s off-season is over for another year. Riders have stopped posting photographs of their often-exotic holidays on social media and instead are starting to work on their basic training on the bike or core strength in the gym. They will soon head to December training camps where the serious training begins.
World Champion Remco Evenepoel is already doing daily rides of between three and four hours, even adding in morning runs, at his Spanish home as he avoids the constant attention and cold of Belgium.
Mark Cavendish has still to confirm his team for 2023 but has returned home from a long trip to the Singapore and Saitama criteriums and the Abu Dhabi bike festival and has started running as he gets back into a training routine.
He will also be in action on Thursday night at the Iljo Keisse farewell track event, riding for an international team against Keisse’s Belgian lineup in an Omnium-style event. Also riding in the track event, and so getting back in the saddle, are Filippo Ganna, Elia Viviani and Michael Mørkøv. last week, Fred Wright and Ethan Hayter blew off the winter cobwebs by riding the Gent Six Day alongside Keisse and others.
Tom Pidcock, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel have different plans but will mix their cyclo-cross racing with road training camps in both December and January.
December 1 traditionally marked the start of winter training but most pro riders now take less time off the bike and begin their training earlier to be ready for an early season and have a solid base for nine months of racing and several peaks in form.
The start of the 2023 season is less than eight weeks away. The Tour Down Under and the Vuelta a San Juan return in January, with the women’s Tour Down Under part of the WorldTour calendar for the first time.
A number of big-name riders will migrate to Australia soon after the Christmas holidays to train and race in warm weather for most of January. Both the men’s and women’s Tour Down Under begins with a warm-up criterium on Saturday, January 14, with the women’s race taking place between January 15-17 and the men’s race between January 17-22.
Peter Sagan, Ganna, Egan Bernal and Evenepoel are all expected to travel to Argentina to ride the Vuelta a San Juan between January 22-29, while other riders will opt for a more-traditional season debut in the many Spanish and French early-season races.
Most teams now hold brief get-togethers at the end of the season in October for medicals, bike fits and even team photos. The December camps are about long hours in the saddle on their 2023 bikes and creating a team spirit for the season ahead.
Some riders from Australia, South America and the USA are exempt from traveling to Spain but everyone else will have to spend two weeks in an out-of-season holiday resort hotel in Mallorca or the Costa Blanca coast, with some staying even longer to avoid the bad weather of their northern European homes.
Final race programs will be decided and perhaps announced at the December training camps, as riders and teams come together to increase the workload and spend time together. Mechanics will be busy preparing the 2023 bikes, directeur sportifs will plan their race goals and strategies, while soigneurs look after the riders’ every need and offer daily massages to ease the fatigue of blocks of two or three days training.
Spain has become the destination of choice for most of the major teams, with The Sports Gazette suggesting that all 18 2023 WorldTour teams, plus a number of other ProTeams, will hold their training camps in Mallorca or along the Spanish Mediterranean coast in December.
Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe have opted for Mallorca, while 13 teams will be between Benidorm and Gandia on the Costa Blanca. Movistar will be down the coast in Almeria, Alpecin-Deceuninck will be a little further north in Benicassim, while EF Education-EasyPost will stay near their Girona Service Course in Catalunya.
Teams have largely abandoned Italy and the south of France for the quieter and safer roads of Spain and the milder weather. The Costa Blanca is one of the driest places in Europe in winter, with average temperatures of 12-15C, perfect for long training rides.
The likes of Trek-Segafredo will bring together their men’s and women’s squads, meaning some teams will gather over 100 riders and staff. Teams seek out special deals with the hotels but The Sports Gazette suggested a WorldTour team can still spend around €100,000 for a December camp. That is serious money for a serious moment of the pre-season.