Say ‘training camp’ and it’s easy to imagine groups of bulging veined riders stomping to the top of mountains, before passing out in a food induced coma at a hotel somewhere in Majorca. And doing it all again the next day. Good news: It doesn’t have to be that way.
The UK is home to some of the most breathtaking views, pleasant country lanes, leg sapping rollers, 25% plus climbs and thrilling hairpin descents in the world.
We don’t have the same 10km ascents you’ll find in Spain and France, but there’s a lot to be said for the benefits that can be reaped from those short, steep ‘walls’ British terrain likes to throw into the mix. We just forget about them because they’re not too far from our own doorsteps.
Not only that, but a riding week away doesn’t need to be all pain and no pampering – book a week with a group of friends and you can make of it exactly what you like – be that all day rides or shorter skills based sessions and intense hill climbs followed by time in the spa.
Rolling into Beaminster, West Dorset, it’s a far cry from the rainy mess I left behind inside the M25. I don’t claim Dorset has its own micro-climate, but the sun is bouncing off car roofs and illuminating the rolling hills as I approach.
I roll up to On the Rivet and enter a Spanish Villa style property that has been plonked in the middle of the British countryside. I’m greeted, handed a beer, and led to the hot tub where the other guests are swapping stories of the afternoon’s ride while lounging beneath the warm bubbles – it looks like utter bliss.
I haven’t drunk a bottle of beer in years but it feels like I’ve drifted off the motorway and plunged straight into that awesome mid-holiday feeling where you eat and drink what you like.
Dinner certainly did not disappoint. A home made feast from chef Natalie goes down a treat and is followed up by coffee and chat with like minded people as the Giro d’Italia plays in the background. It also turns out my bike is being serviced whilst I relax – I could definitely get used to life like this.
The morning kicks off at 7.45 with a stretching and core strength demonstration from British Cycling Coach, personal trainer and nutritionist Jim Styrin. We start with a few dynamic stretches – movements that lengthen the muscles without straining them – Jim explains that it’s no good asking cold muscles to hold static stretches.
Then we get our core muscles working with planks, crunches and burpees before heading off for more culinary delights in the guise of breakfast. Everything is home made and locally sourced by Bagget & Hayes, right down to the peanut butter and strawberry and vanilla jam I enthusiastically load onto soft home made bread.
When ride-time arrives I’m well acquainted with all the guests. The guy that rolled in first at last week’s Etape du Dales, a mother and son who is a super fit runner, but just getting to grips with pedal cages, and a few guys spread out along the ability scale, plus leaders Jim and Merida rider Heidi Gould. We’re a varied bunch but there’s a van to follow us and assurance that no one gets left behind.
We roll down from the hotel and out into the hills. There are plenty of short, steep rollers here and the group separates but never by too much allowing us to easily regroup when we need to.
Coach Jim explains to the un-initiated how a paceline works and we get some nice steady roll-offs by the time we get to the end of the steepest climb of the day.
Mutton Street is around 1.3 miles of ascent which has a sting in the tail – a casual 25% hairpin at the top. Ride leader and coach Jim gives us a good briefing on the way the climb gradually ramps up, and then hits you with the steeper section, so none of us are tempted to push too far into the red before the crest of the hill. He also tells us where the Strava segment starts and ends just in case we want to have a bash.
I’m taking it steady since I’m not sure how many miles or how many climbs are to come (it depends how the group is feeling come lunch) but you can only steady yourself so much over a corker of a hairpin.
I’m breathing pretty hard when Jim passes me right on the hairpin as he rides back down the hill to see how everyone’s doing. The views at the top are sensational and it only strikes me now that the tarmac was faultless.
From here there’s yet more beautiful rolling, tree covered roads skirting the Blackdown Hills Area of Natural Beauty as we head towards the coast and a well earned lunch at Lyme Regis.
We’ve climbed pretty high over the course of the morning so our descent to the coastal harbour town is fast and pretty furious as a group of three of us chaingang to the water, but you certainly don’t have to ride it that way.
We calm down as we reached the Lister Gardens on the seafront, where ‘On the Rivet’ lunch boxes loaded with salted foccacia, salad and sweet potato treats await us.
Lunch is followed by Timber Hill Climb – it’s just a mile but averages at 9%, with some steep sections along the way before popping you out atop a thrilling descent – that’s actually a -10% incline, so you do get a little more fun on the way down than grimace on the way up.
We’re given three choices as the ride nears its end – one featuring more steady climbing, some death-grip style descents on a slightly gravelly section, before we would hit ‘Museum’ – a long, pretty steady climb. The alternatives are a short, sharp climb up White Sheet Hill – which covers 1.3 miles with a 9% gradient, or a less pretty, more direct route.
Since most of the group have faces resembling the name of the second hill at the mention, and option one meant a few more miles on the clock, the majority us went for the alpine-esque hairpins of Museum, which finished atop a high plaine with views of what seemed like all of England.
Back at ‘The Rivet’ there are cakes, fruit, coke, coffee and tea laid out to fuel the weary riders, massages were booked – and more spa treatments are available.
I let the masseuse stretch my body into various contortions that soothe aching muscles, and then drift from the spa treatment room to the hot tub, then the sauna.
The scent of roast chicken wafts through the house and makes dinner seem imminent as a group of friends, who were strangers just a couple of days ago, draw around the communal area and reminisce over the day gone by. That’s what riding does.
Coach Jim passes on feedback to the riders, and event-organiser Debs makes sure anyone who wants one has a drink in hand or something to keep them entertained.
With The Cure softly playing in the background, a good roast dinner and rice pudding down me, I hit the road for home.
Holidays at ‘One the Rivet’ are organised by Coach Jim Styrin and event planner Deborah Shilling – find out more here. It’s a new venture and this was only their second hosted week of riding. There’s a special discount code for TWC readers, use the code HARDY for 15% off.