WORDS: ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN, World Champion TRANSLATION: THOMAS OPSTRUP PHOTOGRAPHY: ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN/MITCHELTON-SCOTT/THOMAS OPSTRUP After becomming World Champion I finishing my year well with my one-month training camp in Colombia, I also started 2020 in a beautiful way. For the second year in a row, I have been invited to join the men’s Mitchelton-Scott training camp, driving from A to B. Last year I was unsure if training in the men’s training camp was a good idea because I just came back from my knee injury. But it turned out to be a good experience so this year I join the camp with much more self-confidence and is ready to enjoy their company. The rest of my team is mostly in Australia and the national championships. So for me, this is a great way to train. I am used to training a lot of volumes so I am also able to complete this camp well. You cannot suddenly make a lot more kilometers than you normally do. That would not be good. It is a process of building up the kilometers year after year, which I already do with my trainer Louis. In this training camp with the boys I am training a lot of the time outside my comfort zone. Normally I am one of the strongest in a training camp when we train with the girls. Here I am clearly the weakest of the bunch. The difference between men and women is really very big. So also with a good condition and with Colombia in my legs, I am the weakest here. That ensures that I constantly train a little outside of my comfort zone. The added value of this camp is that I ride a bit more intensive uphill after a block of quiet endurance training in Colombia. Despite that, I do not do any work above my threshold. On the climbs in Sicily I try to stay as long as I can with the Men. If men like Andrey Zeits, Adam Yates or Jack Haig are in the lead, it’s an extra kick for me. The moment I can’t follow the guys and have to let go the team leader of our womans team, Alejandro is here to support me. Then he stays with me by car and at the top I’ll be back in the group where the guys is waiting. In that respect, I have been able to train with the men for many more hours here, compared to last year. That makes it so cozy. Last year I did have a few days that I rode seven of the eight hours alone. Halfway through the ride we have a lunch stop every day, so the formula is basically the same as last year. We have an extensive Sicilian lunch and it is ready when we arrive to the planned restaurant. That is also ideal because when we like tomorrow ride 240 kilometers then I can divide the ride mentally into two parts – one until lunch an one after. For me that works otherwise it is mentally to hard for me. I actually do the same with every climb. When I see that there is still 400 meters to climb then I think “oh well it’s only the Cauberg four times.” So I have become really good at splitting my training into small manageable pieces. This year we only have one day of rest. Last year we rode nine days, but we had two rest days. Now they have decided to make it even spicier. Friday, was the day of rest. Tomorrow we will start with a four-day block riding from Sicily to the mainland and finally finish in Bari and from there I fly back home. The group is more or less the same. There are some new riders, but it is still a very international group of people, which I also really like. It is also interesting to notice that the conversations at the table with the men are different than those with the women. Occasionally there is talk about cars for example. That would never happen at the women’s table. We have already had a conversation about politics and also about historical things that we see along the way here in Sicily. I do a lot of research on the internet to know more about these historical places. Sicily is an amazing place to ride – the nature, the history and not least the food. “I AM REALLY ONE OF THE BOYS” Tonight the rides and the staff went out for dinner separately. Even if I am a woman I really feel like one of the riders – I feel very much included in the men’s group. They don’t do anything special for me, so I’m really one of the boys. It is not that they treat me special. I would also feel very uncomfortable with that. On the road, they do though understand that my sanitary break takes a little longer and they wait patiently for me. After these four days, I will rest a few days at home. Then I go to the next training camp and after that, the season starts with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Strade Bianche. Here you can see the places and the distances that the World Champion rode in Sicily. This article was first published in Dutch on World Champion, Annemiek van Vleuten’s website.