I’m writing this sat on the beach outside my apartment block in Calpe, Spain and at 3pm the sun is almost too hot for comfort (that’s the big round yellow thing that occasionally appears in the sky for those in Scotland who’ve forgotten). Life is pretty good right now. I’m staying and training out here on the Spanish coast until the end of February and have been here for three weeks already.

My days mainly consist of eating, sleeping and training, although I’m living by myself so I have a fair bit of cooking and washing to do to occupy me too. I’ve never lived alone before so this is a new and exciting challenge for me. I love the peace and quiet but I must admit I do miss my Mum having a big bowl of pasta waiting for me when I come through the door after a 5 hour ride!

Adjusting to living alone has been made much easier by the lack of distractions out here; I’m not working so my free time is dedicated to recovery and relaxation (I’m getting particularly hooked on Sudoku – don’t judge me). I also speak some Spanish so that has helped me out, although I still found myself doing the typical foreigner’s miming act in the supermarket the other day, in this instance it was an ice-cream eating mime when I forgot the Spanish word for ‘freezer’…

DSC_0092Training has really ramped up since I arrived. I am recovering so much quicker and am able to push myself harder in training than I ever have before and I feel (or hope!) that I’m a lot stronger now than at this time last year. I also recently bought a power meter and am looking forward to incorporating power into my training sessions.

The Spanish roads are perfect for training on; they’re generally really well maintained and ‘roll’ much better than those at home. The car drivers tend to be more respectful of bikes out on the road as well which is really nice, especially as there are so many of us – the area is swarming with professional teams on winter training camps. This is great but can be embarrassing at times. One Orica Greenedge rider passed me easily up a climb last week and waved hello, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been on a 1 minute max effort. There are some incredible climbs round where I’m staying though, in fact, it can be hard to find flat roads for a café spin or sprint session. I had never really ridden abroad before so the first proper mountain ascent I rode was incredible, snaking up the side of a valley for kilometre after kilometre round steep hairpins through orange tree orchards really is the stuff of dreams isn’t it?

I have mixed feelings about starting the race season (my first race back is at the Pimbo circuit at the start of March, followed by Holme Valley 2-day the weekend after) as I’m really looking forward to getting stuck back in, but am also nervous, as I feel I’m training ‘in the dark’ somewhat out here on my own with nobody else to compare my form to. Saying that, I’m sure I’m not alone with a bit of pre-season apprehension. I can also say I’m not overly enthused about coming back to the cold, rainy North of England, to work and to ‘normal life’! Pimbo will be a complete shock to the system for me if last year is anything to go by. I’m hoping what I gain in form will make up for what I lose in becoming soft!

I’m looking forward to taking my racing up a notch in 2016, racing bigger, national level races such as those in the Women’s Road Series. It’s great to be coming into cycling as the opportunities for women are expanding and the female peloton is growing in size and strength. 2016 is also my first season riding for a team so I’m really excited to be working with a fantastic group of genuinely lovely girls and seeing what we can get out of the season together.

Charli

Charli Alston

Charli Alston

Under 23's Rider

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