For those that aren't aware, 'club legend' & ride leader Wilker Soares has moved back to his native Angola to follow his pro cycling dream. He's hooked up with the Jair Transportes, and you can read his first training camp update below. If you're not following him yet then do so to see how he's getting on - @wilker_112.
Day 1 - Friday 20/04/18 - Cucula Day:
We left Benguela (Angola) on route to Lubango (Angola) with the intention of driving until Chongorói and riding the rest. The drive was all good, most of us didn’t know what was in front of us from Chongorói, where we change from normal clothes to Jair Carapinha Transport Cycling Kit. We mounted our bicycles and off we went.
I would say the road was 80% OK but we came across construction works where we had to be extra careful to avoid personal and equipment issues. Luckily we didn’t have any.
They group stayed together 90% of the 180km route, there was no time to stop for Lunch or a BBQ, we just carried on riding eating cupcakes on the bikes, and bread rolls with omelet and loads of Bananas. The rest of the team didn’t drink a lot of water, but I'm specifically trying to get used to the weather, so drunk almost 12 bottles!
The 180km route profile was hard; we were aiming for an average speed and we did almost hit it. 95% of us had never done the route. There was loads of 800 metre climbs on route and most of those were against the wind. We came across two hard parts - the first being a 3km climb in Cacula where the wind really picked up and the group was torn to pieces, with riders emptying their bottles to save weight. We had four support cars and no one was allowed to hold the car unless they need anything from the car but not on climb or when the wind was really strong. Second part where everything went awol was when there were road works. The road was closed and we had to go almost off road a bit like Strada Bianchi. Two km of pain with loads of dust from car in front and the other going against you.
At the front the first group went ahead, with the second group in pieces behind. It did take almost 10 to 15 minutes to get the second group together but at the same time the front group worked well as a team, pushing harder and harder, hoping to get to Lubango quick and looking for pain.
So we re-grouped 10km from the Hotel and we rolled in together to Hotel Serra Das Chelas (Cubango). We were welcomed in and they made us feel at home, beautiful hotel with everything we need to make the training camp comfortable.
Day 2 - Saturday 21/04/18 - Serra Da Humbia:
At this point we are already within really high altitude with most of the guys already struggling to breath, but they managed to get hang of it. As soon as we started the wind picked up immediately with no time to adjust. We then descended the Serra Da Humbia, an 8km descent where we averaged 65 to 70km/h. At the bottom we carried on but everyone was trying to save energy because they knew we were coming back to climb what we had just come down. we still smashed it though, with most of the team hitting 85km/h.
We did a U-Turn and starting increasing the pace, with a few of the guys starting to drop 2 km into climbing Serra De Humbia. At this point of the climb, for some odd reason, each rider had a guy to climb with or a target to get to. As soon we did hit Serra Da Humbia, all hell broke loose, as the wind picked up and the climb started to get steeper and steeper. We had a no control side wind, tail wind and head wind, and the average percent of the climb based on road sign was 10%. However based on Garmin and Strava, it was 12.5%. Two parts of this climb did hit 24%, which is where the legs started to talk. These 8km were full of pain for most of the team, with some guys being better than others, and there were guys showing how much they had improved since the start.
The whole team managed to get to the top without any physical or technical issues, other than heavy legs and lungs. As soon as everyone got to the top we re-grouped and carried on the rest of the training into a steady head wind toward the hotel, where everyone was in bits wanting food.
The end of the day 2 was painful, but really good physically and mentally.
Day 3 - Sunday 22/04/17 - Leba Day:
Until today I do think what hurt the most is when you go down a long climb by car and knowing that you have to climb all of it and more by bicycle. So we started on a car trip until the bottom of the SERRA DA LEBA, we warm up then we started to increase the pace, we nailed 6km until the beginning of the amazing 18km of the Leba. As soon as we got to the bottom everyone was everywhere, and like Humbia, everyone picked someone to climb with or keep them ahead as a target.
Serra Da Leba was little bit more friendly then Humbia as the gradient was more steady, with most of it below 15%. A grand total for the whole 18km was 7% average based on Garmin and Strava.
As soon as we got to the top there was no one waiting but a group ahead riding slow counting 15min from the time they got to the top to starting smashing to complete the whole 120km. We all regrouped and the wind picked up again this time if you had a 2 wheel gap, you could forget about getting back to that group. Plus there was rule number one of the training camp - no holding or drafting behind cars.
Once again the group split in 2. It was like watching the Tour De France in 2013 when Contador was at Saxo Bank and took Team Sky by surprise in a crosswind. Sky couldn’t do anything about it other than work as much as they could to limit the damage. That’s what it felt like for the second group. 7 riders were putting in big 45 seconds turns on really open and windy roads.
So when we hit 60km the DS President calculated we were way behind and if we carried on all the way to the end of 120km route we wouldn’t get back in time, so the second group got diverted home.
The first group carried on with almost everyone in pain, but they smashed the 120km, and made it to Chiba. It was hard as the inclines were short, steep and more frequent than before. At the end of the ride, when the group got back to the hotel, their faces were all covered in pain.
Check back later for more updates on WIlker's Angolan adventure - including his first race out there. Keep it up Wilker, and keep climbing!