Cycling camps offer intensive training for riders of all levels

Bruce Hendler of Rocklin, Calif., had built nearly a 20-year career at Hewlett-Packard when the information technology monolith first wavered in the summer of 2001.

Rather than seek another IT project manager position following his layoff, the longtime athlete decided to transform his favorite recreation into an occupation.

Although AthletiCamps is a new concept for the Sacramento, Calif., area, cycling training camps have long been popular businesses for former and current pro riders.

Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, Tour of Italy winner Andy Hampsten, Tour de France rider Steve Bauer, former national champion Marty Jemison and mountain biker Allison Dunlap each offer camps in unique domestic and international locations.

Some former riders even incorporate prestigious stage-race venues, such as this month's Tour de France or the Tour of Italy, into their "destination" camps.

Hendler offered his first training camp in January 2002, five months after leaving HP. Promoting his offerings with the motto "Aspire Higher," Hendler mixes athletic skills training with physiological and biomechanical testing and personalized coaching.

"I like to think my camps offer a unique experience," Hendler said. "I want to expose athletes to as many areas of the sport as possible, and camps are a great way to do that."

Hendler uses the central location of the Rocklin Park Hotel for AthletiCamps (www.athleticamps.com). Training rides encompass the Sierra Nevada foothill terrain that has helped launch several cyclists' and triathletes' pro careers.

AthletiCamps attendees are first tested to determine their cardiovascular and biomechanical strengths and weaknesses. With an established benchmark, the cyclists are then provided with customized training programs.

"I urge athletes who come to camps that this is their time to learn as much about the sport as they can," said Hendler, who started cycling in 1982 while recovering from back injuries he incurred as a runner.

AthletiCamps' training weeks are full-package offerings. For out-of-area athletes, the $1,950 price includes lodging, meals, testing and coaching. But locals who wish to stay in their own residences can arrange special pricing. Hendler also offers custom camps for individuals, smaller groups and cyclists with special considerations.

The husband-wife team of Rene and Kendra Wenzel, former international racers who operate Wenzel Coaching (www.wenzelcoaching.com) in McKenzie Bridge, Ore., offer camps in Girona, Spain, and on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

"A training camp for the weekend warrior can be an opportunity to spend anywhere from a weekend to a couple of weeks to focus on cycling alone, the ways pros get to do everyday," said Rene Wenzel, a former U.S. national coach.

"A cycling camp can also give a rider more hands-on work on form, positioning, cadence, basic tactics and nutrition. Most good training camps will give the athlete a launching point with some coaching and planning advice along with follow-up information once they leave camp."

Kendra Wenzel, who attended UC Davis, rode professionally for 11 years and won dozens of pro road and track races.

"Our spring camp is conducive to any athlete capable of riding three-plus hours several days in a row at a consistent pace," said Wenzel, who authored a new book, Bike Racing 101, with her husband.

"We divide up the abilities so that no one is riding either below or above their level of fitness. Our youngest rider this year, for instance, was 16, and our oldest was over 60. In addition, one-third of the guests were women of varying levels."

Hendler views the cycling-camp influx in a tight economy as a sign of the sport's increasing popularity.

"It shows that cycling, which wasn't doing that well in the mid-1990s, is making a comeback," he said.


James Raia is publisher of the Tour de France Times and Endurance Sports News, two free electronics newsletters, and the e-books, "The Tour Within The Tour de France and "How To Run and Enjoy The Marathon." He is in France reporting on the Tour for Active.com.


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