CTS Tucson Cycling Spring Training Camp 2017

I recently attended a Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) cycling spring training camp in Tucson, Arizona during the week of February 14th, 2017.  This blog post will give readers a short summary of the CTS Tucson camp to help other cyclists determine if this camp is right for them.

CTS Tucson Athlete Profile

The first day of spring training camp is always nerve wracking.  Each athlete comes prepared in different ways, and understanding what types of riders you will ride with ahead of time is critical in choosing a cycling camp.  Below are some paraphrased comments from the riders at the introductory meeting:

  • I’m training for Dirty Kanza and want to get in some long, hard miles (me).
  • I recently got a power meter and am looking forward to learn more about training with power.
  • Over the last few months I’ve been staying fit by skiing and doing some indoor training.
  • Last year I did 10,000 miles, but mostly ride socially nowadays.  But I’ve raced for years.
  • I’ve been riding for about a year and am looking to take my training to the next level.
  • The longest I’ve ridden is less than 2 hours, but my cardio is strong.  I run, ride, and workout 10 times a week, 7 days a week.
  • I’m going through cancer treatment and have put on weight from the medication.  It took a lot of courage to sign up for this camp.  And, I’m pretty new to endurance biking.

As you can see, there is a broad range of athletes: from someone like me, doing over 15,000 miles a year, to someone very new to endurance cycling.

CTS Tucson Roads & Drivers

Overall the roads were OK. Of the five days of riding, 2 days had bad roads, 2 days had good roads, and 1 day was mixed.  The bike lanes were well defined, and the drivers in Tucson generally stayed away from the cyclists.  Most of the bike lanes had gravel, sand and road debris.  The bad roads were punctuated with chip seal, pot holes, and crack everywhere (in both directions).  The good roads had wide bike lanes with new(er) roads.  The better roads had less debris in the bike lanes.  Most of the debris was avoidable.    

Day 2 roads were absolutely terrible.  I do not recommend this route to anyone.  Not to mention, we had 30 MPH head and crosswinds for the first 40 miles.  

CTS Tucson Hotel – Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon

I stayed at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon literally across the street from CTS.  Most riders stayed here and simply walked across the street to CTS every morning.  The hotel is situated in a strip center (hard to tell from the photos on google) so you can walk to the supermarket, Walgreens, bank, Starbucks, and fast casual dining.  I liked the hotel because it was cheap ($99 per night with the CTS discount) and convenient.  Make sure to call the hotel to make your reservation.  You cannot get the CTS discount by making the reservation over the internet.  I disliked the hotel because the internet was absolutely terrible.  I ended up driving to Starbucks every day to get reliable internet.  In my room I used the hot spot on my phone, but AT&T did not have great service in my location.  In hindsight I would have chosen an Airbnb and stayed within 10 miles of CTS to the north.

Here is a link to the Google Map of the Comfort Suites hotel: https://goo.gl/maps/WA1ASufU4yJ2

CTS Tucson Routes

Day1

Riders had the choice of field test (FTP test) or endurance ride.  I knew my training zones already, so I opted for the short endurance ride.  This ride had a mix of rider abilities.  In the first half I got frustrated with the pace and rode off the front.  I was joined by a coach and we rode at a good pace for the second half of the ride.

Day 1 Training Peaks Power File

Day 2

The roads were absolutely terrible on this route.  We started in the rain and rode for 40 miles into a 30 mph head wind on chip seal with potholes and cracks.  While I liked the power of this ride, it was not enjoyable because of the poor road conditions.  The group was strong and the coaches did a good job of keeping everyone together.  We had a six person group including two strong and experienced coaches.    

Day 2 Training Peaks Power File

Day 3

Today we rode about 80 miles on great roads.  The route was fantastic, with amazing weather, and little to no wind.  The pace was less than what I hoped for, but fast enough to consider it endurance pace.  We had one very experienced coach with our five man group.  

Day 3 Training Peaks Power File

Day 4

Because of upcoming weather, we rode Mt. Lemon on day 4 which was a trip highlight.  The roads were great with a nice bike lane. The winds picked up towards the middle of the ride, but conditions overall were excellent.  CTS did a great job supporting riders of all abilities up and down the mountain.  The rider fighting cancer made it to Windy Point – 14 miles up the hill.  That was really inspiring.  I suspect this rider’s FTP was less than 150 watts at 1.5w/kg (guessing).  

I pushed past Windy Point and rode to the top, 20.5 miles from the bottom.  It gets really cold at the top.  Past Windy Point make sure to wear long finger gloves, outer coat, and knee warmers.  I was sweating a lot, and even with an outer coat got very cold from the blowing wind on a wet jersey.  I was able to sustain 250w up the entire climb easily and didn’t see any effects from the altitude until after Windy Point (6,500 feet).  My heart rate was at an endurance pace until Windy Point when it jumped about 10 bmp while holding the same power.

Day 4 Training Peaks Power File

Day 5

The forecast for day 5 was wind and rain, which turned out to be right. CTS started the ride earlier and cut it short to avoid a miserable last day.  I wanted more volume, and would have done it in the rain, but you guessed it, no one else wanted to ride in the rain.  We ended up with 45 miles or so on nice roads.  We got rained on during the last 15 minutes of the ride.  So we timed it correctly, but missed out on some volume.  The roads were good and we rode the good sections of days 3 and 1.

Day 5 Training Peaks Power File

Post Ride Data Recall

I really enjoyed speaking with the coaches about my data after each ride.  For a rider like me who trains seriously, talking to a coach a lot more knowledgable than me is very important.  The coach I worked with was much stronger and experienced than me.  I did not learn any new cycling concepts, but I did learn a lot about my current and historic training plan.  CTS also uses WKO4 extensively.  It’s clear the CTS coaches are data driven and even their younger coaches understand the software and how to use it to develop targeted training based on an athlete’s goals.  That was nice to see.  

CTS Tucson Ride Experience

CTS did a good job hosting a cycle camp that caters to athletes with different abilities and experiences.  It’s hard to manage riders with FTPs from 350 to 150 watts, but they pulled it off well.  The Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon is convenient, but does not have any “amenities” you might expect on a vacation with the family, so plan accordingly.  One group rented an Airbnd and recommended it to other cyclists.  Many of the cyclists did not have a car and were able to manage the trip fine.  The camp included various lunches and dinners, which were all great.           

Pros, Cons and Recommendations:

Pros:

  • Great ratio of coaches to athlete: 5 to 17.
  • Data recall after each ride was informative and the coaches were very knowledgable.
  • Three of the routes were great and riding Mt. Lemon was really fun.
  • CTS coaches were strong and knowledgeable.

Cons:

  • If you are a strong rider, you might be too strong for the group and will need to dial back your power expectations or increase resistance.
  • The CTS coaches pulled a lot at times to set the pace or keep the riders comfortable.  This caused me to go too hard on the front in order to get in work.
  • Many of the riders needed a lot of on bike instructions but the coaches did not provide much on bike skills training during the rides.  CTS did have a skills class the first day, which helped.
  • The roads on day two were absolutely terrible.  They might have been more enjoyable on my cross bike.

Recommendations:

  • If your FTP is over 300 or 4w/kg, bring your cross bike with 28s or 32s in order to get additional resistance.  That will help with some of the bad roads and debris.  
  • Make sure to bring gear for all weather, including long finger gloves and foul weather gear.
  • If you want a “vacation” experience, don’t stay at the Comfort Inn Suites.  Rent an Airbnb or pick one of the resorts to the north.  Staying 10 minutes away is not a real problem so long as you have a car.

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