Not all Mountain Bike Stage Races involve a ‘camp’ mass accommodation option – but there are plenty that do. For point to point races, it can offer a logistically easy option on a good budget. Needing to book different hotels for each night can be troublesome in some areas in the tourist high season – especially if you’re not comfortable with the language.
The ‘Bike Camp’ at the Craft Bike Transalp is notorious. The organisers themselves almost recommend against using it, especially if you have a problem with noises, smells, or the proximity of other people. But the Bike Camp has advantages too. It is usually pretty close (closer than some hotels prove to be) you meet interesting people, and it won’t be double booked.
With experience, comes guidance. Here are some tips gleaned from sleeping in Sports Halls and on Tennis courts.
1. Be Competitive
The race is never truly over when you are at a Stage Race and staying in the camp. Arriving to the camp early has numerous benefits. Don’t get stuck in the ‘transition’ of the race finish. Grab some food, hit the bike wash then aim straight for camp. You can switch that order around, but you risk hitting a big queue at the bike wash.
Arriving to the camp early is rife with benefits. If there happen to be some crash mats or other gym mats around, they make great additional bedding. Wall sockets are always few and far between. Getting in early to charge your phone or GPS is a big bonus. There is typically only so much toilet paper and hot water available. Both are comforting at the end of a long stage.
2. Get Organised.
If you are bad at organisation, you may well struggle at a Mountain Bike Stage Race. When you need to work within set timeframes of a Camp pack up, you have to be organised. It takes some skill to fit all your requirements for a race into one bag. It helps to know where things are. The common theme here is routine.
When you come in from the stage, you should have your wash bag and clothes at the top of your bag. A recovery drink mix at hand also makes sense. Claim your floor space too – otherwise someone else will! If you’re hand washing your clothing, get it done now. There’s no point in packing dirty kit away, clean it up now and hang it out. This goes for your bottles and gel flasks too. The products you have had in them can grow more life if they’re left dirty.
Before going to bed, lay out your things for the next day. No one wants to be rushed in the morning. Look over the route, and calculate your nutrition requirements. more time in the morning will always be appreciated.
You would think this was obvious, but with the practices you see you do start to wonder. Make sure you wear clean kit – it is a basic move if you want to be able to ride in comfort each day. As mentioned above, don’t overlook your bottles and gel flasks. You should clean your helmet after muddy days especially. There are a lot of cows in the Alps.
With so many people in potentially cramped quarters, using shared facilities and getting progressively worn down, the chance to pick up a stomach bug or worse is pretty high. Many racers use a hand sanitiser, and it is a very good idea. While you don’t need to be fanatical, you do need to be consistent with your hygiene. Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking after yourself.
4. Sleeping Comfort
Sports Halls, Tennis courts, school classrooms, multi level car parks… you could be sleeping in any of them. They all offer flat surfaces, but it comes down to what you will put on them. With the premise that you are probably in the camp because you have travelled from afar, or are on a budget, there are a few recommendations. Use two bed matts. A foam one, that may be part of your bike box padding, and a self inflating matt. A travel pillow is good, but make sure it mates well with the matts you’re using. If it’s too thick, you won’t sleep comfortably. A big pillow doesn’t work well with a thin mattress for most people.
There will be noise, and light, and smells. Two of these are easily catered for. Get some quality ear plugs and a good face mask. For the smell? If you can move to somewhere near a breeze, you will appreciate it.
People will always snore. Sometimes it seems like the camp is like a convention for those with sleep apnea – some ask why it isn’t a check box on the race entry, and that those who tick it can’t stay in the camp. But people will snore, and you will need to deal with it. Keep a stash of empty water bottles…
Hopefully you can use these basic tips to make your stay in a stage race camp more comfortable. It goes without saying that it won’t suit everyone. But if staying in the camp allows you to afford another race, isn’t it worth putting up with?