Most roadies are a homogeneous crowd with clear (training) goals, performance categories, and preferences. But must it always be that way? We attempted our most diverse adventure yet, letting loose on Tenerife with German national coach André Greipel, sprint star Marcel Kittel, and a generous helping of self-doubt – with surprising results!
Fear. Worry. The pressure to perform. To be honest, my expectations of the ROSE Road Camp on the beautiful Canary Island of Tenerife weren’t very high. I was convinced it wouldn’t be a good idea. Due to injury, I had been turned into a road bike invalid for months: a black eye, shifted vertebrae, and limited lung capacity due to an infection made it impossible for me to get on the bike. The cause? A couple of fists and blows that, unfortunately, I was too slow to block during a week-long kung fu training camp in Tunisia. Since the recovery took much longer than expected, I couldn’t stop thinking about my comeback – which no one cared about – on Tenerife: a 60 km climb on my first day back on the bike? From sea level to an elevation of well over 2,000 metres with Kittel and Greipel? That’s kind of nuts. Was this another one of those dumb ideas like last year in L.A., when I decided to ride through the desert with Paul Ripke right at the peak of an extreme heat wave? Is this going to be another harakiri mission? I was about to find out…
The experiment – The alchemy of our rosy road team
Originally, ROSE wanted to organise a PLUS camp on Tenerife. In other words, introduce their latest eMTB, e-road and e-gravel bikes to the international press. Which would have been perfect considering my condition 😉 But then everything changed: the availability of the bikes couldn’t be guaranteed, and the logistics were too complex, even for a fraction of the original plan. As such, it quickly turned into the ROSE Road Camp, where they would launch the new XLITE UNLTD. Spontaneous invitations were sent out to ROSE ambassadors, their own product and brand management, as well as a few surprise guests to experience a little of ROSE’s road bikes and a lot of Tenerife together! We were told it’d be fun, but it remained a journey into the unknown with a colourful bunch of people. The good news: I wasn’t the only one who’s fitness level was down in the dumps. In addition to national coach André Greipel, his colleague and sprint star Marcel Kittel, and a few competitive road influencers, the other extreme came to my rescue: downhill rider Bella Chen, who’s known for being reluctant to pedal, and two drop bar novices, Fred and Leo, who have never ridden a road bike in their lives.
I only learned this on site, however. Exactly who was invited was just as much of a surprise for everyone else as we met at the airport of Tenerife South. The question marks kept getting bigger as we introduced ourselves, wondering how we were going to spend the next few days together on road bikes. No one knew what to expect. And maybe that was the secret of this very special trip. Marcel Kittel tried to put a positive spin on the situation: “You have to see this as an adventure.” With that in mind: let the experiment begin!
Before we get down to business, we’ll go through everyone on the team bus and introduce you to the riders. Cheers!
- Anatol (40): Our onboard Spotify DJ. Was the only one whose legs didn’t burn on the first ride, but his glans. His peppermint body wash had leaked in his luggage, and it got onto his bib shorts. Wearing it like that on the first ride wasn’t a good idea… but try it yourself 😉
- André (41): Gorilla doesn’t need an intro. Neither do his calves. Has 14 Tour de France stage wins to his name and dedicates himself to numerous other projects besides his current work for Uvex. One of them is helping Germany’s road racers to success as their national coach, as well as giving our absolute beginners Leo and Fred some valuable tips.
- Basti (38): They call him the bicycle-messiah, he only knows performance. Wanted to lose weight at 15 and that’s how he found road cycling – he’s never looked back! He has clocked at least 12,000 kilometres a year for the past 20 years and he’s got a need for speed.
- Bella (37): Downhill rider from Munich, Germany. Never ridden a road bike. She’s considered a somewhat lazy peddler amongst her downhill riding friends. But beware: in addition to running two start-ups, she also knows Kung-Fu!
- Duc (32): Smokes half a box a day – he would probably have left the ROSE peloton behind on the mountain if he didn’t. He’s an architect, loves design, and you can see that when looking at his Insta!
- Marcel (35): Doesn’t just ride a lot, he also eats a lot. Despite this (or is it because of this?), he has won 14 Tour de France stages and is just a great guy all around, now breaking new and innovative ground with his start-up li:on bikes.
- Franzi (25): Hails from Kiel, Germany, and doesn’t know mountains on her road bike. Was a little afraid of the elevation profile in Tenerife. Works for a German cycling publication and would like to ride more drop bar bikes and fewer ebikes.
- Fred (48): freelance journalist and virologist with disinfectant in his hip-bag. Doesn’t ride a bike and has never ridden a road bike. If necessary, he goes for a walk or a run.
- Helena (24): Originally a triathlete but didn’t do well at running, so she eventually focused on cycling: first competing in mass-start events, then the national league, and now part of ROSE’s Continental team. Very ambitious and loves to suffer. Loves that she can eat as much as she wants thanks to her intense training plan.
- Johanna: Couldn’t go to gym because of the pandemic, went cycling instead, and has been riding intensively for 3 years now. In short: Johanna is super fit. She also goes flat out on Instagram.
- Jana (29): Doesn’t give a damn about Strava and the like. She just wants to have a good time and enjoys riding with her family and friends. She sees the fact that cycling is a sporting activity as more of a positive side effect.
- Leo (38): Total road bike novice. However, he does ride a bit of ebike. When he heard who was riding and where we were going, his first reaction was: oh god, this is going to be gruesome.
- Lynn (31): Likes to philosophise about life while others torture themselves, grinding up the climbs. Nevertheless, she loves the feeling of being alive, when her heart rate rises, her breath intensifies, and she pushes her limits. Lynn enjoys blasting down the descents far more than the climbs, where she regularly claims the KOMs.
- Robin = Author of this article (32): unshaven legs, unshaven chest, but shaven … 😉 Has got some bike handling skills thanks to his downhill riding past, but no endurance.
“You’re kidding, right?”
The fact that we would have a clash of cultures on Tenerife at some point was inevitable, the only question was: when? Individual freedom, diversity, and equality are more en vogue than ever – as buzzwords at least. Because if we take a deep look at ourselves in the mirror, we’ll discover that we’re masters of conformity. That’s right, we often compete over who gets the current uniform just right: whoever comes closest to the road cyclist stereotype wins. Oakley eyewear, PNS kit (sorry Rapha), colourful, ankle-high socks, and Suplest shoes – those who pay attention to the etiquette will be accepted. Or, at the very least, you won’t stand out, as we had to admit in our self-critical article on lookism. But that’s not all: meticulous training plans, the same coffee preferences, and woe to you if you don’t shave your legs! Suffering and the burn of lactic acid as you push past your pain threshold? Of course, because that is the holy pilgrimage to roadie paradise.
Diversity is not a decision, it’s a process. And the amount of roadie diversity we had on Tenerife takes some time to process. I was just as ill-prepared for this as everyone else. My first thoughts when I saw the newbies Leo and Fred went something like this: “Fuck, I’m completely unfit and hope that I’ll even make it up the mountain, but do I really want to ride with these total beginners?”. Marcel Kittel was no different – but addressing me: “You’re kidding, right? We’re going to shave your legs in the children’s pool later!” And so, we all went through our own versions of this.
1 group ride – 14 different perspectives
Without challenges, human development would grind to a halt. Yes, we need problems and diversity in order to grow, learn, and find new ways. It happened surprisingly fast on Tenerife. And it’s not just Fred and Leo that learned things, but so did I and everyone else – including pros Marcel and André. And we learned a lot!
First, the group had to orientate and find itself. Sure – the performance and skill differences were undeniable, even with the best of intentions. But instead of stress and pressure to perform, everyone was allowed to do as they pleased. The professionals and competitive riders rode extra miles while the mere mortals stuck to the planned route, the more laid-back folks took the team bus for a large portion of the climb, and some of our colleagues even skipped the first ride altogether to enjoy the hotel pool or get some work done instead. After all, we’re not pros and we weren’t on holiday, each of us with regular day jobs that pay the bills.
Socks up, helmets on, and the glasses over the straps: before heading out, Kittel and Greipel made sure that everyone was properly dressed. We wouldn’t want the beginners to look like it, after all. Well, almost – it’s not every day you see flat pedals and sneakers on the road. They were also given a crash course on braking and shifting – the shifting logic on drop bar shifters just isn’t the same as downhill bikes with flat bars! I got scolded by Marcel for having unshaven legs and then we headed out.
I’d love to report about the great ride and the group dynamics. But it never came to that. The first few metres felt excellent, but it was impossible for me to keep up with the breakaway group led by Marcel, André, Basti, and Johanna. Due to my still lingering lung infection, I had promised myself to bury my ego as deeply as I could, and so I was swiftly dropped after the third turn. You need to know your limits. Just being back on the bike was good enough. So, I trundled along at my own pace, feeling a bit like a failure at first, but increasingly started appreciating the view and the fact that I listened to my body instead of the group dynamics. But I wasn’t alone for long. Lynn, Marketing Manager for the drop bar department at ROSE, kindly waited for me – and took the opportunity to let the cramps in her legs subside. What ensued was a short stroll in clipless shoes and an exchange of truisms while waiting for the broom wagon. Since it had already passed us, we had ample time to philosophise…
We all had the same goal of climbing Spain’s highest peak, but contrary to a professional team or a homogeneous roadie group, there were 14 different perspectives on this trip. Everyone experienced the ride in their own way. And that’s a good thing. Although I didn’t lay down a particularly stellar performance, didn’t win any Strava cups or show the others how it’s done, I still had lots of fun. And that’s the beauty of it: we can all do the same thing, but all do it in our own way. We all have our own reasons, pursue our own goals, have our own limits, and have our own understanding of success and happiness.
Is it the Spanish tarmac or do bikes just roll this slowly here?
Next stage, next attempt. After an extended lunch break, the climb continued. And after getting more closely acquainted and settled in as a group, the initial nervousness died down. Marcel and André literally forced themselves to slow down. They accompanied Fred and Leo, giving them a few helpful pointers, and let us in on some of their secrets: “If I look at the speedometer and only have an average speed of 29 km/h, I automatically berate myself. All my years training as a professional are still deeply ingrained, and that kind of average just gets to you out of habit. Even André enjoys riding a slower pace for a change. It allows you to take in your surroundings in a completely different way. Besides, it’s nice when those who typically set the pace take a turn at slowing down to match the pace of slower riders, letting them get out of their rut. I’ve had enough of chasing performance goals in my life.” As I huffed and puffed along, I realised: slow riders suffer just as much as fast riders, just longer! And I am one of them! Newbie Fred sees it differently and asks Marcel bluntly: “Is it the asphalt or do bikes just roll this slowly here?” Well, it’s more likely to be the legs!
With each rotation of the cranks, the group vibe improves. And with each metre of elevation, the fun-o-metre rises too. André steals Bella’s bike. She runs after him. It’s a good thing she’s wearing sneakers 😉 The squad enters cruise mode and realises: we’re a group, even if we’re all completely different. We’re here to have fun, not to polish our ego. Characters and interesting conversations keep us going, not the pressure to perform.
Up, up, and up. Corner after corner. And another corner. Even with the peak of Mount Teide in sight, there’s quite a bit of climbing left to do on the plateau. The sun is blazing. It’s hot. Several of us begin to fight with our inner slouch. Time for a short break. The sun’s still blazing. Leo treats himself to a bidon shower. And hands out a few HARIBO gummies so that we can replenish our glucose levels and keep going. Another layer of sunscreen and off we go.
While both the incline and the intensity of the sun recede and the finish line comes into sight, everyone agrees: what a brilliant ride! No matter how big or small the hurdle was that each of us had to overcome to make it this far – it was worth it. Even if there were some very unpleasant moments in between.
Stars, dolphins, and super(wo)men – On Tenerife, we were more than roadies
Many road rides are about the course: the challenge of proving yourself and ultimately passing the test. It’s all about performance, and there’s never a shortage of the latest tech and training plans. Not so on Tenerife. The riders were too different to have had a common roadie denominator. And maybe that’s why this ROSE event was so special: it brought people together who wouldn’t ride together under normal circumstances. All it promised was a bit of fun, but without concrete expectations. And it’s precisely this lack of expectations and openness that lets us have the most beautiful experiences! Those few days on Tenerife got us out of our ruts or comfort zones – whether we’re fast or slow – opening our eyes to new perspectives. And it made us hungry for more!
In retrospect, the recipe for success of this colourful riding camp sounds simple: prioritise fun over of the pressure to perform, make everything voluntary. Respect others and their skills, stamina, and gusto. Other tools included:
- Open-minded people
- Activities that had nothing to do with the actual reason for the get-together
- Good food and long dinner-table conversations that revolve around more than just watts, new components, and diets – but about people and stories!
Just like the rides, the extracurricular program delivered: star gazing ‘till late into the night, watching dolphins and whales from a boat, and a spontaneous pool party on the last evening until someone called the cops… But that’s a story for another day 😉
There are 1 million reasons to ride a road bike. A professional usually has just one. And since we’re not professionals, we can do what we want – tee-hee! And that’s when the best things happen! What happened on Tenerife is what most people dream of: we rode the most stunning routes on the island, suffered, and celebrated, all in just three days. We didn’t just get to know other roadies, but people from all walks of life. Thank you, ROSE. Thank you Team Awesome.
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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Paul Masukowitz