Cycling coaching is expensive but potentially transformative for your cycling. Cycling coaching and cycling camps are something we cyclists consider investing in when we want to perform better at our cycling events or complete an iconic route in the best conditions.

In this article we pick the brains of Marvin Faure, head coach at Alpine Cols, on the different kinds of cycle coaching and how to pick the best cycling coach.

We first heard about Alpine Cols when they were Haute Route’s official cycle coaching and training partner, but we didn’t get in touch with Marvin until one of our readers introduced us, telling us we really ought to speak to Marvin because she’d learnt so much from their Sportive & Gran Fondo coaching camps and it could be useful for others (thank you Eimear D’Arcy).

So in this article you’ll find a detailed look at the world of personal cycling coaching from Marvin, someone who knows it inside out. We start with some of the basic questions to set the scene for cycling newbies, but swiftly move onto the more in-depth information you should be thinking about if you’re in any way serious about getting a cycling coach or going on a cycling camp.

Why would I need cycling coaching?!

The reasons you might want to invest in cycling coaching services are similar to the reasons you needed someone to help you when you first learned to ride a bike as a child! Coaching is invaluable in speeding up the learning process and providing access to resources and opportunities.

But what if you are an adult, confident in your ability to ride your bike?

It depends on your goals. If you want to compete, whether in local criteriums or international Gran Fondos, you will soon discover that cycling is a highly skilled and technical sport. It is of course possible to learn from self-study, observation and experience, but the process can be significantly accelerated by engaging a coach.

And if you have been competing for years? The question becomes: are you satisfied with your performance, or do you want more?

Engaging a coach or going on a cycling camp could be the key to unlocking your potential and breaking through to a new level.

A professional trainer train a student on cycle coaching

Coach Silas demonstrates correct pedalling technique during an evening technical session

A trainer training a student of cycling online training and cycle camps centers

And again!

Cycle coaching v cycling camps

In this section I share an overview of cycling coaching and camps and what they each involve. If you know the basics, feel free to skip down to the more detailed sections on whether you’re ready for coaching, things to consider before picking a coach and things to consider before picking a coaching camp. Otherwise, read on!

What is cycling coaching?

Most people reading this will have an idea of what a cycling coach is. But in case you don’t, typically personal cycling coaching is where you work with a knowledgeable individual to get professional guidance to help you improve your cycling.

Finding the best cycle coach for you means finding  someone who can help you as an individual. That could be anything from giving you the confidence to enter an event for the first time to helping you acquire specific skills or achieve your goals in competition.

The right coach for you will be genuinely interested in your progression and committed to investing time and energy on your behalf over the medium to long term. They should be highly knowledgeable and experienced in the field and hold a formal cycling coaching certification.

The full value in coaching comes from a holistic approach including such diverse elements as bike-handling skills, nutrition, event preparation, strength development, and mental resilience as well as the time-honoured weekly or monthly training plan.

There’s lots more information on the questions to ask before taking on a coach below.

Pros and Cons of getting a coach

Advantages

Assuming you choose the right person, the advantages of getting a coach are clear: you will progress much faster and in a more sustainable fashion than if you try to go it alone.

Cycling is a highly technical sport with many opposing views on, for example, the “best way to train” or “the best nutrition strategy”. It is easy to find articles on every aspect of performance online or in the press, and many reputable books now exist to help those who prefer to self-coach. In spite of all this (or perhaps because of it), effective self-coaching is extremely challenging.

In reality, if you want to perform to your potential, all aspects of your preparation for an event, as well as your approach to the event itself and race tactics, need to be individualised to your own level, experience, physiology, preferences and constraints. An expert coach has seen many different situations before and can thus help you avoid the multiple traps and mistakes in the process.

Two good examples of this are the excessive use of high-intensity training (HIT) and the search for marginal gains. Many self-coached amateurs train too hard most of the time, seeing every hill as an opportunity for a threshold climb. The result is that the majority of their training is in the no-man’s land between the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems (misleadingly called “sweet-spot”), leading to mediocre performance. Frustrated by this, they then turn to “marginal gains” as the solution.

Our role as a coach is to establish the target objective and then guide the person to train effectively, often meaning using different types of training to what they’ve been doing, for example increasing the amount of time spent at low intensity and providing greater purpose and precision to the HIT. There is no point wasting time and money on marginal gains when the foundation hasn’t been built correctly!

Disadvantages

What are the possible disadvantages of engaging a coach? If (and this may be a big “if”) you choose the right person (more on that below) and are willing to invest time and money in the process, we don’t see any.

Obviously, if you feel you may have made a mistake, the first step is to talk about it openly and transparently with your coach. A coaching relationship is above all a human relationship and if the personal chemistry is not right it will not work, no matter how competent the person is.

Cyclists are cycling coaching practicing on the road

Nearing the top of the Col de la Colombière during an Alpine Cols coaching camp

Two cyclists are receiving training from cycling coaches online

Coach Stéphane gives video feedback during a café stop

What are cycling camps?

A cycling camp is time spent away from home with other cyclists where the focus during the camp is either exclusively or mostly on cycling. Cycling camps generally have a training purpose and may often be based in a single location for the entire period.

Many clubs organise cycling camps for their members, and there are several well-established companies that offer camps in different locations to suit different budgets and types of rider. Accommodation can range from very basic through “cheap and cheerful” guest houses all the way up to luxury hotels. Meals are usually provided, although at the low-cost end you may be expected to participate in either buying or cooking the food.

What are coaching camps?

Coaching camps are training camps designed and managed by coaches to meet specific performance objectives. They tend to be held over a week, in a place that’s beautiful for riding and focus on specific cycling skills. Alpine Cols coaching camps, for example, are designed to help cyclists improve their mountain cycling skills and their ability to compete in the most challenging Gran Fondos.

There’s lots more information on the questions to ask before booking a coaching camp below.

Pros and Cons of going on a camp

Advantages

The obvious benefit of going on a cycling camp is the opportunity to ride several hours a day in the company of like-minded people. The rides will usually be organised and may be guided and supported with a following car carrying food and water and able to provide mechanical and other assistance.

So long as you choose a camp at the right level for you it should be a very positive experience, allowing you to discover a new area, make new friends and make a substantial boost to your fitness, all without having to worry about logistics, getting lost or choosing the best routes.

Disadvantages

It’s hard to see any disadvantages. The main risks to your enjoyment of the week are misunderstandings over the difficulty of the rides, the speed of the group and perhaps over the quality of the accommodation, food and services expected from the organiser.

Cyclists stand outside of cycling online training and cycling camp centers

Ready for the day’s ride (Hotel Beauregard, La Clusaz)

Cyclists are cycling coaching practicing on a hilly road

Climbing to the Col des Saisies

The differences

Coaching camps v coaching

Whereas ongoing coaching usually has an objective for the season, a coaching camp has an objective for the length of the camp. A coach provides ongoing structure for your training and support in achieving your season’s objectives; a camp is focused on acquiring specific skills in a short space of time.

Coaching camps v cycling training camps

A coaching camp is different to a typical cycle training camp and has several advantages.

While the goal at a typical training camp is often simply to ride hard for a week, a coaching camp will be carefully designed by the coaching team to meet the participants’ objectives, which typically include improving skills in such areas as climbing, descending, pacing and group riding. The coaches ride their own bikes with the camp participants, so in addition to demonstrating good bike-handling skills they will provide immediate feedback and may use video for later analysis.

In addition to the daily rides, evening sessions may be held to improve knowledge in areas such as nutrition, training, recovery, mental preparation and tips for competing in major events. People who attend such camps routinely report significant improvements in their skills.

Coaching camps v cycling tours/holidays

Coaching camps are different to cycling tours, where the focus is on exploring a particular area or completing a ride between two places, such as LEJOG or the Route des Grandes Alpes from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. On a cycling tour the emphasis is the journey or holiday rather than the coaching.

Combining coaching and a coaching camp

Combining coaching camps with on-going personal coaching will lead to the fastest progression. The relationship you develop with your coach during a week of riding together enables a much richer and more beneficial partnership. The coach has the time to develop a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses and can thus create a training plan that is perfectly calibrated to your needs.

During our most recent Gran Fondo training camp, we noticed that when one of the participants was climbing, his knees tended inwards instead of tracking straight above the pedal. Over time this is likely to lead to injury, so we felt it needed to be addressed. He was initially reluctant to acknowledge the problem, so we showed him a few seconds of video. This was enough to convince him, and he experimented with different modifications to his pedal stroke before settling on one that worked for him, with the help of visualisation. He continues to work on this post-camp with regular reminders in his training plan in order to rid himself finally of what had become an ingrained habit.

Four cyclists of cycle coaching cycling on the road

On the climb to Semnoz, above Lake Annecy

cycling online training and cycle camps center members eating their lunch

Feed station on the Col de la Ligne, near Mt Ventoux

Are you ready for a coach or camp?

Before you get into the nitty gritty of starting to find a coach or camp (let alone investing in one), you should take an honest look at whether you’re in the right place to best benefit from coaching or a coaching camp.

Here are some of the things I’d suggest you consider.

Do you have the skills?

If your target event is something new to you, such as a Gran Fondo in the Alps, do you have the skills to ride it safely and effectively?

Are you (currently) making progress?

If you are satisfied with the progress you are making you may feel little need to engage a coach. Most people coming into cycling mid-life improve by leaps and bounds in the first two to three years. During this time Eddy Merckx’s advice is totally pertinent: “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride”. Hours in the saddle make more difference than anything else. Your skills and reflexes improve, your body shape changes, you do your first 100km ride, then your first 100 miler, and you start to feel more and more like a competent cyclist.

After a while, however, you may find that you reach a plateau and further progression becomes more and more difficult. The usual reaction to this is to do more of the same and train harder. After all, it worked before! Most cycling clubs are full of people like this. They reached a decent level several years previously and every year is now a repetition of previous years, with the same old rivalries and the same old results, perhaps occasionally punctuated by an injury or a superhuman effort to get a new PR on a local segment.

This is the time to consider engaging a coach.

Are you committed?

Coaching is expensive, since you are paying for the exclusive time of an expert for a certain number of hours per month.

There’s little point in paying out if you are not committed to the process.

Do you have time?

Many would-be competitors lead very busy professional and family lives, and their training must be shoe-horned in between multiple constraints and time pressures.

Paradoxically, this can be a situation in which a coach may be able to help you the most, by ensuring that your training is as productive as possible while still fitting around your constraints.

Are you willing to listen?

There’s no point in engaging a coach and then not listening to their advice. This is not to say that the coach is always right: open communication and dialogue is vital to avoid any misunderstandings. It is also important to ask questions so you understand the science and logic behind training prescription in order to execute it well and get the most benefit from it. It makes sense nevertheless, at least early on, to defer to the coach’s professional judgement more often than you might reject it.

We had the recent experience of coaching a person in their mid-30’s who was extremely ambitious and wanted to progress as fast as possible. Already a very strong cyclist, he was convinced that he needed to train harder to improve more. In spite of our repeated warnings about the dangers of over-training, he always did at least 20% more than what we prescribed.

Sadly, we were unable to convince him to stick to the plan and take adequate rest and recovery. Before long, his (initially) functional over-reaching became dysfunctional. Instead of interpreting his feelings of perpetual tiredness and reduced motivation as a sign to take heed of our warnings, he saw this as a reason to double down and train even harder. The inevitable happened soon after as he entered full-blown over-training and his health began to suffer. He was forced to bring his training to a complete stop for several months. Although he is now training again, he effectively lost the benefits of a year’s work.

What’s your objective?

This will always be one of the very first questions your coach will ask you. A clear objective will help clarify the gaps between your current level and where you want to be, and thus inform the training you need to do.

Your objective might be event-based, such as to finish an iconic Gran Fondo such as the Marmotte, or to qualify for the Gran Fondo World Championships, or to progress in the domestic racing scene from Cat 4 to Cat 2. Or, it might be based on a non-competitive challenge such as completing the Cinglés du Mont Ventoux, the Route des Grandes Alpes or Everesting.

Whatever it is, it must be YOUR objective and it must be meaningful to you.

Cyclists are practicing ride on cycle coaching

Arriving on the Col des Aravis, during an Alpine Cols coaching camp

cycling online training and cycle camps center's students enjoying the fun moments

Third ascent on the same day: we become “Cinglés du Mont Ventoux”

Coaching

So you’ve decided that a personal cycling coach is for you. You’re in the right space to invest and now you need to find the right kind of coaching for you. Here are the things you should think about to help you find the best cycling coach.

Online cycling coach v “normal” coaching

Online coaching is also called distance coaching. It refers to a coaching relationship in which you rarely (if ever) meet your coach face-to-face. Such a relationship would be unthinkable in many sports, such as racquet sports, golf, team sports such as football, rugby, basketball etc., but is pretty common in endurance sports, where training alone is much more feasible.

Advantages of online cycle coaching

The major advantage of online coaching is that it is efficient and it minimises costs.

The best online cycling coaches will ask for daily communication through the online platform, thus allowing them to make day-by-day adjustments to your plan, depending on how you are responding to the training as well as to any new constraints or stress in your life.

The data itself, such as workout recordings, is uploaded automatically. All you are asked to do is to answer a short survey on how you are feeling and add a comment if needed.

The time spent by each side on communication can this be reduced to the minimum, which is obviously very attractive to people leading busy lives.

Disadvantages of online cycling coaching

This efficiency, however, comes with a significant cost. Since your coach never has the opportunity to observe you, they cannot easily correct any errors in technique.

Equally, if the communication is mostly in writing, they may not pick up nuances in how you are feeling, leading to errors in training prescription.

Perhaps even more importantly, it is hard to develop the levels of trust required for a successful coaching relationship purely online. It may feel more purposeful to follow a training plan – any training plan – but without adequate communication and mutual understanding, it’s likely the plan will be sub-optimum, or worse, may even harm your performance.

How to make online coaching work

This is certainly not to say that solely relying on cycling online training with no face-to-face contact CANNOT work, but that it requires significant efforts in communication on both sides and an experienced coach who can identify the warning signals from afar before things start to go badly wrong.

How to find a cycling coach

First step: what do you want?

If you are looking for a coach the first step is to clarify in your own mind exactly what you want. This should cover aspects such as:

  • relevant experience (what type of cyclist do they coach, to what level, for which events, since when, with what results)
  • coaching process (online platform, approach to training, communication, contact time)
  • qualifications (formal certification by a cycling body such as British Cycling or the UCI after a cycling coaching course)
  • personal chemistry (is the coach genuinely interested in me and my objectives; can we work well together)
  • how much are you willing to pay.

Second step: make a list

The second step is to create a list of coaches to contact. The sources for this might include asking friends and club members; doing an online search; contacting your national cycling association or flipping through past copies of magazines in which coaches write articles and promote their businesses.

Only then are you ready to contact each individual coach.

We recommend structuring the interview process using your criteria (step 1 above) as the framework. This will help ensure a consistent process that will give better results than a no-holds-barred chat, which may lead you to give undue weight to someone who is more charismatic and better able to manage the conversation to their advantage. Ensure you get clear answers to all your important questions (and if not, move on to the next person).

A final word of advice: don’t fall into the “star-struck” trap of picking someone just because they are a pro cycling coach. It’s not because someone has coached a famous pro-cyclist that they are necessarily the right coach for you. You may be much better off with someone who works consistently, year-in, year-out with people who have a comparable level and comparable objectives to you.

The problems and solutions are very different between professional athletes and time-limited amateurs!

Two cyclists of cycle coaching cycling on the road

Silas and Ken on Mount Teide, Tenerife, during an Alpine Cols coaching camp

cycling online training and cycle camps center's cyclists are standing in a circle

Feed station on the Col des Fleuries, during the Tour des Glières

Location and amount of contact

Even if the coaching relationship will be largely online, we strongly recommend an initial face-to-face meeting, including riding together. Almost all the people we coach at Alpine Cols started at one of our coaching camps, where we ride with and actively coach people for an entire week. This provides an excellent foundation for a fruitful relationship.

The amount of contact is an essential part of the contract and should be clear upfront, together with the responsibility to initiate it. As a minimum, there should be a brief written exchange before and after each workout. This normally takes place through the online platform.

In addition to this we recommend regular video calls, which are invaluable to explore wider or deeper issues. ‘Regular’ might mean once a week or once a fortnight. Leave it longer than this and you can expect a divergence between what you are thinking and feeling and what the coach imagines to be the case, leading inevitably to errors in training prescription.

Qualifications

We don’t deny that there are people with the knowledge and competence to coach well without possessing a formal qualification. The same would be true in many other professions, but would you go to a lawyer or a doctor who wasn’t formally qualified?

The whole point of a recognised qualification is that it attests to a proven level of competence, at least at a certain point in time. This is important, not only for your own peace of mind but also from a legal or insurance standpoint should you ever have a significant dispute.

Many countries have their own national schemes to train and certify coaches, and the UCI provides its own comprehensive training and certification programme. In the United Kingdom cycling coach training and certification is carried out by British Cycling.

Note that the different national systems use different nomenclatures, so it is important to understand what the qualifications actually mean. For example, in the United Kingdom the lowest level is Level 1, and only Level 3 coaches are qualified to coach individuals. In the United States, on the other hand, the lowest level is Level 3 and Level 1 is the highest level. The situation in France is complicated with a complex array of different past and current diplomas covering the various levels. The highest level is DEJEPS (Diplôme d’entraîneur de la jeunesse, de l’éducation populaire et du sport).

Experience

With all due respect to people just starting out – obviously we all started somewhere – there are clear advantages to engaging an experienced coach over a novice.

After a certain number of years and working with many different people, a coach will have seen many different situations and should have developed an eye for patterns. They will have been humbled by failures and will have learned that all humans are unique individuals, needing unique solutions.

Experienced coaches are rarely dogmatic and their primary coaching tool is to listen first and ask questions. Beware of anyone who starts telling you what you need to do in the first few minutes!

Skills

You are paying a coach to coach you, not to beat you in a race. It therefore shouldn’t matter whether they are stronger than you or not. Even in the professional peloton, few of the most prominent coaches were ever top professional cyclists themselves.

Their role is different. The key questions are therefore not about their own skills as a cyclist, but about their coaching skills, knowledge and expertise.

Insurance

A certified coach with a valid licence will have professional liability insurance provided by their federation as a matter of course. This protects you against the consequences of poor advice leading to serious injury or worse. If in doubt, ask to see a copy of their coaching qualification, current licence and insurance details.

References and reputation

You should always ask for references and check around for your candidate coach’s reputation. While some of their clients may wish to remain anonymous, it is unlikely that an experienced coach with a good reputation would be unable to put you in touch with at least two or three clients. Ask these people for their candid feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their coach and how they work.

Here is an example of one of the many testimonials we have received at Alpine Cols:

“For the past 4 years, I worked with Silas from Alpine Cols in coaching blocks to mature my cycling.  The peak was finishing Milan-San Remo averaging 31km/hr over 9.5 hrs, which I still can’t believe I did.  A second peak was fighting back from a year of Covid and life disruption to get my power back and pull off an 8000km year.  This sport is so much more invigorating when you have someone metaphorically by your side to coach you along the way.  Next stop for me is to keep pushing it and maybe I go after Flanders/Paris-Roubaix combo, and if I do, I will need some help and I know who I will turn to.” Chris Edwards.

Likely cost (+ hidden extras)

The cost of coaching varies from approximately £100/month to considerably more. (We have heard as much as £15,000 quoted for an annual commitment with an ex-professional cyclist, but this was clearly an outlier).

Beware anything below £200/month: you are unlikely to get much personal attention. Up to this price point, it is a volume business. The coach is obliged to have as many clients as possible and to spend the least time they can with each one. You will get considerably more value from a professional cycling coach by paying a little more.

Remember: a standard training plan is useless!

Our current coaching fee at Alpine Cols is €265 per month, paid in advance, cancellable at any moment. More details here.

It’s always a good idea to ask if there are any hidden extras. You might be required to subscribe to a particular online platform, for example, or to submit to a lab test to determine your lactate or ventilatory thresholds.

Some bike coaches will demand that you equip your bike with a power meter. To us this is a red flag, indicating a possible over-reliance on power at the expense of subjective data and a more holistic approach to training. Power meters are clearly very useful tools (when accurate and reliable, which is less often than you might think), and we prefer people to have them.

However, in our view power should not be the be-all and end-all of the training process and power meters should certainly not be mandatory.

Three cyclists are cycling coaching on a hilly road

Fred, Seb and Amanda: stunning scenery near the Col des Saisies

Two cyclists ride cycling and enjoying cycling coaching

Emmanuelle and Jean-Claude, the Col de la Croix-Fry

Cycling camps

In this section, we dig into the detail of cycling camps and coaching camps and how to pick the best camp for you.

Will it help you meet your objective?

A cycling camp might or might not help you meet your personal goals: this is something you should clarify before committing to the camp.

In our case at Alpine Cols we design our camps specifically to help participants meet a certain set of objectives, and our coaching team will then work with you to ensure you make progress.

For the people who come to us, these objectives are related either to learning to cycle in the mountains for the first time, or to improving their performance with a view to riding a challenging event such as the Etape du Tour, the Marmotte or the Haute Route. The objectives usually include improving skills in areas such as climbing, descending, pacing, nutrition, training and recovery techniques, and our active coaching ensures that these objectives are met.

Is it at your level?

This is an essential question. There are few things more depressing than seeing the group go up the road in front of you on the first day, and knowing that you have no chance of keeping up.

Bicycle camps exist for cyclists at all levels, so choose the right one for you.

Some camps have enough participants to allow for two or more groups to form, each cycling at different speeds. It’s important to clarify this in advance, as well as the policy on what happens if someone can’t keep up.

When does it start?

If you are willing to travel, cycling camps exist pretty much all year round. European islands in the sun such as the Canaries (Tenerife, Gran Canaria or Lanzarote) and the Balearics (especially Mallorca), as well as parts of southern Spain are very popular destinations for cyclists and provide opportunities to cycle through the northern hemisphere winter.

Mountainous regions such as the Alps, the Dolomites or the Pyrenees enjoy their main season between June and September.

The ideal time to go depends on your objectives and the event you are training for. Taking the Etape du Tour or the Marmotte as examples, the events take place in early July. The ideal preparation would include an early coaching camp (for example in Tenerife in January or February) focusing on developing your skills while contributing a big block to your base training, followed by a second camp in late May or early June to sharpen climbing and descending skills during a final big block of volume training.

How long is it for?

The majority of cycling camps last a week, with either five or six days of cycling. It is possible to find the occasional camp based over a long weekend. Anything longer than a week is more likely to be a tour than a camp.

Where is it based?

Cycling camps can be found in many different parts of Europe, as well as beyond.

As mountain specialists, we at Alpine Cols base the majority of our cycling camps in France, in the Alps. We run our first coaching camp the first week of February every year in Tenerife, and then start in the Alps in May, as soon as the snow has melted. For 2023 we have planned a Gran Fondo coaching camp in La Clusaz in May, the third one at Alpe d’Huez in June, and a possible fourth camp in July.

How are the rides organised?

This will of course depend on the camp organiser, but the typical Alpine Cols programme is to start at 9am and ride for 4 to 5 hours, returning for a late lunch. We may start earlier for longer rides or if it will be very hot.

You should always ask whether there will be on-the-road support, with a following vehicle, and whether there is a no-drop policy.

How are different levels of ability managed?

Are coffee stops planned, and do the rides have a clear purpose?

Cycle riders are cycle coaching practicing on the hilly sloping road

Almost there! The col de la Colombière

Cyclists of cycling coaching head towards the snow-capped mountains

Magnificent Mont Blanc, from the Col des Aravis

Is there coaching?

This is a key question if you want to learn and improve with expert help.

The majority of firms that offer training camps do not have qualified cycling coaches on their staff. There is a big difference between getting the occasional tip from a guide or ride captain and receiving proper coaching from someone who has been trained to do this.

A coach should be able to identify any errors in your technique and give you exactly what you need in guidance to improve from your current level. They will often use video so that you can see for yourself what you are doing.

You can also expect a coach to present technical seminars in the evening on different aspects of cycling performance. These are a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge and question an expert, and often lead to rich discussions with other participants sharing their experience.

What questions are you asked before joining?

Any reputable organisation should be asking you for your goals and expectations before you come to a cycling camp, and they should tell you if your goals don’t align well with what is planned.

Prior to joining an Alpine Cols coaching camp, you will be asked to provide details of your cycling experience and current level, as well as your objectives for the year, your goals for the camp and your strengths and weaknesses. This enables the coaches to identify any mismatches and either advise you to look elsewhere or adjust the programme to meet your needs.

Insurance and reputation

It should go without saying that the organisation you entrust for your cycling camp should be a bona-fide registered company, respecting all relevant legislation and with a good reputation. There’s an old joke with two dogs looking at a computer screen as one says to the other “nobody knows you’re a dog on the internet”. It’s easy to create a slick website these days and far harder to build a proper business behind the façade.

The most important checks you can make are:

Is the business registered in the country where it is based? If not, it may not be operating legally (though bear in mind that currently European legislation allows companies that are properly established in their home country to run tours in other countries within the EU, so long as these are limited, occasional and do not represent the major part of their business). In France, you can check registration through a national website. Alpine Cols is registered under the number 799 370 291 00012.

Is the business properly insured? This includes both professional liability insurance and financial failure insurance. The first is vital if you should suffer an accident during your cycling camp for which the organiser can be held partly or totally responsible. If they are not insured you may find yourself unable to recover any compensation. The second protects you against the organiser collecting your payment but being unable to either deliver the camp or reimburse your money. The Alpine Cols professional liability insurance is provided by Hiscox SA and the financial failure insurance is provided by International Passenger Protection (Malta) Ltd, underwritten by Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe SE.

Is it registered as a Tour Operator with the local authorities? For example, in France all Tour Operators must be registered with Atout France, the national tourism development agency, which protects consumers by verifying that the Tour Operators are properly constituted and insured. The Alpine Cols registration number with Atout France is IM001140003.

Reviews

A complete lack of reviews or testimonials should be a definite red flag. Any business that has been in operation for more than a few months should have publicly available feedback from its customers. If you can’t find any, don’t hesitate to ask: the firm should be able to put you in touch with previous customers who can tell you how it is.

Here is a typical review for Alpine Cols:

“I found my week with Alpine Cols in Tenerife exceeded my expectations. In particular I have learnt how to descend safer and faster (a key objective for me on the trip). Over the week I noticed a marked improvement In 4 distinct descending techniques, as well as areas to continue to work on. I believe will lead to me being able to race with faster groups downhill, as well as corner faster on road races. […] I would recommend Apline Cols to anyone who was serious about improving their skills on a bike. I felt the coaching was good value for money, and far exceeded any other cycle holiday I have been on. The coaches are up to speed with the latest scientific studies, and communicate the knowledge in easy to digest and implement bit size chunks, repeated when necessary. E.g. watching a video of myself riding with expert commentary quickly provided me with a proper understanding of how I was riding, which was not the same as the previous image in my head.” JamesMcPherson

Likely cost (+ hidden extras)

There is a wide range of costs for cycling camps, depending principally on the duration, the quality of accommodation and food provided, the quality of the staff (especially, are they qualified coaches or simply seasonal guides?) and the level of support provided.

In addition, some camps may be all-in, including airport transfers, all meals, drinks with the meal, photographs and videos, access to a swimming pool or spa, massage, etc., while others may take a more minimalist approach to coaching.

In most cases, flights and bike hire are specifically excluded.

The result is that prices may range from as low as a few hundred pounds to three thousand or more for a week’s cycling. The key is to know what you want, check what is included or not, and then judge whether you are getting value for money.

Cyclists of cycling coach online center cycling on the road

Descending clinic in Tenerife (©Tenerife Bike Training)

Cyclists of cycling coach online center's students enjoying the fun moments

The Col des Glières, just after the gravel section

Advantages of doing both coaching and camps

The biggest problem with online coaching is the difficulty in working together on skills development, while the biggest problem with coaching camps is the limited time spent with the coach, meaning that long-term development cannot be addressed.

So why not combine the two? You thus get the best of both worlds:

During the camp(s) the focus will be mainly on skills and technique, with your coach riding along beside you and offering immediate feedback. In addition, the camp provides plenty of time for more in-depth discussions on current goals and progress, alternative training methods and evolving science as well as plenty of relaxed, social time for deepening the relationship.

During the online phase between camps the exchange around day-to-day training and long-term development will be easier and richer due to the deeper relationship, and your coach will be able to follow up with you on further skills-development exercises designed to consolidate what you learned on the camp.

Road cycling coaching + road cycling camps. A match made in cycling heaven?!

How can cyclists work with you?

Coaching with Alpine Cols

We have outlined much of our coaching philosophy in the sections above. It goes without saying that all of our coaches are qualified and highly experienced. We are motivated by the satisfaction we have in seeing people improve and reach their goals, not by growing a high-volume business. To us the only important goal is your success, and the most important factor in this is the quality of the relationship and the communication we establish with you.

There’s more information about our coaching here.

Camps with Alpine Cols

Our coaching camps are our flagship product, and we are very proud of them. 2023 will be out tenth year of offering these camps, which have evolved over time as we ourselves have learned to be better coaches.

Two levels

We offer two levels of camp, the first being an ‘Introduction to the Alps’, intended for first-timers in the mountains.

The second level of camp we offer is a ‘Gran Fondo performance’ camp, intended to help cyclists with some previous experience in the mountains to prepare for a sportive or Gran Fondo.

There’s more about both types of camp here.

Coaching

All of our bike training camps are organised around active coaching in the skills and techniques needed to ride fast and safely in the mountains.

There is a very low coach to rider ratio (usually 1:5 or less) so that you are assured of as much individual attention as you wish. We use video as appropriate both to demonstrate skills and to provide personal feedback.

Our coaching is however never intrusive and if you prefer to be left alone to cycle in silence you are of course free to do so.

Accommodation and evening sessions

We base our camps in charming, comfortable 3* or 4* hotels with great food and excellent service. In most cases they have a swimming pool and/or spa for relaxation. We provide post-ride massages as an optional extra.

Each evening sees a different technical session on such topics as climbing, descending, pacing, nutrition, recovery, training plans, mental strategies and tips for Gran Fondo performance.

Locations

Our first camp of the year is our Tenerife coaching camp in early February (run with the support of our local partner Tenerife Bike Training). The second camp is in May in La Clusaz, in the French Alps close to Geneva, and the third is in June at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. Depending on demand, we may run a fourth coaching camp in La Clusaz in July.

At other times we organise cycling trips on iconic routes such as the Route des Grandes Alpes, from Geneva to Menton, as well as private tours and corporate events. We will run two separate trips to Corsica in 2023, one in April and the second in September.

Testimonials

Here is one of many testimonials we have received.

“The standard of the coaching camps run by Marvin and Alpine Cols is absolutely second-to-none; we have done a number of them over recent years including Tenerife, St Tropez, and the Alps and all have been excellent. 

From the pre-trip information pack to the post-trip feedback, advice and photographs, it is the attention to detail that stands out.

The daily rides, each with a different emphasis – climbing, descending, pacing, group riding, nutrition etc – are well structured and varied and complemented by the evening workshops.

The hotels are always well chosen and the food (from the huge breakfasts, post-ride lunches or lovely evening meals) and company are really good. 

The coaching both on and off the bike by Marvin or his team of experienced coaches is also excellent, but delivered in a very relaxed and pleasant manner, creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

We’re not the most talented of riders but have learnt huge amounts (and have improved markedly) through these coaching camps and would recommend them to anyone who is serious about improving their cycling abilities, either for Granfondo-type rides or multi-day stage events, whilst thoroughly enjoying themselves at the same time.” Jonathan Smith.

Get in touch

If you’re interested in coaching or one of our road cycling training camps, we’d love to hear from you. Please head to our website to find out more about us or drop me an email with any queries at marvin.faure@alpinecols.com.

Two cyclists are cycling coaching on a hilly sloping road

Yannick with Fred, Col de la Croix-Fry

A Cycle rider cycling practicing on cycle coaching

Olivier, on the Col du Pré

 

Marvin Faure runs Alpine Cols and explains, “My wife Emmanuelle and I moved to the mountains with our family in 2003. Since then we have cycled tens of thousands of kilometres in the Alps, thoroughly neglecting the house and garden… Surrounded by so many beautiful mountains, who can resist the challenge of cycling up them?

Creating Alpine Cols in 2013 was a natural choice to share our love of France and the famous Alpine climbs with other cyclists. Almost ten years later, we have made many new friends and had enormous pleasure in seeing people come back time and time again, improving their skills every time.

We were the official coaching & training partner to the Haute Route for four years 2014-2017, where the distinctive jerseys of the Alpine Cols coaches led us to be named the Pink TGV.

Since 2018 we have been the official coaching and training partner to the Marmotte and the Tour du Mont Blanc, and you can find our training guidelines and tips to riding these events on the event websites as well as on the Alpine Cols YouTube channel.

The typical person who comes to us is between their late 40’s and early 60’s and is either coming back to cycling after a long break or has started cycling fairly recently; we’re very happy coaching both those that are very experienced on the bike and those looking for a cycling training camp or cycling coach for beginners. The common thread is a love for cycling in the Alps and a desire to improve. Most of them compete in iconic sportives or Gran Fondos.

I’m a (somewhat lapsed) engineer by trade, which comes in handy for fixing bicycles and mastering the intricacies of power meters. I am qualified as a British Cycling Level 3 coach.

Competitive by nature, I have cycled in dozens of Alpine sportives, including eleven Haute Route. Changing age category in 2019 gave me the chance to stand on the podium for the first time, earning several second and third places!

When not busy with Alpine Cols, I use my experience gained over a 30 year international career to coach senior management on effective leadership behaviours. Together with my partners in the Enablers Network I lead motivational workshops, team-building and employee engagement seminars.

The contents of this website are provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on it. You should carry out your own due diligence and take professional advice. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our website is accurate, complete or up to date. If you use any information or content on this website, download from, or otherwise obtain content or services through our website, it is entirely at your own discretion and risk. Epic Road Rides Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information and content on this website. Find out more here.

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