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Photo Essay: Shooting with Team Sky in Mallorca

Recently, I spent some time with Team Sky during their annual Mallorca training camp. I’ve concluded that it’s in no way different from my annual training camps. On second thought, other than the massages, hotel, mechanics, personal chef, shiny Pinarello Dogma F10, roving press core, and coffee whenever I want it, my training camp is exactly the same. I ride in the same snow (yes, sunny Mallorca indeed) and wear the same Castelli aero bibs and jerseys as they do.


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Alas this was not to be a cycling trip but more of a reportage look at what makes Team Sky tick. I had the help of my Leica cameras, including the new bells and whistles Leica SL. Normally, when doing my photo essays, I choose to ride and take pictures of riders with a Leica camera dangling from my neck. This I find to be a great skill training exercise, and fine when you’re just out with a group of Cat 5’s. However, Team Sky are not Cat 5 riders so I opted to ride in the fast Ford car with Team Sky DS Gabba (think the jacket) and mechanic Filip. For this journey, we opted for 60’s hits to keep us company rather than euro pop. Today it’s just three riders going out. What struck me is, although they may be pros, they still do the same things we are accustomed to. Before doing a tempo climbing effort, all three take out their headphones and put on whatever music helps, and take off one by one.



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Day two is time trial training! At one point in the ride we head down a small decline. I look at the speedometer on the car. It reads 50mph. I then look ahead to see five Team Sky riders riding inches from each other in TT mode. To say “completely insane! “ would be a complete understatement and the main reason I am not going pro anytime soon! Well, that and the fact I cannot crank out 500 Watts for 20 minutes. The team does a couple of efforts and then it’s back to the road bikes. This is where the mechanics went above and beyond. They literally drove out with all the bikes and met the team half way just so they can make the switch. Conveniently, the bikes are all lined up next to a For Sale sign! It’s just the 5 hours of riding today, and back to the hotel.


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One thing you have to get used to, is the huge bottles of hand sanitizer.  Literally every table has three bottles on it as well as big machines when you walk into the restaurant. Either someone has a huge fetish for the smell or it’s a subtle hint: do not get any of our team sick. For any of you that have ever been on a European cycling trip, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to get the full pro experience at some point. Getting sick is a total pro move! It gives you a whole new respect for the pros when you know they just did a stage with a stomach virus. On my first ever trip to the Tour de France at least 20 people got sick in my group. Trying to climb the Col du Galibier is not so much fun when you have a toilet roll in your back pocket. It’s the little details that catch your attention of just how well run the team is. Just to sit in on the briefings you get a great respect for how every part of the team is involved. From knowing if the chefs have everything they need, to “What movie are we all watching tonight?” No detail is too small.


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The next morning the guys kit up for what’s supposed to be a 4 hour ride in the wind and rain. Sounds like fun to me. The direction of the ride was to be dictated by where the dark skies were. About two hours in, we start entering into a snowstorm! Sorry, correct me if I am wrong, but growing up I always envisioned Mallorca as where my fellow countrymen (British) went to get their thick red leather tans and get raging drunk. Now for the riders this would just suck, but from a photographer’s point of view this was pretty epic. I hung my body out the side of the car, putting the Leica SL’s autofocus through its paces. Again, if you are going to hang out of the side car, make sure you have a good driver and someone to warn you of trees coming up.


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The roads start to get a little too icy, so we pull over at a small café and wait for the cavalry (mechanics) to come and get us back to the hotel. Pretty funny watching local riders’ faces drop when Team Sky walk in. Not content with only getting the 3 hours in, the guys jump on Wahoo Kickr trainers for another 2 hours.


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The next day it was like nobody was ever there! The riders are all packed up to catch their flights. Mechanics have disassembled the entire operation and the hotel is empty. This traveling carnival of sorts is on the move. It’s then that I see Sir Dave Brailsford walk out dressed up in his cycling gear. “Off for a quick ride?” I ask. “No, just riding to the airport to catch my flight!” he replies.

Words & Images: Phil Penman