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WTC's Interview with Rob Hawkins of Colconquerors

This week we met up with Rob Hawkins, founder of Colconquerors, who are based in the Rhone-Alps region of France. They offer cycling tours, sportives and cycling training camps around the Alps and, soon to be announced, performance development weeks in Gran Canaria.

WTC wanted to ask Rob about where Colconquerors were headed in 2015 and beyond.


Which Training Camp - What was the start of Colconquerors?

Rob Hawkins - In 2004 we bought a small apartment in the Valmeinier area of France, on the door step of some of the most iconic alpine climbs. We got to know the area and decided to make a life style change, move here permanently and set up Colconquerors.

We bought a chalet and in 2007 started Colconquerors in 2010. Looking back, this wasn’t a difficult decision, it was something I really wanted to do. The hardest part is discovering how to run a French business.

I rode a road bike until I was 18 and then I joined a group of friends riding mountain bikes cross-country. And then in 1996 I changed careers which meant I stopped cycling until about 2002 when I rediscovered my love and passion for the sport again out on the road.

WTC - How did you get into coaching?

RH - Right from the start, cyclists who stayed with us were asking questions about training, riding techniques, nutrition, recovery strategies etc. I was uncomfortable giving “casual” advice given the importance of getting things right so I talked with British Cycling who were tremendously supportive in getting me started on the coaching programme.

I partnered up with an excellent British Cycling trainer who luckily for me had a wealth of experience training national teams at many levels, my trainer became my mentor from British Cycling throughout my coaching program. I’m now a qualified British Cycling level 3 Road and Time Trial coach and also an accredited bike fit specialist, a very complimentary skill and one that has proved of value to clients.

These qualifications and my own experiences of helping a diverse range of riders enhance their cycling now allow me to pass on accurate information that I know will benefit people.



WTC - What aspects of Colconquerors do you see developing in the next few years?

RH - We’re always looking into the future to see how we can make sure Colconquerors meets the needs of our customers. If we don’t keep improving, in 4 or 5 years’ time we’ll be wondering where all our customers have gone.

More people are coming into the sport and wanting to make a noticeable change in their performance. At Colconquerors we want to build on our Performance Development side, to focus on helping riders achieve their cycling goals.

If you’re prepared to adapt and have dedication, you can make significant improvements.

Our weekend, sportive and High Altitude Camp trips were popular last year and got booked up very early. We were running up to 12 riders and we had additional transport support and used another very experienced rider I trust on the road.


WTC - Will you go into on-line coaching?

RH - I will only take on a max of 4 for 1:1 coaching. To ensure you can give each rider an individualised program and a healthy amount of 1-1 time you really need to understand someone’s training, their home life, work demands etc. Any more than 4 makes this almost impossible to do properly.

I signed up for the British Cycling coaching qualifications because I believed in the need to focus on the individual and develop them as a one-off human being.

My weekly blog is an integral part of helping people develop. It’s an attempt to educate people on some of the softer things around the outside that, when added together, can make a difference and help you become a stronger rider. These topics include things like goal setting and psychology. It will take time to develop but over the coming year I hope it will grow into a valuable resource.

WTC - How do you spend your off season?

RH - The first few years we spent October to May recovering, doing some skiing and enjoying our local surroundings. But now we are extremely busy with site updates but mainly the planning for the next year and long term planning for Col Conquerors.

I need to recce the new rides and routes, I want to ensure we have those guaranteed places for the Sportives and we need to visit all potential accommodation for our tours. You can find accommodation on-line but you need to find out if they are cycle friendly, have easy access, have bike storage and serve good food.

Visiting is key because then you get a feeling for the ambience of the place. There’s a lot of preparation before a pedal is turned.



WTC - What accommodation do Colconquerors use?

RH - Our chalet in Valmeinier sleeps a maximum of 8 which we have found is a good number out on the road. You have an opportunity to encourage those who may need it at certain times during the rides and you can pass on valuable advice on their riding.

Returning riders have asked if they could bring their mates or a cycling club with them so we’ve now got other local accommodation that we can use that takes our capacity to 12 and this has been very well received. We bring everyone together for evening meals which we think is a crucial time for things like team building, sharing personal experiences of the day’s ride or previous adventures, tips about tomorrow and general training advice. People feed off the experiences of others who may have suffered during the day but have shown strength of character.

People also react differently after a ride. Some like to come in and have a bit of banter over tea and cake whilst others like to go somewhere quiet, sit in a dark room and, after a couple of hours, meet up with everyone else.

The accommodation we use for La Marmotte is 200 metres from the finish line. It’s easy to get to the start and our riders, who have been on their bike for up to 12 hours, know all they need to do is just turn right and be back at our base.

For our tours and performance development weeks we look for places that will be flexible, who can serve food outside the normal “French” times; if we have a mechanical problems on the road we want to know that dinner will still be served when we get back. This is one aspect often overlooked by people who go on their own DIY trips or camps; everything works well until you have a problem.... We are here to anticipate and overcome these issues.


WTC - What is the difference between a Cycling Tour and a Cycling Training Camp?

RH - A Tour will go from A to B over 6 days and they require a certain amount of mental determination, fitness and encouragement. Typically you’ll be in the saddle 5-6 hours each day. There is coaching and riding advice on hand but this is a less integral part of the package. It’s about having fun, taking in the mountains and that experience of achieving your goal.

Training Camps, or as we like to refer to them, Performance Development Weeks, are specific weeks to take someone from where they currently are to having all the tools they need to make a real change in their training and therefore to help them improve all around performance and achieve their seasonal goals. Each ride has a specific focus to help someone understand an aspect of physical training.

On these weeks you’ll ride similar distances to the tour weeks but we’ll set goals for the ride, get back earlier in day, stretch and begin our recovery for the next day and review the video recordings and ride data of the day’s session to ensure goals have been met and any questions taken care of.

The Performance Development Week will typically have 4-5 hour rides per day, a little bit less than the tour weeks. You need time at the end of the day to take in all the new information, analyse the video and have the 1:1 discussions. Performance development weeks also focus on nutritional strategies, psychological strategies and technical/tactical aspects of riding as opposed to just the fitness element. You will really learn all about the structure required to become a more focused and stronger rider.

One aspect common to both is the need to make people aware of the effects of the altitudes at which they are riding. There are things you can do before you come out to help you cope, but the main thing is just to take the time to acclimatise and not to push things too hard at the beginning; however, everyone is different and some will listen to advice whilst others prefer self-discovery.

For more from Rob on the differences between tours and camps and also on riding at altitude and how best to prepare for it, see his blog HERE ....

Also on Which Training Camp | Colconquerors | Cycling Companies & Venues | Cycling Coaches | Cycling Sports Talk | Cycling Location & Facilities articles | Training Camp Calendar | Tours & Sportives Calendar |

Categories: All topics, Interviews, Cycling

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