You don’t have to live on this island for very long to realise that it holds a very special place in the hearts of cycling enthusiasts. Every springtime, the annual migration of the skinny and not so skinny lycra clad road warriors touch down in cycling paradise and head out for the hills. 2012 Tour de France winner, multiple Olympic champion, knight of the realm and all round good guy Sir Bradley Wiggins described the island as “Scalextric set for cyclists”, and he is in good company.
Last month many of the world’s top professional teams and riders arrived for their spring training camps, as they prepare for the season opening races, the ‘Challenge Mallorca’ around the island’s highways and byways in late January. This year The Islander was invited to join Team Sky’s training camp as team manager Sir Dave Brailsford set out his vision for Sky’s proposed domination of the sport over the next five years. Meanwhile 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome and new team signings including Nico Roche, son of former tour winner Stephen Roche headed out into the Tramuntana from their Alcudia base.
Mallorca really is cycling perfection. The variety of terrain packed into such a small area is difficult to better. The Tramuntana features sinuous Alpine like climbs, challenging enough for the world’s best to hone their muscles for the summer racing season. Meandering country roads and the rolling hills of the North East and East coast regions and the pancake flat lanes of Es Pla, the agricultural plain of Mallorca’s centre. Add to that balmy springtime sunshine and daily temperatures reaching 20 degrees in January and February, decorate the whole thing with wild flowers, almond blossom and picturesque villages with hearty local food amongst deserted country lanes and it is impossible not to see the attraction. There really is terrain to suit any level of rider, or ambition. Those who really fancy a challenge head for the legendary Sa Calobra, the serpentine ribbon of tarmac that winds it’s way 10km downhill through the Tolkienesque rock formations around 26 hairpin turns down 668 meters at an average 7.1% gradient. Once at the bottom, there is nowhere to go but take a deep breath, click down a gear or ten and grind your way back to the top. Such is its attraction for cyclists it looks like it was built for the purpose, and is on the bucket list for any discerning enthusiast. Almost as popular and no less dramatic or challenging is the climb from Puerto Pollenca to the lighthouse on the Formentor peninsula, the most northerly point of the UNESCO world heritage mountain range. Take in views that must be difficult to better anywhere in Europe, but remember look over your shoulder, Team Sky use this as their post breakfast leg stretcher before the day’s work begins.
Many island residents heave a bit of a sigh when cycling season arrives especially if you get stuck behind a large group winding their way slowly along the lanes. Yes, it can be a frustration, but no more so than getting stuck behind the squadrons of airport transfer busses that clog up the roads in the warmer months. Instead congratulate yourself for having the good judgement to live in a place that the rest of Europe visits for their holidays.
The best option of course is to join them. If you have never tried it, go and rent yourself a good quality bike, there are loads of places around the island that rent professional quality gear by the day, and join an organised ride. The Port Bar in San Agustin has a weekly Sunday ride out for the very fit, and another group for those whose ambitions go no further than working up an appetite for Sunday lunch. If you get the bug, and trust me, you will, you can probably kit yourself out with everything you need for about the price of a years gym membership. With perfection like this on your doorstep, you owe it to yourself to give it a go.
For more information about Organised Rides please check out : http://www.katiehandyside.com/