Sa Calobra and Cap Formentor

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this, especially seeing how much fun it was, but hey here it is now. In May last year we were lucky enough to enjoy a holiday in Mallorca post my brother in laws wedding in Spain. And my what a great holiday we had. Great hotel with a brilliant mix of family and sport facilities, fantastic weather, loads of attractions, beautiful scenery, and fascinating history and culture. (Find my write up of the hotel and holiday HERE). Oh and yes, I forgot, the cycling.

Mallorca has been used as a location for multiple different pro tour teams as a training base for years. It has decent roads, great climbs, and weather that stays good enough to train all year round. Because of its many routes and fantastic tarmac it has been described as a scalextric track for cyclists. I couldn’t wait to get out there.

I hired my bike, the Bianchi below, from the hotels on site bike shop BiMont. A fantastic facility and a lovely bike that made a big difference to hitting up the two most famous routes on the island.

Cap Formentor

This, I was told, was our leg loosener! and the first rideout from Puerto Pollenca. Cap formentor is the most northern tip of the island and accessed by an out and back single carriageway road. And what a road it is. From Pollenca the return journey is around 28 miles with roughly 2600ft of climbing, and stunning views throughout.

As soon as you leave Pollenca and head out on the Ma-2210 you start to climb for about 3 miles up to a viewpoint at Es Colomer. From here you can both look back down over the island

Post viewpoint its down and around some stunning clifftop sections, through a few switchbacks, and into the valley section of the peninsula. Its amazing how much the topography changes here in such a short time. One minute you are riding rocky cliff tops, the next forest, and then past vineyards! Rising out of the valley its into the final mountainous section, with the first surprise being a 1/4 mile tunnel with no lighting. Yes Mallorca is sunny the majority of the time but it gets pretty dark half way through! a sunglasses off moment. Coming back it’s downhill, giving your eyes little chance to adjust. A scary moment exiting the tunnel at full speed, eyes squinting in the sunlight, and struggling to put your specs back on! Out of the tunnel the road winds its way through the rocky scrub and up and over the last few crests, peaking for a fantastic view to the final section and lighthouse.

The run to the lighthouse is great fun, its fast, compact, and finished off with a short sharp climb with a couple of hairpins. Just what you need after the rest of that ride! The view from the peninsular is stunning, if you get out early doors like us you will both miss the traffic and avoid the heat. Traffic can build to the point where its gridlock on some sections of the route. The ride back is equally as stunning and the glorious downhills become gritty climbs, watch out for that tunnel though! This really is a must do ride on Mallorca.

Sa Calobra

Now this was the big one. Well not so much in distance at 60 miles round trip from Puerto pollenca, but in elevation. The infamous climb itself is 2100ft of elevation gain in 5.8 miles. Yes, my legs wanted to go home before I had even straddled the bike! But with a little mind over matter and accompanied by my trusty tour guide Paul (bit of a Mallorca veteran, I think he’s lost count of times on the island!) we set off at half six in the morning.

Like most days in Mallorca at this time of year (May) the early mornings are stunning. Glorious hazy skies accompanied by light mist inland that tumbles down the valleys, sunlight just breaking through to eventually burn it all off leaving another sunny Mallorcan day. On the run out of Pollenca via the Ma10 the weather was gorgeous, as were the views.

Following the road you start to enter the first climbs. The Ma-10 twists and winds it way up for around ten miles up to the settlement of Luc, the site of a monastery, and you can feel the effort needed to get here! Luckily then there’s a refuel stop in the form of a Repsol fuel station, a popular stop for cyclists going by the number of bike racks out the front!

Refuelled, so to speak, it’s into the final section before reaching Sa Calobra. More climbing, up to the viewpoint at Mirador de Sa Casa Nova. Now this is a pretty special (no not because I’m standing there in three season old DHB kit), that view is stunning. Theres also a rather cool little cafe cut into the rock just opposite where I’m posing below…… top fresh orange juice I’ve heard…. but we didn’t stop for long enough as it wasn’t even open at 7am.

Next landmark was the viaduct at the junction of the Ma-2141 to Sa Calobra, what a photo opportunity. This is the last cafe stop you could have before heading down to the port, but it’s much more worth saving for a stop on the way back…… you will need it!

So this is it, the last turning before the short climb up to the crest of the Coll dels Reis and tipping over the top onto a relentless descent down to the port. Through the cutting at the crest you start to get an idea of whats ahead of you, with switchbacks galore in view. The day we rode the wind was high and gusting up to 30mph, this made the top section interesting! I felt like I would be blown over the edge a couple of times, it’s quite scary with those drops I’m not ashamed to say!

You pick up speed so quickly and it can easily catch you off guard, cover your bakes early and scrub that speed gradually. At one point I found my self accelerating harder than I could safely pull the brakes with me pulling a small endo when I yanked on the front brake. The rear end drifting into one of the hairpins with the brae pads fizzing with the heat. A bit more planning and a rearward weight shift helped hugely, with so many twists and turns its a much needed technique.

The road is a non stop descent for 10k and a 2100ft drop. Its split into two fairly distinct sections. The steeper, exposed, cliff drop, switchback laden top and the more open tree lined bottom half, but both add up to an amazing ride where your confidence and speed grows the further you go.

But as much fun as 10km of pure downhill is, its pretty punishing. By the end of the run to the bay my back was in agony , my neck was in agony, and my hands and arms ached like mad. When was the last time you spent half an hour charging downhill, weaving switchbacks and braking hard out of the saddle? I’ll tell you it isn’t easy work!

For those of you who don’t speak German that sign says coffee and cake, and if you get there by bicycle I think you’ve earned it in any language. At the port of Sa Calobra you will find restaurants and a gift shop, standard fare for a tourist hot spot, but don’t get there too early (like we did) they will just be opening and a little reluctant to serve you! Some bottles of water and a couple of bananas taken onboard we were ready to turn back around.

Oh and you better be ready. This could be one of the biggest single cycling test of your life, it was for me. Especially considering that I had had only just recovered from surgery a month before. Anyway, Col Des Reis is near 10km long and has a average gradient of 7%. It doesn’t let up and is never less than 4%, with the worst of it being 1k from the end at a whopping 11% gradient. I was determined to get to the top without stopping, which I did. Although with the wind and some of the inclines there were a couple of points where I almost broke. A good time to complete the climb is under one hour, I finished in 1 hour 2 minutes. I was relieved for it to be over and happy with my time considering my fitness. My friend Paul had made it to the top about 20 minutes before me (yes his fitness is good) and had sparked a conversation with two police officers that were parked at the crest. I received a round of applause as I arrived, with a few chuckles thrown in for good measure.

We stopped at the cafe by the viaduct for a sandwich, drink and to recoup enough to get home to Pollenca. The big climb really took it out of me, but that meant one thing……. most of the way home was downhill! The descent from Luc to Pollenca was amazing (Bradley Wiggins personal favourite descent on Mallorca). It’s fast and flowing, hitting 45mph at one point, and lasts for a good 10km. Not as demanding as Col Dels Reis as you can get in and out of the saddle easier without the need for so much weight shifting and heavy braking. The corners are epic and snake around the valleys. They urge you to push harder, find those last drops of skill, and wring out any remaining energy. An amazing way to finish off a ride. On returning to Pollenca I needed a shower……….. and a beer.

So then cycling in Mallorca. Its pretty flipping awesome, the rides are quite literally amazing. Stunning scenery, smooth tarmac, and sunny skies await you…… they are memories that will last a lifetime and I’m sure I will bore my kids with the stories. Get your trip booked and get out there, you will not regret it. I can’t wait to go back, I’ve unfinished business and a time to beat…………

BC

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