When an email arrived advertising the Easyjet sale, I naturally hovered over it ready to delete. On this occasion I paused, took one look at the dull November day outside and thought Spring is a long time coming. About ten minutes and sixty quid later I had booked a flight to Palma, Majorca. It was only after I had booked the flight that I thought a little bit of research may be in order.
I found an article in The Telegraph describing Majorca as the Disneyland of cycling…a good start. The north of the Island would be my base, There are plenty of apartments to rent, a few hotels remain open all year round and one or two bike rental stores also. As this is not the Alps or Pyrenees and I’m travelling in February then from a cost perspective this is looking like a very good value weekend break. I chose Port de Pollenca.
Despite two oil spills on the A3 and M23 with delays of two hours, with sat navs help I made the 5pm flight in good time leaving the car at the North Terminal meet and greet, a two minute walk to the terminal and strangely 30 quid cheaper and half an hour quicker than the offsite park and ride alternatives. Standard routine through security, pedals, saddle, pump all cleared. Multi tools, CO2 canisters a no no. Chamois cream fine but in a vessel of 100ml or less…on that point (Oli Else for you) Muc off CC luxury Chamois Cream at £6.99 in the Wiggle sale is a very comfortable 4/5 stars.
It is a two hour flight to Palma and within a short space of time you are though passport control with keys to the hire car and on your way north up the MA-13. It’s a 45 minute journey to the Hotel Sis Pins, home for the next couple of days.
On arriving my room was flooded due to a leaking fridge but the ever efficient JuanJo (but my friends call me JJ) at reception was quick to resolve with a change of rooms. Breakfast was included in the price and it’s standard fair with cooked if you want it.
Day 1 – I had booked bike hire from 2goCycling a 5 minute walk away. A basic Wilier GT with shimano 105 54-30 and a 12-28, this proved to be fine for the inclines here. Bike hire was 20 euro a day. The bike had seen better days but it served me well enough, next time I will upgrade simply because the terrain is such that you will escape the monotony of the 32 grind and use a range of gearing. You can put the bike through its paces so it would be worth paying the extra. I must confess I did (with a friendly smile) have to ask for the cassette and chain to be wiped down, I stopped short of any further lecture.
So on my way at last and I headed out of Port de Pollenca towards Lluc which is about 25kms heading west. The first 15 are pan flat as you just get the legs working and start to let all thoughts of home drift away and start enjoying the surroundings and road ahead. After about 15kms the road heads up the first climb of the day the Col De Femenia. It’s about 7kms and 500m of climbing and allows you pretty quickly to leave the valley behind and start appreciating the Tramontana mountains. Once over the top the road undulates another 8 or so KMs to the start of the Col de Reis, which is the high point of Sa Calobra. To climb Sa Calobra you have to ride over the Col de Reis descend down to the port of Sa Calobra and then climb the 10km at 7% back again. Climbing up the Col De Reis is steady and you can find a nice rhythm and settle in, before you know it you are at the top and ready for your first experience of Sa Calobra. Descending is not a strong point of mine, but I was in good company as this is a truly technical effort so I quickly caught up and sat behind a group who made their way tentatively down. Once at the bottom it’s time for a coffee before regrouping and heading back up. Stop too long and the legs would start to seize up (it is only February after all). The road up to the summit was designed by an architect…nuff said. Whilst riding It is both difficult to define the road ahead and equally difficult to see the road you have just climbed as it zig zags in and out of the rocks into which it is cut. The only gauge you have as to how you are doing is the Garmin which as ever seems to tick over very slowly. Hairpin after switchback you snake your way upwards and are always rewarded with stunning views. About 500m from the top I recognised that my body was telling me I hadn’t given it enough fuel, always the same error at the start of the year, so the last bit was a struggle and then pedalling squares several km’s to the café at Escorca wasn’t fun but two cans of coke, crisps and a mars sorted me out ready for the remaining 30kms home. The route was simply there and back again but a great ride.
Day 2 – I had come with plans of doing a circular route but to do this involves 140kms and 3000m of climbing which would take me up Puig Major, Col De Soller and Coll D’honor. I quickly realised that this would be for another time. So I planned a route that would at least give me a change from day one. Heading south west of Pollenca towards Campanet there is a very quiet and scenic route off the main roads that provides a flattish warm up amongst orange groves and olive farms. After about 30kms you reach Caimari and start the Col de Sa Batalla. It is again hairpin after hairpin, covered with trees a steady 6% allowing you to enjoy the effort, towards the top there are some wonderful views of the valley but the road is not ideal for stopping and I’m keen to keep going to the café at the top.
The café is at the top of Sa Batalla, this is next to a renowned Repsol petrol station. Here bikes outnumber cars by 50-1, there are a few motorcycle tourists, but this is definitely cycle central. Carbon goodness wherever you look, deep section everywhere. Inside the petrol station where you would normally find your Yorkie bar are energy gels, bars, etc. Outside are track pumps and bike tools attached to chains, thankfully they remained redundant The place is awash with cyclists both road and MTB, big groups, race teams, pairs, soloists, tandems the lot. Coffee and apple cake and I’m on my way again past the turn off to Sa Calobra this time continuing on the MA-10 to Puig Major.
The aim is to climb to the Tunnel which marks the summit and then turn back for home. The summit of Puig Major is not accessible to Joe public as it is ‘army’ land and so after having to ask a couple of Dutch tourists at one of the many photo vantage points just where the top was I was reliably informed that the tunnel Mirador was it. Climbing it this way was about 6km at 6%, the route up from the Soller side is a longer 13km but again at an average 6%. Descending and carrying on to the Col de Soller before turning for home through the Orient valley will be for another day. For today it was to head back and stop again at the café at Escorca. No coke and Mars bar today, just a ham and cheese sandwich Majorcan style (i.e. lots of tomatoes and enough olive oil to regrease my chain). Once fed and with the work for the day done it felt like spoiling yourself to ride yesterday’s route home again over the sweeping roads over Femenia and down to Pollenca. I passed about three cyclists and 1 car in about 15km. It was perfect.
Day 3 – Tired today and perhaps somewhat optimistic but I had plans of doing another 100km. However this was amended when, having had great weather for two days the rain came in and smothered everything a for a few hours. Whilst having to vacate the room I had organised with the hotel the use of a shower post ride. So I hung around and decided that a recovery ride to Formentor would be best. This is only a round trip of 40kms and it is not a recovery ride, there and back gives about 950m of climbing. There are two short climbs to negotiate 3.5km at about 5.5% and the road I think was designed by the same architect as the Sa Calobra. I had to vacate my room and leave my luggage in the store so when the time came I set out without phone, Garmin, money, but I decided to just press on rather than turn home deciding to just ride and enjoy the scenery. This was extremely easy to do as again the views back across Pollenca and also views of the switchbacks up to the lighthouse which marks the end of the road are wonderful. To become blasé about what you are seeing and experiencing in such a short space of time is just an indication of what a great place this is to ride a bike. Not having any euro for a coffee, I hung around a little and just started to put together a list of pros and cons of my Majorcan recce, as much as it is always enjoyable to ride solo, it would be great to see a spring Fiasco weekend in 2019 so that everyone can enjoy this place. I’m not that experienced a cyclist, but I can see why this is The Disneyland of cycling, it just seems less effort to get here, it isn’t epic, you don’t visit those dark places like you do two thirds of the way up Ventoux, it’s just fun everything here is accessible, achievable.
Back at base, showered, bike returned, there is time for an early evening huevos y fritas before jumping in the car and driving back to the airport. Panic set in when the barriers of the car rental returns would not open and a queue started forming behind me…yes I was that guy for a bit. Avis told me that sometime with brand new cars the ANPR does not pick up the new registrations…factoid. Flight was at 10.15pm. It was on time again. Back to the Ming about 1am, late, yes, tired yes but walking across Millenium Bridge to the office on Monday morning was a breeze and I think the couple of days away, some vitamin D should hopefully carry me through to the spring.
Things to note:
Not to book in half term so other Fiascans can come !
It was 12-16 degrees, spring like. Guaranteed weather is from mid-April. But it gets busier and more expensive and it’s too long to wait anyway.
Descend carefully. Sheep or a bus could be around any corner.
I took 1.5 days off work. Leave Thurs 5pm return flight 10pm Sunday. This gives 3 full days cycling making it very worthwhile.
Hotel Sis Pins was great £130 for 3 days B&B open all year and perfect location. This cost would be lower with more folk. Plenty of self-catering apartments as an alternative.
Things I learnt:
January is a great month weatherwise, but everything is shut !
Tolo’s is Wiggos fave restaurant. This is not France so food is not the highlight. A very acceptable Burger/pasta 13-16 euro. Beer small 2.5 euro (I assume a big beer is 5€).
Transfer by Taxi to Pollenca was 72 euro one way. 3 day car hire from Avis was 40 quid (plus 7 euro diesel!)
I love Majorca and will be going again next year.