bikebritain News December 19, 2012

Ride 3: Monday: The Coll de Soller & Puig Major



....a.k.a 'The Big One'

We had been working up to this; an assault on the Puig Major. This was my unfinished business. I wanted another go at this mountain ever since I'd (just about) completed it more than 2 years ago. Nearly 14km long, comfortably the longest climb I've attempted. It would at least the 4th of 5th time Malc and I would have scaled it. Each time had been a challenge.

We decided that we would ride as conservatively as possible across the island and make our way, initially to Soller. This worked reasonably well, other than the race I had on the way up to Bunyola. Bunyola is a small town nestling just 2km from the start of the Coll de Soller on the fringes of the foothills. The road from Santa Maria Del Cami to Bunyola climbs gently at about 2%. However at the final 'major' roundabout that takes you to the PM-203 (and ultimately Palmanyola) the road starts to incline alittle more. It's about 3km to the middle of town and the supermarket, just opposite the main square. Every time I climb this road, I end up hacking up it. I just can't help it. It's the perfect gradient for negative splits. This time, however, we had a rogue Spaniard join us. He'd overtaken us as we left Santa Maria but had not made any decisive progress to get away. Let’s say he was 50 meters ahead. Instead of hanging back (per Malc's advice) I overtook him at the first opportunity, up a mild incline. Malc followed. A small gap opened up, but Lukey quickly followed and 'The Spaniard' was relegated to last place. He wasn't having this though. He shortly overtook Lukey back and then hung onto Malc's wheel. We were now on the road to Bunyola. My road. I opened up the legs a bit. Not lots of power on hand but enough. I could see by the shadows behind me there were now just two of us. Go again - Bang! And again - Bang! My legs were burning up now, the hill starting to take its toll. I glanced down - no shadow! I went again. I was approaching the speed humps to the south of the town. With 500 meters to go it required one final push - Bang! Legs really wanted to stop now. I rode through till the Supermarket, our 'understood' finish. I looked back properly now. The Spaniard was a good 200 meters behind. The boys were behind him. I love that hill. He signalled as he went past, I nodded back. I liked that.

After some homemade (by us, at the side of the road) sandwiches and an emergency cafe stop for Malc, we rode out of Bunyola and headed for the hills; or more accurately the Coll de Soller - probably our most climbed Coll on Mallorca. This was a warm up, we'd cycled 75 km and the Puig was ahead. With the obligatory pee at the bottom we started climbing. We'd said to Lukey he'd enjoy this, though he did'nt look entirely convinced. Happily we were right. at 5.1% for 5.2km it was a fun hill to climb. We cruised to the top together at a good pace. Having taken a few photos at the top we were quickly on our way. It felt like we were coming home. We would our way down the North side and absolutely hammered out way into town. I managed sub 1m 30 for a mile. It was such fun. Of course, get it wrong and you're probably dead, but it's best not to think about that. Exhilarating doesn't even get close. 

The Puig was close.

We cut through the back of Soller and headed up the valley to Fornalutx, a place we'd stayed in a few times before. I'd seen on Google maps that there was an alternative route to climb up to the MA-10. It looked quite steep and basically went straight up the side of the adjoining mountain. I think Malc thought I was joking when I said I'd meet them at the top. I wasn't. We said our farewells, Malc shaking his head. As I rattled over the cobbles, Lukey and Malc rode into the distance. I had a rough idea where this road was - I had to go 'up'. The cobbled streets were both slippery and very steep. It was a short, blood and guts ascent to the right street level, and there it was - a random road and one that I thought it looked about right. It seemed in pretty decent condition, so much for Malc's worries of it being another 'unmade' track. All was going quite well until I got 3/4 of the way up. Suddenly it went from steep to really quite steep - say 10%-11% to 16%-17% with a major deterioration in road surface quality. There were stones and potholes galore. Not ideal. Still, I don’t ever go back, so I just kept going. Actually it was quite fun, although I was concerned that I might get another puncture. Eventually I reached the top, got off the bike and waited, grinning. 5 minutes later the chaps turned up. "You nutter!" was the general consensus. I had proved you could ride up it though. That was the point! Moreover, this was the only hill I had had to change into the lowest gear for.

We were now at the Puig, about a 1/4 of the way up. This was it. Malc took up the position at the front, Lukey in the middle, trouble at the back. It was as hard as I remembered, but I felt ok. I cannot claim to know every bend, but the road felt very familiar, especially as Soller slowly got smaller and smaller as we continued our climb up towards the summit. Maybe just over half way Lukey said I should go and 'Beast It'. I ummed and arred for about 30 seconds. I did feel good. I did want to have a real crack at it. I had the guys blessing. 

I launched. I dug in hard for 1 km and eased up into a higher speed cruise. Cruise sounds very controlled, it wasn't at all like that, but it was about 5 km faster than before. I still had a few km to go, so now the real climb started. The legs were hurting, the lungs were hurting, but it was now the Puig Vs Me. I kept going. Not as fast as before, but at a reasonable rate. I never can remember the final bend properly until I see the signs for the tunnel. Sure enough I rounded the final bend, saw the signs, let out a war cry and went again. I blasted my way to the top. I had done it and in some kind of style! Fantastic! However, candidly, my effort was over shadowed by Lukey's. He arrived not long after Malc, managed a sprint at the end and although he couldn’t talk for a bit, it had been ridden in one hit. I didn’t manage the Puig in one go the first time. I was really chuffed for him. Malc had done well too. Now for the ride home. The descent from the tunnel is long, fast and immensely enjoyable - a rich reward for the previous climb. There was nothing on the road and we were drifting all over to find the right line. Soon we passed the junction for Sa Calobra; we knew the way home well from here. Arriving back at the hotel in the dark we had completed another satisfying day in the saddle. It was now time to have a beer and celebrate our success!  

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