bikebritain News May 31, 2013

Ride 3 : Puig Major/Sa Calobra Devilish Double Header

bikebritain's solo tour of Mallorca, May 2013 

Start/Finish Orient : Bunyola : Soller : Sa Calobra : Escorca : Mancor de la Vall : Lloseta : Alaro

Ride time: 5:59
Distance: 117.03 km
Av speed: 19.56 km
Ascent: 2851 meters
Calories: approx 4100

Having had an easy day two, I was ready for some punishment, Mallorca style. I had only ever done a Puig Major/Sa Calobra combination once before and even then we had begun from Fornalutx (which saved 4 km on the Puig). This would be different. This would be the whole distance, non-stop, with the Coll de Soller and the Coll d'Orient thrown in for good measure. Plus any further undulations that occurred between Sa Calobra and the way home. It would get jazzy today. Would I have the legs for it? 

The first hour was exactly the same as the first hour on day one. However, when it came to turn for Valldemossa I continued and sought the MA-10 junction, signed post Lluc and Pollenca. Here it was, the start of the climb, proper. The Coll de Soller didn't count. This was it.

I have climbed the Puig perhaps 8 or 9 times. It changes every time, but there is one constant. The last 3 km always hurt and by the time you start bearing left round the mountain you are desperate for it to end. This time was no different. I climbed the whole way either in third or second, so a decent effort there. I got overtaken 6 times all by people who were moving more smoothly than I was. However, I didn't care. I was in the middle of my own battle, keeping the rhythm I did have and concentrating on keeping those pedals turning. Funny, when I got to the top I took a picture of myself and I think I look quite fresh. I wasn't feeling it. 

I've probably got some deep seated problem I should see a professional about. It goes along the lines that I'm never satisfied. I complete one goal and the moment that's achieved I'm looking for the next challenge. Maybe that's what makes me the person I am. What I know, however, is this; the moment I stopped at the summit of the Puig to enjoy the view, I knew I was not finished. I had to climb Sa Calobra as well. It was inevitable. 

I knew it would be hard. But I was here and so was it. I enjoyed the descent (from the Puig), really I did, but my mind was completely elsewhere. I turned left at the signpost. The beach at Sa Calobra was 13 km away. To reach there though, you must first ascend the Coll de Reis at 2.5 km and 6.4% elevation. This was my warm up, which I duly accepted. Legs were still sapped from the previous climb, but they had another half an hour before they were really needed. 

I have never seen Sa Calobra so busy. I could spot 6 or 7 coaches on their way up as I started my descent. It was mayhem. Cars were backing up, mostly with very worried occupants inside. I'm not surprised. The drop offered no second chances. Consequently, it was my slowest descent of Sa Calobra on record. At the bottom, all the restaurants were open, but experience told me that the food available here was poor. As a result I just took liquid on board. It was hot; my arms were burning and I'd forgotten the sun cream. But frankly speaking this was the last of my worries. There was a 10.1 km climb at 6.9% ahead to think about.

This was a hill that could not be attacked. It was the final third that was hardest - when you were feeling most tired. It had to be respected and managed. It splits into two sections. There's the half you can see and the half you can't. The road winds its way around the mountain, so I used this as my marker. I took it very steady to the make shift half way point. I got overtaken by a guy who I had seen at the bottom. It turned out he was Welsh and was training to ride the Etape. He said this hill had been an eye opener. I overtook him later, when he had cramp. It's relentless and in some ways harder than the Puig. It feels like there's more variance in the gradient on Sa Calobra than on the Puig. I think the Puig is more consistent and its 0.5% less steep. 

I completed the first 'half', rounded the hill and saw the remaining 5 km ahead of me. The top seemed a very long way away. 20 minutes more climbing later I was close to the top. I had had one enforced stop due to traffic and unlike the motor bikes, I wasn't risking zipping in between coaches and cars to get past. To some, being a cyclist I was also part of the problem. Nevertheless, the other road users were very respectful. 

The final few bends were hurtful. Past the vista point at the top, I am certain the incline goes up another gear. For the first time I got out of the saddle in earnest, roaring my way to the top. I looked, and moreover sounded, like a lunatic. I was in a world of my own. My legs were screaming at me to stop, lungs bursting, sweat pouring off my brow. I had just overtaken the Welshman and the summit was a couple of hundred meters away. This was it. 

I didn't stop until I was over the summit. 

When I did I was gasping. My back hurt. My legs hurt. Actually everything hurt. But I HAD done it. Puig and Calobra in one hit. I was very happy with that. I coasted down the hill and feasted on a combination of Fanta Limon, Pringles (red one) and a Mars Bar. I figured it was all completely justified. I was in a calorie deficit situation. 

What lay ahead was another 50 km. Day three would be the 'Big Day'. 

The road continues downhill for a while after the Sa Calobra junction and then it's a mixture of mild undulations for the next 9km or so. At this point you need to turn left if you are to stay on the mountain road and end up in either Lluc or Pollenca. However, I was going south which meant I could speed straight on. The road to Selva was one we'd both climbed and descended the last time I had been in Mallorca. It was a glorious hill to coast down lasting probably 7 km or so. Just what my legs had ordered. I knew there were more undulations (not hills), to come.

The road did continue onto Selva but at Caimari I took the cyclists route to Mancor de la Vall. This was just a matter of a few kilometres which was just as well as the road is in dire need of some TLC. I was being rattled to bits. I needed a route to Lloseta and loe and behold there was one signposted. Good, straight on. Then I realised this was an 'undulation' that continued for a few kilometres, up. And I'd been down it the previous day! My legs were creaking. This was not what they wanted. I had been building myself up mentally for the climb to Orient, not this 'unexpected' hill. It was slow, heavy progress. I could see the top so I focussed on reaching that and tried to forget about the fizzing in my legs. Eventually I got there. 

I remained on the back roads in now familiar territory. I approached the sharp right hander and saw the signpost for Orient. I was here - the last climb of the day. The valley was bathed in sunlight, I was bathed in sweat. I gulped some water down, took a deep breathe and started upwards. About a quarter of the way up there's a hotel on the right that the bicycle holiday specialist Max Hurzinger uses. I had zoomed up to this point on day one. Not this time. I was already out of the saddle. I started checking the kilometre markers which is never a good sign. It seemed they were staring me out as I went past, doubting if I'd make it. It might not be pretty, but I WOULD compete it. I cycled through the lower bends and then up the straight that lead to the forest hairpins. I was getting close. What I didn't need was a headwind which appeared suddenly from nowhere. It was as if someone had switched a wind machine on. My legs groaned and I swore out loud. Enough! By now though I had reached the plateau with only gentle climbing to go. I shook my fist at the sign indicating the top of the Coll. I was soon cycling past the exclusive hotel called L'Hermitage. I was just 1.5 km from home. 

With minimal effort now required, I practically free-wheeled back to the Dalt Muntanya. There's a tricky hairpin before you enter Orient and a couple of times I had met cars coming the opposite way which made for an exciting few moments. No such drama this time. I entered the village limits and stopped by the hotel. I had done it. Or rather, it had done me. Now I needed to sit down, wash and eat, in that order.........

Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image - bikebritain ltd.

A video of this tour will be available shortly at

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