The Spoke April 29, 2010

bikebritain on tour in Mallorca!

It was 2 years since my last cycling mission to Mallorca. Inbetween times I've participated in Cycle Oregon 2008, had a few days cycling round Lanzarote and a week road testing the bikebritain route. But I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms and needed to get back to the island. Myself and fellow cyclist Malc (who joined me on all of the previous tours) was up for it and last Thursday we dismantled out bikes, fitted them into our respective bike boxes (a feat in itself) and jumped on a easyJet flight to Mallorca. Unlike previous times we decided to stay in Palma allowing us to explore a different part of the island (as opposed to our previous location, Fornalutx, located in the mountains to the North of Soller). 

In summary, we cycled 325 kms over 3 days, got some very strange tan lines, sore legs, a beasting from the Puig Major and met some nice Norwegians in the process. All in all - a great time.
Day One - 132 km - undulating countryside
Palma - Sineu - Sant Joan - Montuiri - Algaida - Llucmajor - Cap Blanc - Badia Gran - S'Arenal - Es Molinar - Palma
We originally decided to head towards Manacor in the centre-East of the island. Having finally negotiated our way out of Palma (Itself no mean achievement) we cycled into the interior. Pretty steady headwind kept us keen and we meandered our way up to Sineu - a place we'd not visited before. We'd been cycling about 2 1/2 hours by now and were getting peckish. There was nowhere substantial open because as usual we'd timed it perfectly for the shops to shut (we're not very good at getting up early, so we tend to leave at 11.00). We decided that a cycle to Manacor was probably not on if we wanted to return home via the coast - so we decided to truncate out route and head to Sant Joan. This was only a few clicks away and the road surface was awesome! Again Sant Joan was basically closed. Next stop - Montuiri - and another place yet to be visited. It was quite nice. There's a really steep incline to get the the 'Calle Major' and located by the square was a bar with our name on it. We pitched up outside and just before we settled we were ushered inside, only to be seated on a terrace overlooking the plain below. An excellent opportunity to see the grey clouds amassing in the distance. Needless to say lunch was excellent and we met two dudes from Norway. They looked quite useful (shaved legs and big calves). They had flown over that morning and had decided to launch themselves into a ride up to Soller and back again. Probably not the sort of folks that want to ride with us! With lunch consumed ad the Norwegians disappearing into the distance we headed South and towards Cap Blanc.
Before we got to Cap Blanc we had to decipher a few misleading roadsigns (it seems random roadsigns provide sport/entertainment for the locals), heading, eventually, in parallel with the main road towards Algaida. From here we went South, cycled through Llucmajor and continued onwards. The need to study the map increased and we found ourselves at a junction where it was not obvious where we should go. And then 2 Germans appeared. "Are you lost?" one man said. "Ummm I'm not sure," replied Malc. I pointed at the map. "Are we here?" I said. "Yes," he replied confidently. "Does that road end up at the coast?" I queried again. "Yes," he replied. "Then we're not lost, thanks!" The German looked a bit bemused by this but we found it mildly amusing. After a few more clicks we reached Cap Blanc - as well as a headwind. We approximated we were only about 20 km from home. We were wrong by a factor of 2. By now our legs were getting fatigued - and the wind was definitely not helping. The scenery was ice but I wasn't so botered about that - I wanted to some reflief - at least ride along the flat! Heading towards Palma was not exactly the right decision. Cars started tooting their horns at us - and I couldn't work out why that was. Usually the residents are pretty bike-friendly. Well they still are. They were trying to tell us we were headed for the motorway. Doh! We had been on a cycle route but that disappeared and we were basically on the sliproad to the City bypass. A few dodgy moments later we jumped across the carriage-way and headed towards the coast. Eventually we got to the bay and we could see the massive harbour where the cruise ships anchor, directly opposite. We decided to 'go native' and use the helpful cycle lanes that had been provided at S'Arenal. The surface needs improving though. The block paving shock the life out of us - and it went on for ages. We cycled past the airport and saw 4 planes land in the space of about 2 minutes - shipping in more tourists. Palma had a boat show on so it was like millionaire's row cycling home. Finally the hotel came into sight and we blasted up the last couple of 'climbs'. Day One complete - no punctures - just sore legs and a bit wind-blown! 
Day Two - 88 km - approx 800 mts climbing
Palma - San Rapinya - Establishments - S'Egleieta - Palmanyola - Santa Maria del Cami - Alaro - Orient - Bunyola - Palmanyola - Son Sardina - Palma
On day two we thought we'd tickle a few hills in readiness for the final day. The Alaro-Orient-Bunyola route offered a couple of warm up climbs and having been to Orient before we knew the descent into Bunyola would be fun. Orient is stuck in the middle of a valley about 500 mts high - it's really beautiful. Very peaceful. We rode North and probably a bit out of our way to Establishments and S'Egleieta, turning East towards Palmanyola. We are quite familiar with these roads and they have been the seen of some previous rides. On the way to Santa Maria we got overtaken by a train of about 20 cyclists, all from the same club. Belatedly, we decided we should try and catch up with them. The wind was with us this time, and Malc gave chase first. He got within 30 mts of them and but could not bridge the rest of the gap. We came to a slight incline and I decided this would be my moment. I went off and gave further chase. I caught them. That's technically true, but I think the fact we'd reached the town limits helped significantly - and we were in the middle of traffic! So not sure I can really claim that! Anyway we burned through some distance getting there, plus it was fun.  
From Santa Maria we rode North - to Alaro - for lunch. The clouds had gotten greyer and it was becoming noticeably colder when we sat down to eat our pizza. Indeed a few drops of rain appeared which was mildly concerning. Other than my arm warmers (which I was already wearing) I had no wet weather gear. Besides, it was sunny whe we started and I hate loading myself up with clothes I don't think I'm going to use. Food consumed we started our first proper climb - 5.1km at 5.2% incline. Not too bad, but enough to make sure you're legs know about it. We reached the top - alittle out of breathe - but knowing a decent descent beckoned. Orient is a great place. Not sure I could live there - it's sleepy - but very picturesque. Having passed through the village we were climbing again - this time to a peak of nearly 550 mts. Completed, red faced, we coasted into Bunyola on a road with some serious switchbacks. Now this is what it's all about! From Bunyola we headed South on the main road and coasted through town - weaving around the main roads of Palma, looking for sign posts to the Castle. A few clicks later we were home - and feeling buoyant. This should set us up nicely for 'The Big One' on day three!
Day Three - 106 km - approx 2100 mts climbing
Palma - Son Sardina - Palmanyola - Bunyola - Coll de Soller - es Port de Soller - Puig Major - Fornalutx - Soller - Coll de Soller - Palmanyola - Son Sardina - Palma
'The Big One!' - day three. I wanted to do the Coll de Soller, Puig Major and Sa Calobra all in one hit. It proved slightly optimistic. Malc was a typically bit more circumspect, but humoured me on the premise we assessed how we were once we got to the top of the Puig. No problem I thought. Done the ascent from the Port in an hour before - Sa Calobra here we come!
Again we headed North from Palma, and this time we immediately located the main road towards Soller. At the foot of the Coll we took in the view and set about the ascent - exactly the same distance/incline as the climb into Orient. We've climbed this many times, it was like seeing an old friend. Good, steady pace - however we only just about managed to ovetake an older chap who was RUNNING up the Coll. Terrific pace. Now he WAS fit. A couple of photos later we headed down the other side of the Coll and towards ther Port. Afterall you n eed to do the 1047 mts in full right? You only cheat yourself otherwise. Actually the climb out of the port and to the start of what is the road to Pollenca is pretty steep - and I was in the granny wheel quite early on. This caused me some concern as I knew what lay before me. Anyway, got to the 'top' and went straight into the climb to the Puig.
Oh dear. 
It was just about my worst climb ever (and there's a few that spring to mind - Pollenca to Soller, the 70 km ride uphill during Cycle Oregon and so on). Even now I'm not sure what went wrong - other than I was rubbish. Malc overtook me at 10km to go and I knew it was pointless then even trying to catch him. I was dragging my feet round like lead weights. It was getting hotter and I was getting slower. Legs were burning - and I still had ages to go. I tried standing up, switching gear, shifting about in the saddle. All to no avail. I toiled and toiled. Malc was nowhere to be seen by now. Completey disappeared. This went on for click after click. I REALLY wanted to stop. I couldn't do that - obviously - but I wanted to. I clawed my way to the top. There's a couple of false rises and I knew they were there - but I still fell for them. Eventually I got to the layby. I got off the bike and collapsed in a heap. Malc looked ok. I felt dreadful. I knew there was no way I could climb Sa Calobra that day. We would have to be happy with our ascent of the Puig - as much as it was. There was still the reverse climb out of the Coll to master as well. We shared a bag of nuts and decided that lunch in Soller was probably the way to go. Malc took off and I followed, drained from the whole affair. We found a couple of seats outide Cafe Soller and took up residence. Bathed in sunshine, we ate too much. Jamon Serrano and a pasta dish later we were feeling a bit lethargic - but the Coll was beckoning once more.
We had barely strated the ascent out of Soller when a train of 19 Norwegians came up behind us. First one overtok me, then another and then another. I decided this was enough and tucked in behind one of them - and quickly got chatting. They were on a weeks tour and were all friends from the same biking club. We weren't labouring as much as I thought we might and the pace was comfortable, so as we snuck across the road to climb the Coll I decided I would stay with them - as long as I could. A couple of them broke off I went with them. Legs heavy, but I knew exactly what I needed to do. We know each bend of this climb. The pace increased a bit and the train got spread out. Malc was a way behind and I found myself in limbo - not with the leaders but ahead of the main pack. I continued onwards. At about 3/4 of the way to the top I was caught by 4 other riders. 2 sailed effortlessly past me and the other 2 kept 10 meters or so ahead. With a few bends to go, I decided to go up a few gears and retake them. I did so and dumped everything I had left (whch wasn't alot) and went for it. At last - the top! A 497 meter climb. I was the 5th person to make it. After the dreadful attempt at the Puig this cheered me up. Malc joined me a few minutes later. His least favourite time is after lunch - so it was no surprise he was feeling sick after that effort. 25 km, downhill, to home! As usual the the descent was fun, weaving across the road and making the most of the hairpin bends. The wind was against us but the relief more than made up for that and we coasted South towards Palma. By now the kegs were jaded, but Malc's lunch had digested and he simply took off! I tailed him for the last 10 km, picking our way through the outskirts of Palma and then into the centre of the city - making use of the bizarre and confusing cycle lanes that criss-crossed the pavements. Having located the signpost to the Castle we were home within 5 minutes - and thereby ending our 3 day jaunt in Mallorca. Tired but pleased with the effort, we sat back with a well deserved beer and reflected on the days events.
So there you have it - our Mallorca Mission.  Have a look at the video I've also posted on the website. You can see what state we're in at the top of the Puig. Until the next time!
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