The Mallorca Ride

A ride devoted to all the great offerings provided by the Spanish island of Mallorca
Sunrise on Sineu. Early November on the Balearic island of Mallorca is a tranquil time; the heat and bustle of the summer tourist season are long since past – leaving a calm, quiet, and yet pleasantly warm autumnal atmosphere. The perfect setting for a late season ride.

Today is about celebration­ – a ride devoted to all the great offerings provided by the Spanish island of Mallorca: from breath-taking climbs, to hair-raising descents, and of course mouth-watering cuisine.

My ride partner is Dan Erik Hansen – a Norwegian professional turned resident Majorcan; the attraction of the long summers and warm weather are an obvious lure when presented with training in a dark Scandinavian winter. Dan has promised to show me the best the island has to offer – an insider’s wheel to follow for a memorable day in the saddle.

Calm Beginnings

We roll out of Sineu on quiet backroads; weaving our way through vineyards and olive groves, headed towards the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.

I must admit this is not my first time on the Spanish island. I have travelled here a dozen times to take part in early season training camps and to race events like the Mallorca 312; and yet, many of these small lanes are new territory to me, and I relish the opportunity to take the road less travelled.

The asphalt turns skywards as we ride through the small village of Caimari, and onto the climb of the Coll de Sa Bataia. Hairpins weave through the forest, and then open up into a stunning cliff-side vista as we near the summit. My heart rate climbs higher as we gain altitude – pushing on the pedals to hold onto Dan’s wheel.

Warmth and Winding Roads

The late season sun carries a surprising amount of warmth, and as we crest the Coll I feel a bead of sweat drop from the brim of my cycling cap; a sensation that is certainly not likely on a November day at home in the UK.

The road continues to rise upwards as we traverse the coastline southwards; past the turning to the iconic Sa Calobra climb and onto the ascent of Puig Major.

To our left is the stunning Gorg Blau. The lake’s waterline shows that the end of the season is near – starved of replenishment in the summer months it looks ready for refreshment by the winter rains. We are thankful for these warm and dry conditions though; relishing the last few hours spent in bib shorts and short sleeves before we are forced to embrace the foul weather kit for winter training.

Summits and Descent to Sóller

At the summit of Puig Major, we pause, taking in the panoramic vista looking down on the port of Sóller hundreds of metres below.

After a moment of reflection, a flurry of gear clicks signals the start of our descent. Twenty minutes of undisturbed speed; tearing down the deserted asphalt towards the bay below. Tyres buzz, legs pump, and eyes widen as the adrenaline flows.

The Lighthouse

Before we can descend all the way to the harbour Dan makes a sudden left turn, taking us down what looks to be a backroad to the beach. The road skirts around hotels and beach bars – now closed for the season; then just as I am beginning to wonder if we are on an unfruitful quest for a late season ice-cream, the real reason for our diversion emerges – high above us, the Faro Capgros lighthouse.

The single-track road to the lighthouse is a sudden awakening for the legs, with sections reaching close to twenty percent gradient. The reward when we turn around at the lighthouse gates is worth it though… a stunning view of the Es Bufador bay.

This lighthouse was built to safely guide ships into Port Sóller, to collect their cargo of oranges for export to the French and Spanish mainland. On this windless and clear autumn day it appears almost redundant, but I know this coastline is far from forgiving when the winter storms eventually arrive.

Coll de Sóller

Turning back inland, we rise towards the final categorised climb of the day – the Coll de Sóller. The main highway is soon forgotten as we climb through the orange groves and mossy banks; we are alone on the road except for a few sheep and goats grazing on the harvested land.

On the early slopes my legs feel buoyed by our espresso and Gato d’Ametlla (almond cake) stop in the town before the climb. By the summit though, they are beginning to feel the 2000 metres of elevation we have amassed over the course of the ride so far.

Fading Light

From the summit of Sóller we descend out of the mountains onto the rolling plains of central Mallorca. Through the classic village of Bunyola, and then northwards – bound for Sineu.

The light is fading as we spin through the landscape of fincas and olive groves; the interior of the island retains a refreshing character of traditional Spanish rural life, far removed from the beach resorts and bars.

Then as we near Sineu, a landmark of a very different kind comes into view – the rare sight of an outdoor velodrome, nestled to one side of the hilltop Majorcan town. There is nothing for it… we need a Paris-Roubaix style lap!

We coast down to the abandoned track, just as the sun drops behind the surrounding hills. One and a half laps… sprint for the finish. We do a mock lunge for the line – providing a purposefully ambiguous finish so that we can both share the top spot on the well-used concrete podium steps. We both feel like winners, today.

Barriga llena, corazón content  — (full stomach, happy heart)

Back at our home for the evening – the MA13 cycling house, our host Jan Eric Schwarzer has cooked us a stunning meal made from fresh local produce. As the last light fades on the terrace, we crack open bottles of Kwaremont beer, and toast to an amazing late summer ride.

We will sleep well tonight.

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