Mallorca 2012

Report by Doug Driscoll
Pictures by Andy Rice & Lucy Cuppleditch

Don Andrews sent out an email to the club late last year to announce this trip. “Sun Cycling 2012” was the heading. Ooh, that could be grounds for a case of false advertising eh?

This was pretty much a self-supported trip where all we had to do was book the hotel, flights & bike-hire and then just turn up. Max Huerzeler pretty much has the bike hire business wrapped up on the island (2,200 hire bikes!) and they have a convenient outlet located right inside the villa complex where we were all staying; Club Pollentia – just south of Port de Pollenca. Some very smart carbon or aluminium Cube’s with Ultegra triples – all in good shape – and I heard nothing but compliments from the riders.

This is a highly recommended complex with luxury rooms located in villas spread out around the grounds. Breakfast and dinner are ‘help yourself’ buffet style – and we sure did! Very good value too because the complex is outside of town. Not so great for night life, but there wasn’t much energy for that at the end of a day’s riding :/

I’ve been there a few times before so I sent out some gpx routes and printed off some routes (a mix of social & long) – just in case we lost anyone J A mix of easy/hard/easy days with something of interest for every day. I deliberately saved up the harder mountain days for later in the week. Best till last and all that ;-)

The worthy crew of club representatives were:

Andrew Ackrill, Don Andrews, Bob Bone, Richard Colt, Nick Coe, Lucy Cuppleditch, Hazel Davies, Doug Driscoll, Sasha Hagan, Ian Ladd, Steve Maxted, Alex Michie, James O’Neill, Andrew Rice, Paul Roberts, Mark Russell, Nick Scott

Travel to and from the airport all went very smoothly (Easyjet efficiency) and Don had a coach lined up all ready to take us to the start line. Well, it was a training camp right?

Day 1: Petra-Porto Cristo (83m)

The sun is shining and spirits are high. Shame it won’t last :-(

Despite the many protests when I drew up the routes about them being too long, I was surprised to see the entire VCC peloton all queued up ready for the long route. 17 fine athletes looking resplendent in their VCC uniforms.

I had decided to start off with Porto Cristo because it is a nice gentle introduction to Mallorca. No nasty climbs (or so I told them!). Just 23-miles to elevenses so plenty of time for my little bonus treat. A nice 5k climb up to the top of Ermita de Bonany – a pretty hilltop monastery at 281m. A nice even climb with plenty of hairpins and fantastic views from the top. A few quick photos and back down the hill to Petra for our first coffee stop.

Petra is a popular cyclist’s stop. A pretty old town with a nice square in the centre (if you can find it!). Only problem is that it gets packed with men in lycra :-o

Next stop: Porto Cristo. We had a nice tailwind blowing us in and I soon discovered that 50x12 is not really enough. We must have entered the town at around 35mph. “STEADY!!”

We found a lovely café overlooking the harbour. Plenty of Porsches and Mercedes parked nearby – just alongside my Shorter. So I didn’t look out of place ;-)

Ian & Sasha

The run home was fairly comical. I had plotted all of the routes using a gps mapping site and soon discovered that not all of the suggested roads are in fact roads. We turned our noses up at the first proposed route – down a dusty dirt-track and then trusted to my Garmin to take us around another route. “No problem” said Mr Garmin. “Just take the next right up that little bugger of a climb”. So off we obediently went. Only trouble was that once you get to the top the little bugger it is actually gated off. Thanks Mr Garmin!

So we added a few extra kilometres to our ride, but hey, they go far quicker than miles eh?

Onto the final run in; About 15k to go you just know what is going to happen. “Keep it together” said Don. “It’s not a race!”. Ha ha!

15km later we all grovelled into Alcudia Old Town for our scheduled “tea stop”. Well .. it just didn’t seem right to put “beer stop” on the itinerary! Just 1-mile from home, so we had some more “tea” (or was it 3?). This gave us time to talk up our day’s riding before heading back to the hotel. I hear that Don won the 1-mile sprint back. Funny how alcohol acts like rocket fuel for some people!

Day 2: Valldemossa-Deia-Soller (102m)

First disappointment of the day: Where had the sun gone? The wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted. This isn’t what we paid up for! Rain capes on the ready.

This is a long old day so we headed out a fairly civilised pace. Elevenses were scheduled in Binissalem just 24-miles away, but of course Mr Garmin had a few treats in store for us first. Seems he doesn’t care a hoot about one-way streets. “Turn right” he says “That’s it. Straight down that one-way street”. The wrong way of course. Well, we tried riding round and round Binissalem a few times to try and find a street that wasn’t “the wrong way” but eventually we gave up. Hell, we’re cyclists, so what do we care? Doh! Every time we started to move a car came up the other way. It had to be a conspiracy to keep the cyclists out of their bars!

Off we went for leg 2 – straight down a dirt track of course. This time we persevered. Well .. I did have the Tour of Flanders to practise for the next weekend.

The climb up to Valldemossa starts fairly steep but soon backs off to a nice gradient all the way up and around the old town (394m). Very picturesque – or at least it would have been if the weather had been nicer. We found a nice café down a little cobbled street where we spent the next 1.5hrs waiting for some food. Not a good choice for a long day on the road. The other downside of the long wait is that we were absolutely freezing when we started up again.

However … the next 12-miles were epic. The road runs along the North-West coast via Deia to Soller. Mostly downhill and fun, but there had clearly been a downpour just before we got there. Warning: Mallorca roads are like ice in the wet!

Once in Soller you turn right up a busy main road and then the road splits between the tunnel to Palma and the mountain road (The north-face of the Soller Pass). This is one of the Island classics: At least 20 hairpins all in rapid succession - all the way from sea-level to 473m. Yee ha!

Lovely views from the top (what we could see of them) and then a sweet descent down the south-face. Our plan from here was to just hit the famous ‘waterpipe road’ and get a few miles in before a last stop for coffee. I’ve ridden this road maybe a dozen times in the past and it had always been a nice tailwind home to Alcudia. Not this day though! I biting wind had us all fighting to get to the back of the pack.

A quick coffee stop in Llubi and then a final grovel back across the marshes home. A tough day!

Day 3: Oh Dear

Yes, the weather had us beaten. Even Nick “all weather” Coe conceded. It was coming down by the bucket load and blowing a gale to boot. So, after much head scratching we finally came up with a ‘plan B’. Jump in some cabs and head over to meet up with Ian and Sasha for lunch at a nice restaurant in Pollenca old town. Ian and Sasha have recently purchased a nice house in the town and kindly showed us around the sites – including the famous 365-step stairway to a hilltop chapel where they enact a mock crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday.

We had a superb lunch (thank you Ian & Sasha) and then headed back to brood over our lost day of cycling.

Day 4: Change of plan: Puig de Randa

This day was supposed to be a mountain ride (Sa Callobra no less), but the weather was still looking dodgy and we didn’t fancy getting caught out at altitude. So we switched the routes around and chose Randa – because it is mainly flat and inland.

The day started out with a parody of punctures. The bad weather from the previous day had left the roads covered in grit and it would seem that some of the hire bike tires could have been in better shape. We eventually made it to Sencelles for coffee only to discover the Socials had got there already – and had scoffed all the cakes! There is no justice in this world :-(

The road is a bit nasty from here to Randa, but once you get past Algaida it smooth’s out and you can start psyching yourself up ready for the climb. 6k and 519m. Not too difficult, but it does stretch your lungs when you are trying to be beat all of your team mates up there!

You are rewarded with some fantastic views and a reasonable restaurant for some lunch up at the monastery.

We didn’t hang around too long this time (memories of Valldemossa) so headed down and headed north-east on a fantastic descent down to Montuiri. And then the sun decided to come out - at last! This led to a lengthy wardrobe stop whilst everybody tried to see how much clothing they could stuff into their back pockets. First prize has to go to that man Nick Coe.

What with the sunshine, the pace soon picked up again and we blasted up to Coves de Campanet where we have discovered a lovely bar up on the terrace. This led to a lengthy session of sun-bathing and ice-creams before we finally set off for the final run home.

Day 5: Sa Calobra (or not?)

Ooh, decisions decisions. Yet another dodgy looking day. Do we risk the mountains or bottle out again? Fortunately I came up with a ‘Plan C’: Follow the planned route up to the mountains, but make a decision at the top as to whether or not to continue over and down to Sa Calobra.

This route involves a 683m climb up the Coll de Batalla (from Selva to Lluc). This has recently been resurfaced and is a super ascent. There is a bar at the top next to a petrol station (sound’s great eh?) which is a popular cyclists haunt. Fortunately the terrace was sheltered because before long the rain had started again. I started recounting a story of doom from last year about how I carried on down Sa Calobra and got caught in a hailstorm. This seemed to put everybody off – well except for James. We all bottled out and went back down the mountain whilst James soldiered on.

The descent was freezing, but eventually we broke free of the clouds and the sun came back to greet us. We took some lunch by the beach in Port de Pollenca and decided to ride out to the lighthouse at Formantor.

The road to Formantor is yet another Island classic. A superb feat of engineering and fantastic views all the way. No big climbs, but very up and down and it does wear you down. The weather had broken through though and we had a great afternoon. Ice creams at the top :-)

Humiliation awaited all of us at dinner though when James arrived having done both Sa Callobra AND Formantor. Seems the weather had as all fooled (except for James) and he had great conditions after leaving us. Ah well, there is always next year.

Day 6: Orient-Soller-Puig Major

This is the daddy. Three major climbs in one-day – including the daddy of them all: Favourably referred to as “The Pig” – Puig Major at 905m.

Fortunately we were blessed with a sunny day (at last!) and were soon stripped down to our shorts and short sleeves. First stop: The Orient pass at 493m. This one starts off with a climb out of Alaro which is easily confused with the real climb a few kilometres later. A double whammy!

Pretty scenery and a nice bar in the small town of Orient. Coffee and cakes all round whilst sitting in the sun. Life is good!

Next stage: The Soller pass (south-face). However, first there is a sneaky little climb up Col de Honor which has an astonishing number of hairpins for a small non-categorised climb. Down into Bunyola and then a bit of main road before you start the Soller pass proper. The south-face is not as hard as the north-face and is very pleasant to ride. There were dozens of riders at the top clearly making the most of the weather.

A tricky descent down the north-face (remember the 20+ hairpins on the Valldemossa day?) and all the way down to Port de Soller for lunch. Once we reached the bay we were on a mission to find a café with tables in the sun. This led to a lengthy ride around the pedestrian promenade until we found the perfect spot – down on the beach. A beautiful turquoise bay, the beach to ourselves and glorious golden sunshine. What a day to remember!

Now the catch: A nice lengthy lunch stop and then straight up from sea-level to the top of The Pig at 905m. This climb picked up its name for a good reason. It is actually a bit of a pig! Conditions however could not have been better and we soon all arrived safely near the top at a nice overlook just before the road enters a tunnel. Those of us with Garmin’s felt a little cheated here because our altimeters were only showing around 830m. The road does continue to climb though once you enter the tunnel and I assume it is indeed 905m when you get to the other end. I forgot to check!

Over the top and down we went. I was at the front here and found myself playing chicken with a number of coaches that seemed to prefer my side of the road. I hope I haven’t ruined my Assos shorts!

The climbs are theoretically over by this stage, but there are a fair few nasty sections to test your legs before you eventually arrive in Lluc – where we had our final coffee stop at the monastery- and scrambled to find the last bit of sunshine.

All-in-all a great day’s riding and one that we’ll all remember for a very long time. One for the grandchildren! Just think how much our stories will have improved by then :-)