A week before departure I felt quite fit after cycling in Tenerife for a week and fitting in a strong 100-mile ride at home. Then a with a few days to go I went down with a horrible stomach bug (no more detail needed) which left me weakened and a bit thinner after being unable to eat for 48 hours. So the start of my first continental holiday without my wonderful wife Kathryn became a bit of an unknown quantity as I was unsure of my recovery.
Friday, May 1st
On the East Coast train with a first-class seat Edinburgh and a nice meal with our son Andrew before catching the tram to Edinburgh Airport for a few hours in the Hilton Hotel. I’m impressed with this hotel; it’s clean, comfortable with the friendly and helpful staff and has everything you need for a short stay.
Saturday, May 2nd
I wasn’t in the Edinburgh Hilton very long as my wake-up call was 04.30, everything went to plan and we were in the air just after 07.00. Fortunately, the flight was early enough for peace & quiet. The chavs only got going towards the end, good job they were all heading to Magaluf. I hope they have a nice holiday but as far away from me as possible. We arrived at our hotel early afternoon and I got sorted out, collected my bike and got it ready to ride. I have got a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the pool and across the bay to the mountains. It was well worth paying extra for and ‘upgraded’ room. The hotel is lovely, very clean and the food is high quality. Met the rest of the group over dinner, had a good chat and made some plans for what will be a good week.
Sunday, May 3rd
Porto Pollenca – MA10 – MA2013 – Campari -Monacor – Inca – Sa Pobla – Porto Pollenca
A really good day, we were away by 09.30. Nice easy start on quiet rural roads then onto the mountain road, a good climb of 600m with no more than 7% gradient. It was hot and having just come from cold Scotland it’s going to take a few days to acclimatise. Also feel I’m not fully recovered from last week’s stomach bug. Lovely stop at Lluc Monestir sitting in the sun in the square although my Garmin did get up over 40c in the direct sun. The steep and sinuous descent down to the valley was superb where we worked our way (separately) back to the hotel. Although the guys are good company I feel there is too much disparity in our cycling speed to ride together well, I thought I was fit until I cycled with these guys. The hotel is superb and hard to fault apart from the air-con still set to heat rather than cool. Not much good when it’s 30+c, they tell me they are fixing it, I hope so.
Monday, May 4th
Porto Pollenca – Campania-Sa Pobla – Petra – M12 to Alcudia – Porto Pollenca
This was supposed to be an easier day but it didn’t feel like it, mainly due to the heat which affected me quite badly. Took the very pleasant roads to Campanet, where Al and I somehow mislaid the others so we stopped for a lengthy coffee. We then headed towards the lovely wee town of Sa Pobla, Al made me go into the centre (I would have gone round the by-pass) and I’m very glad he did as it was lovely. A big square, the usual cafes and just a great atmosphere with a gang of pre-school children playing ‘football’ very happily. What a nice place. Then we were off to Petra via and interesting quiet route and it got seriously hot with the thermometer peaking at 35 degrees Celsius. I suffered a lot over the last few miles and was glad to fetch up at the same cafe as last year, with the same friendly service and good coffee. You can tell it’s a good place to stop when they put a plate of segmented oranges in front of you as soon as you sit down without even asking and at the end will fill your water bottles with ice & cold water from their private spring at no charge. They called it magic water but it didn’t work for me. The hundreds of cyclists (and bikes) in the square at Petra are an amazing sight. I doubt if it’ll catch on in Scotland, it’s just too cold and windy and rainy and midgy. Mallorca is a perfect place for a cycling holiday.
We were off again on the pleasant MA3330 (I enjoyed it last year as well) and this took us onto the M12 coastal main road. This road does have a good cycle lane so you feel safe but the heat was still there and I found it hard going. Then, all of a sudden, there was a waft of cooler air as we got nearer the coast. It was a sea breeze and it saved the day and helped me back to the hotel. The road through Alcudia was horribly developed and I wouldn’t want to go there for a holiday but I am told there is a really pleasant old part to the town. Working our way round the coast we were back to the hotel by 16.00, very tired and hot but in one piece. So much for an easy day, for me, it was far from easy.
Tuesday, May 5th
Porto Pollenca – Caimar – MA2140 – Col de Reis– Sa Calobra – MA10 – Porto Pollenca
Alastair and I were away by 08.30, an hour before the others and this gave us quite a lot of extra ‘cool riding’. Nice rural roads to Caimari and a lovely shady route to the mountains. Then came THE BIG ONE. This amazing road descends to sea level from about 600m to sea level and is a remarkable feat of engineering. The descent is steep and needing a lot of concentration. It was also very hot. The bottom is a tourist trap and a cyclist’s trap, once you are down there the only way is up. We got ourselves ready for the climb with a large Zumo de Naranja and a coffee. It’s rare for me to be intimidated by a climb but I was for this one, mainly because it was so hot and also because I didn’t feel 100% recovered from the previous week’s stomach bug. It was hard, it was hot and I set myself the target of 15mins cycling and 10 mins rest, each time stopped I made sure I had a good drink. This worked well and I made slow progress up the climb and the famous spiral road arrived sooner than expected. I was soon sitting in the cafe at the junction with the MA10 having a coffee. I had done Sa Calobra (Col de Reis), words cannot adequately describe this climb and it is definitely on the list of top things to do if you are a road cyclist. It was really done too late in the day and was very hot and clogged with tourist buses, next time it will be at dawn. The road home is far from flat and we arrived back at Pollenca tired and happy in time for a cool beer and dinner. A truly awesome day that will long be remembered.One Every Raod Cyclist ‘must-do’ List
Sa Calobra (Col de Reis) – On Every Road Cyclists ‘must-do’ List
Wednesday, May 5th
Sa Calobra had been a tough day so we all decided on an easier day. I took a nice slow start by deciding to walk into Porto Pollenca. I had an enjoyable walk along a walkway next to clean sandy beaches, then round the harbour which is big and very full of ‘pleasure boats’ and eventually into the old town which was very pleasant. I stumbled across the weekly market, big on vegetables and jewellery. I found a peaceful shady cafe and had a couple of cafe con leche’s whilst I watched the world go by. I felt at peace with myself and the world in general. Back at the hotel, I decided to follow in the others wheel-marks and go to Cap Formentor. The first section involves a short cycle around town and the steep climb to a viewpoint at 300 meters looking out over huge sea cliffs. I reached into my back pocket to get my camera and realised my wallet wasn’t where it should be, frantic search followed and then I returned to the hotel hoping it was in my room. No luck so I then returned to the original viewpoint cycling slowly in case it was on the ground somewhere. Eventually, I accepted it was lost, reported it to reception and made arrangements through my wonderful wife to cancel my cards. Fortunately, I was only carrying 28 Euros and our cards were stopped before any suspicious transactions. I still have no idea whether the wallet was lost or stolen and will probably never know. The loss was more a minor inconvenience than a drama or a crisis. Cap Formentor would have to wait; I needed some beer and relaxation time
Thursday May 7th
Porto Pollenca – Caimari – Mancor – lloseta – Alaro – Binaimar – Sencelles – Sa Pobla – Porto Pollenca
Today we took the pleasant country roads through the ‘foothills’ of the mountains as far as Alaro, coffee at Mancor and turned inland for lunch at Sencelles. The coffee stop was at an old fashioned bar with old men sitting outside, dreaming the morning away, a huge TV inside blaring away and a friendly host. Seven of us got drinks for nine euro’s including a slab of cake for each of us as ‘tapas’. We left ten, it seemed very cheap. We found some lovely unspoilt small roads and it got very hot (again). At our lunch stop, we hid in the shade of the church for a while before getting a drink at the cafe while watching the action in the square. The local police arrived, walked about a bit, gun in a holster and we wondered what was happening. Eventually, we found out as the school bus arrived and lots of kids got off while the policeman directed a couple of cars, once the kids were away and the bus gone the policeman got in his car and drove away, the day’s village action over. The return was via Alcudia which was a bit gnarly with narrow roads, heavy traffic and thousands of cyclists holding the traffic up. The patience of the Spanish drivers is outstanding. We were back to the hotel in good order feeling really good all day so I have got better from my stomach bug and got used to the heat. Fantastic day.
Friday, May 8th
Porto Pollenca – Cap Formentor – PP – Monestir Lluc – Porto Pollenca
We decided to go our separate ways today and having missed out on Cap Formentor because of the lost wallet I decided to leave early to try to beat the heat and the tourists. This decision was a spectacular success in every way. Leaving at 08.30 in the cool of the morning, the route starts with a quick blast round the ‘bypass’ before climbing up the first viewpoint at over 300 meters. If I go to heaven hope it will be something like this: I’ll be on my bike feeling good both physically and mentally and my family will all be well and happy. The day will be perfect, warm but not too hot, and sunny but with a sea breeze. The road will be wide and smooth and there will be fast sinuous descent and equally curvy climbs. There will be a tunnel for added interest. The scenery will switch between amazing coastal and cliff scenery to shady woodland with many songbirds singing loudly. There would be absolutely no traffic, just me on the road, which would end at a spectacular lighthouse on cliffs above an azure blue sea. I have just described my ride to Cap Formentor. The return journey was almost as good but by the time I was back near Porto Pollenca the day way warming up and many other cyclists plus the tourist buses were coming out to play, I didn’t care as I had been to heaven & back. I found a lovely cafe that served good coffee and ensaymade and considered my options. It was getting hot by then but I felt good so decided to go to Lluc Monestir again which would give me the chance to climb and descend the Col de Femenia with a pleasant quiet ride to the Monestir cafe. I gave it my best shot up the col and enjoyed the descent, even the last few miles into Porto Pollenca were enjoyable on the attractive back road that doubles as a cycle route. My thermometer hit 36 degrees, it was hot.
Then it was time to get sorted out, return my bike to the hire place and pack up ready to go in the morning. The beer before dinner tasted really good after an excellent day.
Saturday, May 9th
Home to Scotland
The journey home went smoothly even with Palma Airport being very crowded. We left the hotel at 7.30am and I was back in Edinburgh early afternoon in time to have coffee with my eldest son and was home in the highlands by 22.30. The lower temperatures in Scotland felt quite invigorating after the almost oppressive heat of Mallorca.
Some Thoughts on Cycling in Mallorca
Everywhere geared up for cyclists, many roads are quiet and those that don’t generally have a good cycle lane so you feel safe. Road surfaces are generally very good and drivers very patient and understanding. Going from a cool Scotland to 30+ degree heat was a bit of a shock and it took a couple of days to get acclimatised. Acclimatisation wasn’t helped by my slow recovery from a stomach bug a few days earlier that left me weaker than usual. trying to look after my skin I put on factor 30 (once a day) lotion at the start of each day and two applications of factor 50 during the ride and thus avoided sunburn. I took and drank 1.5 litres of water each day plus any liquid consumed at coffee stops. Their coffee is good as is the orange juice (Zumo) which generally freshly squeezed. There are bike hire shops in most towns and if you are an ‘average’ cyclist make sure you get a 32 tooth sprocket and a compact chainset if going to the mountains. There are huge groups of cyclists everywhere which may seem a bit intimidating at the start but actually gives a good atmosphere, even a toilet stop at the side of the road elicits from passing cyclists the question, “are you OK?”. The scenery is sublime and impressive and it’s not far away from cyclists heaven.The memories of the warmth, great cycling and food combined with good company keep me going on the dark dreich winter days in the Highlands of Scotland.
© Peter Main – February 2016