As we’ve said many many times, there is little better than a cycling holiday. Whether you’re touring (riding point to point) or staying in one place and riding out each day; cycling all day every day in a different and unusual place is pretty special. Mallorca is one of our favourite places to do this, as the Island is pretty much designed for it. Whether you stay in Pollenca or Palma, you’re never more than 30 minutes from great routes (both flat and mountainous) and beautiful towns complete with some great cafe stops. Not only that, but near enough every hotel is ‘bike friendly’ (they’d go out of business if they weren’t), so you can leave your bike in the room, stretch off in the pool and the breakfast and dinner options are usually buffet - i.e. all the food you can eat in one or two sittings! There are also hardly any 'normals' around at the beginning and end of the tourist season, so cyclists rule the roost!
Our travel partners Viva Velo organise our trips to Mallorca, because they are experts, and because they share our philosophy that everyone should be able to enjoy cycling on the island (beginner or pro) and they tailor every the trip to this effect. So any given day there is an advanced/intermediate ride (usually hills) and an easier/beginner option (cafe rest day ride). This doesn’t mean only the advanced riders get to do the big hills - everyone can attempt all the climbs, Viva Velo will just ensure that newer/more beginner riders are given plenty of time and support to complete the challenge. Dyll, head ride leader and chief organiser, was spectacular all week, dolling out advice and tips and making everyone feel really at ease. Thanks for everything Dyll & team.
Before we move onto the good the bad and the ugly of each day's riding, we must introduce the squad! Names & roles of Team Pro Cycling Dirty Wknd Viva Velo Estrella as follows:
Dyll Davies - Directeur Sportif / head ride leader / chaingang captain
David Bavin - Ride leader / strava w*nker / water boy
Derek Paterson - Puncheur / do it all super hero / T1000
Natalie Jones - GC / Team leader
David Lewis - Mr 'not going to do any work all trip' / GC backup (self appointed)
Rachael Savage - Climber
Veronica Parker - Climber (+ demon descender)
Sue Sargaent - Sprinter
Abdullah Salmi - Super Domestique + night club researcher
Rob Chittock - Super Domestique
Ryen Dwivedy - Triathlete ;)
Day 1 - Leg Loosener Ride To Muro (Strava Data)
Arriving at 12pm on Weds 11th meant we could get ourselves checked in and bikes built, or hire bikes checked over, before heading out for a leg loosener. As Viva Velo had managed to wangle an all inclusive stay for us this week, we even managed to grab lunch before the first ride. Bikes built and checked over, we set out into the lanes around Alcudia and Sa Pobla to stretch our legs and get acclimatised. First observations were it was a lot hotter than April, which was going to have an effect on the climbers in the bunch. We would see how this would play out, but leaving ten degree London behind that morning, they were hardly going to complain! Early encouraging signs came in the form of a tight knit peloton all climbing well, and the fact that no one in the group of 10 needed convincing to stop for a quick beer in Muro old town. A condition of Estrella sponsoring the race team was that we had to consume at least 100 pints each, and we certainly weren't going to renege on our contract! Someone had fiendishly moved the hotel as we returned to our little strip, momentarily flumoxing DS Dyll, but he quickly located it and the team headed to dinner after a quick refresher in the bar.
The buffet style dinner meant we could try five different cuisines over five courses if we wanted, which we all did. All except Ryen, who decided to pile five different cuisines onto one plate! Carbs is carbs and whatever works works, Ryen. Either way, food was not in short supply, and everyone fed heartily ahead of the following days first Coll ride. We retired to the bar for a quick sundowner before heading off to bed - a show of abstinence that would be rare as the week developed!!
Day 2 - Coll d'Femenia (Strava Data)
There were some serious nerves at breakfast, and that was just Dyll, who was praying he could find the hotel on the way back that night! The rest of us where cool and calm on the surface, but in truth, pretty nerve wracked deep down. As with most people who haven’t ridden in Mallorca (or done any climbing outside the UK before), the idea of a 7km long climb fills people with dread. The first thought is of a classic UK climb (i,e, short and steep) but going on for 7km. So departing the hotel was a quiet affair as our peloton concentrated on the job in hand. No words from Dyll or David of how 'they would be fine' were registering, so the peloton soldiered on along the perfect tarmac to the base of the Femenia.
In reality of course, the climb isn’t 20% for 7km- it’s not even close, but only once someone has ridden up it will they accept that. The Coll de Femenia is a tough climb, but it’s very doable, as our group found out as every single one of them made it up with relative ease (times ranging from 20 - 40 mins). As an introduction to Mallorcan climbing it was perfect. Yes these hills are tough, and they’re not really like anything we’ve got at home - but they can be done, as everyone found out!
The group split into two at the base of the climb, David (strava w*nker) and Derek (T1000) sped off to try and beat their times from April, the rest of the group settled into a 30 minute effort. The scenery s pretty epic as the climb winds gently on. The road is wide, perfectly paved and pretty much empty - perfect climbing conditions. Based on the road grafitti, somone called Nino is either very popular in the area,or needs an awful lot of encouragement on climbs!
As group one were mingling at the top (Coll sign selfie done) just thinking about heading down to the cafe, Natalie came around the corner and joined in. Shortly after that Rachel appeared, and then Sue and Veronica - and the team were back together again. For some, having never climbed for more than a kilometre before, this was a huge achievement. The 'Mallorca virgins' were elated at having finished the climb and relieved that it 'wasn't that bad after all'. Veterans David & Derek had both smashed their previous strava times, but they didn't really mention it at all ;)
Riding down the Coll de Sa Batalla was the next massive achievement for a couple of really nervous descenders in the team. Multiple hairpins and a few steep drops over the side are a far cry from hills back home, however everyone rode down perfectly, gaining confidence and speed as they went. Huge props to Veronica - who doesn’t love the downhills - and who made it down confidently. Ryen was quick to point out it was ‘the most fun he’d ever had on a bike’, but triathletes don't get to go down massive hills very often so we'll take that with a pinch of salt! Coffee and bagels at Sa Ruta Verde consumed, we headed back to the hotel for beers on the beach and a quick stretch in the sea. Not before Dyll ‘Mr Chaingang' Davies decided that the conditions were ripe for a ‘breakaway group’ to burn it along the final 9km flat stretch.
A changing was quickly formed and the breakaway sped off - however the ‘perfect conditions’ quickly turned into a block headwind, needing Derek T1000 to come to the front and drag the team kicking and screaming back to the hotel, which someone had very annoyingly moved again! The ‘breakaway’ were of course beaten back to the hotel by the peloton (who remembered where it was) and the race came back together over the dinner table. A planned flatter day for some the next day meant a few more beers were consumed in the bar, and heads were a bit thicker at breakfast the next day. Were we sure the ‘all inclusive’ element of the hotel was such good idea after all?
Day 3: Ride 1 - Coll d’Soller, Coll d’Honor & Orient (Strava Data)
Day 3: Ride 2 - Alcudia lanes + Muro loop (Strava Data)
Not wanting to go too big too soon, some of the group decided to opt for a shorter ride, whilst the others all pretended they were really hard and set out for 3 Colls over 125km. With all eyes on Sa Calobra on Monday, the flat ride might have been the wisest option. A reasonably gentle ride out to Muro for coffee with Dyll (of course, chaingang practise was involved) before heading back to the beach to rest the legs sounds like a lovely day out.
Team Strava W*nker (Derek & David) however had their eyes set on Coll d'Honor as the next scalp on their list and managed to drag a couple of other 'willing' riders out with them. The first half of the ride is flat, and even contained a moment where it looked like David L, Mr GC himself, might come to the front and do some work. Race commentators were relieved to note that he was just moving up to tell his domestiques to 'put a little more effort in'. Normal service resumed.
After coffee in Santa Maria at the 'Team Sky Cafe' (there is a picture of them sitting outside - they weren't in attendance that day, sadly) it was decided that we could chuck in a 'quick spin' up Coll d'Soller, because we 'were so close' and it might be 'fun'. Whoever's idea this was, they are a complete genius - because it was really fun and, taking it slow, it was the perfect warm up for Coll d'Honor.
After Soller it was game time - Coll d'Honor! David B called this his favourite climb on the island because 'you start climbing in the town, and then wind out into the countryside, like something from the Vuelta' Just like the Vuelta, the team rocketed out of the town and ascended into the woods, spreading out as each rider found their groove. Coll d'Honor is often quieter than other climbs, and the final few switch backs under tree cover are an absolute pleasure, as everyone found out at the top. Ryen decided not to just crest the hill however, instead taking the command 'ride past the sign to make sure you complete the strava segment' to mean 'ride all the way down the descent on the other side'.
Needing the whole team for an adequate Coll sign selfie, we waited patiently (thankful for the breather) for him to join us. If this faux pas wasn't bad enough, he was actually wearing a tri suit! Remembering our 'never leave a man behind' mantra (even triathletes) we gathered him up and descended down the Coll d'Orient, before heading to Alaro for lunch. David '2 beers' Lewis definitely regretted the 2nd beer on the 30km home - luckily for him even the cruelest DS wouldn't let the team drop the yellow jersey!
Dinner that night consisted of a game of my ride was better than your ride between the two groups, with neither side willing to give in, so the whole team retired to the bar to keep the sponsors happy.
Day 4: Petra & The Bonany Monestary (Strava Data)
A mostly flat ride the next day saw the team leaving the hotel in high spirits as we sped our way along deserted lanes to the beautiful old town of Petra. Being the eventual lunch stop, DS Dyll wanted to test his team's motivation by leading them through the town before the monastery climb, dropping the fairly loaded question 'anyone want to miss the climb and just stop for lunch?' A couple of people fidgeted nervously, and a hand was almost raised, but a metallic death stare from the T1000 soon put an end to that and we all ascended the climb together!
By no means the toughest climb we would attempt, it's still got a little sting in the tail! Commentating on what sort of religion would make its followers climb such a big hill to worship, we surmised that the monks must have been cyclists. As always however the climb was worth it for the view - pan flat in all directions (except the mountains on the horizon) it really was a righteous sight! A quick descent and we were back in Petra's beautiful old town square, sipping Fanta Limon in the sunshine!
On the return from Petra DS Dyll decided that we needed some 'bike handling' practise and took us along a short section of gravel to sharpen us up! The team were super appreciative of the extra training and thanked the DS in no uncertain terms. Another break got away on the flat ride home, and actually stayed away this time on account of the hotel 'being exactly where it was meant to be'. Beach beers ruled the rest of the afternoon, followed by another 7 course dinner; only 4 of those courses were main course, so the team was making progress!
Part 2 of our epic Mallorca trip can be found by clicking here. Will the team make it up Sa Callobra in one piece? Will Ryen find a jersey with sleeves? Will David L ever come to the front and do any work? You know where to find out...
If the above 'tongue in cheek' report has got you interested in a trip to Mallorca, then check out all of the details of our 2018 trips with Viva Velo here - April 2018 Trips.