Cycle Mallorca, in exalted company

It is no exaggeration to say that Mallorca is cycling perfection, but don’t take my word for it. 2012 Tour de France winner, multiple Olympic champion, knight of the realm and all round dude Sir Bradley Wiggins described the island as “Scalextric set for cyclists”, and he is in good company. 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome, the Team GB track cyclists, most of Europe’s top professional teams, and upwards of 50,000 cyclists of all abilities and ambitions join him in the cooler months from October to May to stretch their legs and pit themselves against the stunning scenery and deserted roads. 
Sky cycling team in Mallorca

Lovely weather for a bike ride.... 

While Northern Europe shivers under leaden skies, endless rain and freezing conditions, two hours away by budget airline, Mallorca is enjoying(mostly) clear blue skies, dry roads and daytime temperatures that rival Spring in more temperate climates. The island’s road network, designed to cope with the summer throngs of visitors, are all but empty in the winter, and in a stroke of genius, when the motorway network was being constructed, the authorities made the canny decision to leave the old routes in place, the result is a secondary road network of 675km with few users on four wheels. 

The mixed geography of the island has again conspired to provide cyclists with scenery to match their ability, whatever your age or ambitions. 

Pointy bits and flat bits

The Tramuntana mountain range stretching from Andratx on the Southwest tip, to Cape Formentor nearly 70km to the North, a UNESCO World heritage site since 2011, provides jaw dropping vistas of 1000 metre plus peaks dropping to the azure Mediterranean in a matter of a few kilometres peppered with chocolate box pretty villages with babbling mountain streams. They also present some of the best training in Europe with hairpins and switchback routes with gradients to match those of the Alps, Dolomites or Pyrenees. 

Many of the professionals and spirited amateurs test themselves against the legendary Sa Calobra in the mountain municipality of Escorca. This is a fearsome white knuckle 10km descent through eerie rocky monoliths (Karsitic limestone if you are interested) as the serpentine road picks out a path down to sea level through 26 hairpin turns down 668 meters at an average 7.1% gradient. Whilst you are down there you might want to fortify yourself with a coffee (or whatever Lance Armstrong has) and admire the point where the torrent de Pareis,a deep canyon that drains the island’s highest mountain, Puig Mayor, into the sea. The only way out, is back the way you came, only much slower. 

Also worthy of mention in the Tramuntana is the trek from Port Pollenca to the Northern most point of Mallorca, the lighthouse at Formentor. This is another one for the fit and fearless as the climbs and descents are tough and nerve jangling in equal measure, but don’t forget to look up every once in a while, views don’t get a great deal better than this, oh and keep a look out behind you as well as this is a favourite of Team Sky as they treat this as an after breakfast leg stretcher from their winter base in nearby Alcudia

Professional cyclists in Mallorca

If you fancy something a little more genteel, then head for the centre of the island, Es Pla, the fertile agricultural central plain is pancake flat, with the occasional outcrop of rolling terrain, the quiet road network picks out pretty trails amongst the dry stone walls and fields of sheep with clanking bells around their necks. If you time your visit for early February then you will be treated to the explosion of colour as the island’s almond trees blossom in pink and white above meadows of wild flowers as spring takes hold. 

There is varied cycling and accommodation available in most corners of the island, but the centre of the activity are the Northern resorts of Pollenca and Alcudia as they offer instant access to the mountains or the plains straight from your door. Accommodation also varies across the island according to your taste and the depth of your pockets. 

Professional cyclists on a Mallorcan mountain

Got a puncture? 

The support network for cyclists is second to none as well,seasonal ‘pop up’ bike shops do exactly that in Pollenca and Alcudia, and if you don’t fancy the expense of shipping your bike here, then there are many professionally oriented shops that will rent you the latest carbon fibre steed for the week, and make sure it fits you perfectly, as well as acting as expert local guides.While it is easy to design your own itinerary for a visit to Mallorca, there are a variety of specialist cycling companies who will do the lot for you, from flights to accommodation, bike rental and guided rides. Irish Tour de France winner and two wheeled legend Stephen Roche’s company is just one of the experts you can chose to train with. Or you can cycle with Dan Marsh and his business Marsh-Mallows who attract visitors from the UK. They create and manage cycling events, trips and challenges which are a combination of holiday and training camp. Generally their guided daily rides are about 100km/60miles, and they can include some challenging climbs (total ascent +1500m/5000ft). They also profess to love non cyclists which is good news for the other half who may not be quite so addicted to cycling as you are. Most trips are perfect for couples & groups of friends that want an active break. 

The island also stages a number of sportives or cicloturistas during the springtime, these are massed rides often of hundreds run under police escort to ensure safety and enjoyment for all, and if you fancy catching the professionals in action, make sure you are here for early February as the sport’s big names, and big teams take part in the European season opening races around the island in the Vuelta a Mallorca,this year from the 9th - 12th February 2014. 

If you are nine stone, leg shaving road warrior, a family looking for a low season activity break, or a MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra)who dug his old bike out of the shed after the Olympics, Mallorca can provide exactly the challenge you are after. 

Cycling is the new golf they say, and we do it here better than anywhere. We also do golf as well, but that’s a story for another day.

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