I am finally coasting downhill, after pedalling up for longer than I care to remember, but I have no choice – I simply MUST stop. I’m a scant few (winding) kilometres from my destination – the iconic lighthouse at Cap Formentor on the island of Mallorca, Spain – and what breath I have left from the formidable effort to get to this spot has been absconded by the unparalleled view.
Mallorca is Mecca for cyclists. The legend of its smooth roads, favourable weather and friendly locals has caught on, and tens of thousands of riders, from professional teams to leisure athletes, flock to Spain’s largest island each year.
From mid winter to late spring, you’ll spot more bikes than cars on most roads. By the time summer hits, Mallorca is too warm, and its streets are crowded with tourists and families – and besides, most riders are into their racing season by then. Handfuls will return in the fall to get a jump on the new year, or to simply enjoy more of what is arguably the most beautiful cycling on Earth.
To give you an idea of Mallorca’s popularity as a destination, mainy for European travellers, in 2017 its international airport in the capital Palma welcomed 28 million travellers. Compare that to just over 9 million that visited the Hawaiian islands in the same year!
Each cycling group has its favourite ‘home base’. For more than a decade, my group, Trevoyages, has favoured the seaside town of C’an Picafort. Our hotel, the Janiero, offers tiny but clean rooms, superb food, multiple pools, a spa (essential for post-cycling treatment of tired muscles!) and patio views of the Balearic Sea. It’s steps away from the waterfront path, with its lovely beaches, quirky art and plentiful cafes. Three annual visits have taught me that I already know all the Spanish I will need: “Cappuccino, por favor?”
Cyclists that know the legend of Mallorca generally know its most famous ride, Sa Calobra – “The Serpent”. It’s only 10 kilometres long, but in that short distance you’ll ride 682 vertical metres by way of 26 hairpin turns. On a road North Americans wouldn’t consider wide enough for one vehicle, cyclists are usually sharing the path with traffic in both directions (which often includes numerous tour buses). In order to ride Sa Calobra from bottom to top (officially known as Coll Dels Reis), you either need to take a ferry to the base, or you need to ride down it in order to go back up.
Sa Calobra and the Puig Major are the island’s two Category 1 climbs, but legendary terrain doesn’t end there. There are a handful of Category 2 climbs, many of which reach stunning viewpoints and historic landmarks. The views from the climb to San Salvador are exquisite, but my personal favourite is riding the Puig de Randa. At the top is the Santuari de Cura, a monastery that’s been converted to a lovely hotel. This is the one night of our trip that we stay away from our seaside home base and it’s a highlight of the week.
From the tops of mountains, to sea-level paths, to the rolling inlands known here as “Mallorca-flat”, this tiny island delivers nearly endless possibilities for cyclists looking to dial in their training or own bragging rights over their fellow athlete. The scenery, the atmosphere, the people, the food – I could write for days about how much I look forward to my anual Trevoyages Mallorca training camp – but the truth is, no words or pictures will ever do justice to this little piece of paradise.
Cycle in Mallorca, Spain:
Edmonton-based Cycle Camps to Mallorca, Spain, are operated by Trevoyages. 2020 camps will run April 11 to 20 and April 20 to 29, 2020.