Day 1. After a late night/early morning arrival at our hotel in Alcudia we woke up to a very grey and damp morning. Despite the weather everyone was enthusiastic to get their bikes and get going. Some bikes were delivered directly to the hotel and others were collected from the various hire shops locally. All the bikes were of a high standard, no matter where they came from.
The rain became heavier as we were setting up the bikes so we agreed to postpone a group spin until 12 and reassess the weather then. 12 o clock comes around and the rain was heavier again. This is not what we were expecting at all.
With the Mallorca 312 sportive to come on Saturday, some people didn’t want to go out in the cold, wet weather. Others, with the attitude of “we paid for 5 days so we’re cycling for 5 days”, went out solo or in small groups. Whether this was a good idea or not is up to everyone to decide for themselves but it was a cold, wet, windy, miserable day. Those who remained dry at the hotel were entertained by German OAPs playing party games. We each made our choices and had to stick with them. Welcome to Mallorca.
We all met up again at 7 for dinner. The food was nice and there was plenty of it. There was also beer, wine and soft drinks on tap and the only complaint was that the glasses were too small. We then decided to explore some of the night life in Alcudia and promptly ended up 20 yards away in the closest spot possible to the hotel (saving our legs for what was to come).
Day 2. After the previous days rain we woke up to an overcast morning. At least it was dry. Meeting up at breakfast (again, plenty of food) it was decided to go on a group cycle to Arta. We set off at 9.30 with the cloud cover starting to break. After getting used to cycling on the wrong side of the road – and rotating through from the left – we set a pace to suit all levels.
Leaving the built up areas the roads opened up and the day became brighter and warmer. The roads were smooth, there were groups of cyclists going in all directions and traffic was respectful. This was more like what we were expecting.
Passing through Arta we turned on to smaller roads through olive groves on the way to the church at Betlem. As the road started to rise we got our first look at the switchbacks that Mallorca was famous for, although on a smaller scale. The top of the climb gave fantastic sea views before more switchbacks, this time on the decent.
The church itself was lovely. With only one road in and out it is secluded and very quiet. After a tree lined avenue, the church is built into the base of a mountain with the alter is set into the rock.
After some photos we set off again, back up the same switchbacks as the way in, this time in reverse. Back in Arta, the group having been split at the entrance to the town, there was the slightly comical scene of trying to regroup for lunch. Arta has very narrow streets and a one way system. Glimpses of other members of the group in the distance led to us chasing them only to lose them again in the narrow streets. Eventually Stephen took control and he went to find the others as we stayed put. 5 minutes later he returned and led us to the rest of the group at a restaurant for lunch.
Paella is probably not the best food to eat half way through a cycle but it was a nice, relaxed meal. A gentle spin back to Alcudia and it was time to register for the following days sportive. We walked down to Playa de Muro where a temporary cycling village had been set up at the start/finish line of the following days sportive. The registration process was quick and painless giving us time to shop for last minute bits we might need for the following day, or for stuff that we didn’t need but looked nice as cyclists tend to do.
Back to the hotel for some carb loading, a few drinks and an early night in preparation for the following days sportive.
Day 3. Mallorca 312 sportive. There are a choice of 3 different distances for the sportive– 167k, 225k and 312k – with 2 different start times depending on the distance you were planning on doing. After not much sleep, it was a 5am alarm and downstairs for breakfast for many of the group. The others had an extra 2 hours sleep before their 9am start.
As the kitchens weren’t open this early breakfast consisted of bread, cheese, ham and fruit. Except for Josh that is. It turns out that he had bought Tupperware and filled it with pasta from the previous day’s dinner along with some hardboiled eggs from Friday’s breakfast. You have to admire his forward planning.
Leaving the hotel at 6 for the 2k spin to the start the sky was clear but it was a bit chilly. Cyclists from all over the world were descending on the start line so we got down early and were towards the front of the group, near the start line. Coming up to 7am we were getting a bit cold waiting around but our decision to get down early had paid off as the queue to get to the start snaked down behind us and all the way back up the road towards our hotel.
It took us 10 minutes to cross the start line so God only knows how long it took the people at the back to officially start the sportive.
We were glad to get going, giving us a chance to warm up. With the route completely closed to traffic we sped out of town. So much for pacing ourselves. With 20k or so of flat roads at the start we had time to warm up the legs and lungs while admiring a fantastic sunrise over the bay between Alcudia and Pollenca.
Leaving Pollenca however the road started to rise and at this stage the group began to break up as everyone settled into the climb at their own pace. It was a long and gradual climb with a brief respite at approx. 50k done when the road levelled off and we came to the first water stop situated at the side of a lake halfway up the mountain.
After a brief stop to top up the water bottles and take off the gillet – the sun was out and starting to get warm – it was onwards and upwards again. Another 8k of climbing and we finally topped out at the highest point of the day – Puig Major – and then came the highlight of the day, for me at least. A 13k descent of fast, twisting and turning roads towards Soller where we could see the town almost the whole way down. I was overtaking people and being overtaken myself as everyone went downhill at their own speed and ability.
The descent came to an abrupt halt just outside Soller as the police stopped us to let a train through. Then, after passing the town, the climbing started again. Not as long a climb as the first one but a bit steeper we started to get sea views again. A short descent into Deia and, inevitably, more climbing out of it. This time it wasn’t the sea views that kept the legs moving but the promise of a food ahead. The sun was now climbing higher than we were and the temperature was rising so the sight of food stop at the top of the climb, 95k in, was a welcome sight.
By now I was a hot, sweaty mess so an ice cold can of coke ™ was downed very quickly. This was followed by a sandwich, fruit, peanuts and, best of all, chocolate sponge cakes. All this washed down by water and energy drinks. There was plenty of food and drink on hand. More importantly there was also sun cream available for us pasty skinned Irishman and women.
A 20 minute break and it was time to get going again. After all the food it was nice to have another descent to back into the swing of things. However, at a junction at the bottom there was a decision to be made – right or left. Right for the 225k and 312k routes or left for the 167k. When I had signed up for the sportive the previous October I knew the 312k would be beyond my cycling and fitness abilities (and always would be) but I had every intention of attempting the 225k route. On the day reality set in and I knew I would struggle with any more climbing. I went left. With the majority of climbing behind me the roads back towards Playa de Muro were relatively flat and fast. In every town and village there were people out on the road to cheer us on and in the last food stop at Lloseta there was a party atmosphere between the cyclists and locals. Another quick stop and it was time to get going again. At this stage all 3 routes are back together so there were groups forming on the road which was great for tired legs.
On the outskirts of Sa Pobla the road split again. Turn left for the 167 and 225k routes, straight ahead for anyone crazy enough to do 312k. I turned left again and enjoyed the run back to the finish line. 8 hours after leaving (7 hours moving time) we were welcomed back by large crowds at the finish line. As soon as I put my foot on the ground I was handed my finishers medal, food tokens and a can of beer – you wouldn’t get that in Ireland. The can was downed in one go and it was only when it was empty that I realised it was non-alcoholic, isotonic beer. Probably for the best. Tokens in hand I hobbled to the food tent on tired legs and had a feed of pasta with my feet up on a chair. Then the hardest bit of the day – getting back up on the bike to cycle the 2k back to the hotel. It was a struggle but I made it. After a shower and a nap it was time to meet up with anyone who was already finished for a few drinks. As the evening wore on everyone eventually got back safely, including the 3 club members who did the 312 route.
After dinner in the hotel and a few more drinks it was off to bed for a well-earned sleep.
Day 4. A late breakfast we were on the road again. After the previous days exertions this was more of a recovery spin. Mick had plotted a route on every back road between Alcudia and Selva but it was a nice, gentle spin to the velodrome in Selva. After coffee and cake we gave the velodrome a go. In hindsight we probably should have done this before the coffee and cake. It was great fun all the same and tired legs were forgotten for a while.
Another gentle spin back to Alcudia and I decided to go for a walk along the beach. It was only 100 meters from the hotel but hadn’t managed to get there in the previous days. It was a mixture between overcast and sunny but was a nice walk to look at the yachts in the port.
Dinner in the hotel again, then across the road to our new local for a few more drinks. At around midnight we were politely asked to leave as they were closing. Most of the group very sensibly went back to the hotel. Less sensibly, a smaller group went to Jokers Irish bar and proceeded to fix all that was wrong with Irish cycling and plot the future of Marble City Cyclers. Finally at 3am, with the world put to rights, the owner informed us that he wanted to go home as he had to work the following day. Unfortunately we had neglected to write down all our ideas and they were promptly forgotten between Jokers and the hotel.
Day 5. Our last day in Mallorca and, even after the night before, everyone was up early and ready for one last cycle. Or almost everyone. Today’s destination was the lighthouse at Cap Formentor which is probably the best cycle in Mallorca. After yesterday’s flat day the road started to go uphill again but there were no complaints and everyone was determined to enjoy their last cycle of the trip.
This was a lovely cycle with sea views, forests and mountains all around and the lighthouse at the end of the road. After admiring the view, coffee and cake at the lighthouse it was time to head back to the hotel to pack, hand back the bikes and for some last minute shopping.
A 9pm flight meant that we were back in Dublin at midnight, tired but happy.
All in all it was a great trip made even better by the diverse group made up both of club members honorary club members (for the duration of the trip anyway). Special thanks go to Mick Battle for all the work he put in to coordinating everything from flights, hotels, busses and our daily cycling routes.
Roll on the 2018 Mallorca trip and hopefully an attempt at the 225.